Imagine a world where kids happily keep themselves busy and learning while doing activities that they love and learning math at the same time. A place where kids compete in a friendly way by doing athletic activities, creative games, and reading books.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
I’ve always heard that necessity is the mother of invention and this is certainly true of this Adventure Points idea. Ever had one of those motherhood moments where every child needed something at the same time, one had just spilled a smoothie everywhere and the baby needed a diaper change?
I had one of those moments and realized that for the sake of my sanity and the kids’ activity levels I needed to have a plan for summer that didn’t involve them watching TV every day.
We reinstitute the system every summer or over breaks. It puts my kids’ natural creative and competitive sides to work for the good of all!
What Are Adventure Points?
We already have the “Mom I’m Bored Jar” which works really well but is more of a help when they are already bored. I wanted to find a way to encourage them to find activities without getting bored in the first place.
In short, this is a simple system of points for doing creative or athletic activities that encourages movement and creative play over TV watching. It also has surprisingly reduced the bickering and fighting in our house.
The idea for the name “Adventure Points” came from my kids’ hiking boots, which they call “Adventure Boots” since they wear them for hiking, fort building, and other outdoor adventures.
How Adventure Points Work
I sat down with a piece of paper and thought of activities I wanted my kids to do this summer and assigned a point value to each. The kids helped me brainstorm and we came up with a big list of activities that they enjoy (that don’t involve a screen or a snack). Things like:
- Riding bikes (30 mins) = 10 points
- Pull-ups = 2 points each
- Push-ups = 1 point each
- Swimming = (30 mins) = 10 points
- Drawing (30 mins) = 5 points
- Preparing a meal for the family = 20 points
- Reading a book = 5 points
- Reading a chapter book = 20 points
- Fort-building = 20 points per hour
- Folding origami (30 mins) = 10 points (Great tutorials in this book)
- Make paper airplanes (30 mins) = 10 points (They love this book for ideas)
- Draw with sidewalk chalk (30 mins) = 10 points
- Read to a sibling (30 mins) = 25 points each
- Do a chore (not on regular chore list) = 10 points
- Play Monopoly = 15 points
- Play Scrabble = 15 points
- Climb a tree = 5 points per tree
- Play Battleship = 10 points
- Play Chess = 10 points
- Water the plants = 5 points
- Play Uno = 5 points
- Play War (card game) = 10 points
- Jump rope = 3 points
- Play Apples to Apples = 10 points
- Play hopscotch = 2 points
- Weed garden (30 mins) = 10 points
- Play a game of wiffle ball = 15 points
- Run around the yard 5 times = 10 points
- Jump on the trampoline for 10 minutes = 3 points
- Do a puzzle = 20 points
- Do 25 cartwheels = 10 points
- Write and mail a letter to friends or family = 10 points
- Create a scavenger hunt for siblings = 10 points
- Play Legos (30 mins) = 10 points
- Get caught doing something unexpected and kind = 50 points bonus
- Rollerblade outside (30 mins) = 10 points
- Listen to a history podcast = 10 points
- Watch a TED talk (from this list) = 10 points
- Watch/do a lesson from Udemy or Great Courses = 15 points
I thought of about 50 activities that were worth points and assigned values to each. Then, I made a list of fun family activities that would be good goals for milestone points. 100 points would earn a healthy dessert after dinner one night while 1000 points would earn a larger reward like a special activity, new art supplies, or a contribution toward something they’ve been wanting. (Tip: Use things you plan on doing anyway! This is just a fun way for the kids to earn them).
I’ve also found that the kids are excited to be helpful around the house when I offer “bonus points” for doing the things above and beyond their normal responsibilities.
After a few days of using the system, I decided to create two separate lists for older kids (8+) and younger ones (7 and under) to match their skill levels since the younger kids were being left behind by older kids (who could do many more pull-ups!).
How to Implement Adventure Points
If you’d like to try this system (and I’d highly recommend it!), here are a few tips for getting started:
1. Decide on Activities That Work in Your Home/Yard
Make a list of activities you’d like your kids to do and break it down by age group if needed. Figure out how much each activity is worth in the point system you’d like to use and assign a point value to each. Feel free to use my list as a start!
2. Decide on Rewards
Chances are that while points are a great motivator, your kids won’t be thrilled with just earning points that don’t mean anything. Decide on what the points will allow the kids to do or earn and create a list of this for the kids. We try to focus on activities and experiences rather than stuff so our rewards were activities, but physical rewards can be great too especially if they will help kids be active or build a life skill.
Some ideas of material rewards that encourage learning:
- Board games
- Slack line or sports equipment
3. Track the Points
I realized that the system wouldn’t encourage the independent creative time I was hoping for if the kids had to check in with me every time they did an activity to get the points. I decided to use the honor system (which has worked really well so far) and get each kid a small spiral notebook to track points. This way, the kids track their points each day and I just tally once a day to keep the running totals.
I also created a chart to help track the points for each activity. You can download a copy for yourself here.
4. Enjoy Watching Your Kids Learn and Play!
I was really hoping that creating “Adventure Points” would free up some of my time by stopping the refrains of “I’m bored” and “Can we watch a movie.” It certainly has and I’m definitely grateful for that.
I’ve found that even more than the free time, I’ve enjoyed watching my kids’ creativity soar and the older kids play with the younger ones more easily since they have more structure and ideas for activities (and because there is a goal in mind). Also, keeping track of points has been a fun and unexpected math boost for the little kids as I keep hearing questions like “Does 243 plus 15 equal 258?!” 🙂
Your turn! What are some fun ways you encourage creativity and activity during free time at home?
Discussion (16 Comments)
Just wanted to address some of the questions that I saw from others:
The program is to encourage almost any positive activity other than watching TV. While tree climbing may be fun for some kids, some kids do not think it is fun, so encouraging physical activity with points makes complete sense. Also, the hope is that it will also lead to good memories of being active and later on, the pattern continues without the reward of points.
I did a similar thing for my children. We did a combination of family trips and individual rewards for them to spend their points on. One of the favorite rewards for mine were time spent alone with the parents. For example, if my daughter earned 50 points (our points were earned slower than the author’s program) she could opt for Father-daughter or Mother-daughter time.
As far as going to the museum or zoo, I would let the children combine their point cards so that we could all take a family trip. We averaged about 2 per summer because the parent-child time was “purchased” so often. I don’t know how you would deal with differing opinions of where to go, maybe I just had children who wanted SOME kind of trip enough that they didn’t argue about the destination all that much.
As far as negative behaviors you want to stop: I would make it a negative point situation. If you offer bonus points for not doing the behavior, it would be hard to stop giving the points when the bad habit is broken. Whereas, if you take a certain amount of points each time you catch him whining. (or chewing nails or whatever other bad habit you want broken) You could even graduate on to a different bad habit. Or you could offer points for positive behaviors that you want to work on. For example, we used positive points for doing kind things for one of the siblings. They also liked to “tattle” on each others’ good deeds, which means that they were taking time to notice good behaviors from their sibling instead of focusing on the negative.
Hope my answers help some people. I don’t know if they answer for the author, just how I implemented a similar token economy in my household.
What history podcast do you have the kids listen to?
This one: https://www.dancarlin.com/hardcore-history-series/
This pretty much just changed our whole summer. My girls ages 7 and 5 are pumped! Thanks for the idea.
Are the kids adding all of their points together to earn the prizes? Or are they doing it individually?
We’re looking forward to implementing this soon.
Some other additions we had from our brainstorm:
Make a card for a widow
Make the family a snack
Playing with bubble machine
Dance Party to music
Helping Grandma clean house
Checking cows water
Organizing a cupboard or drawer
Cleaning the bus or the car
Here’s to a great, active summer! Thanks so much for sharing your idea.
This is commonly called a “token economy” — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Token_economy — but I don’t get this one: points awarded for such disparate things as chores and tree climbing? Some of them are things you’d want to incentivize because they might be unattractive on their own, but others are things kids would want to do anyway just because they’re kids. What sense does it make to put both types of activities on the scale?
Katie - Wellness Mama
This is what has worked for us. Feel free to adapt to your own family’s needs…
How well would this work for unwanted behaviors – like whining? I’m thinking 25 BONUS POINTS for not whining during the day when asked to do something (like pick up the outside toys before dinner). These points would be assigned by me only – I have a almost 9 year old that is about to lose a certain privilege if it continues (he’s ADHD and tends to whine more when tired or hungry – but if he doesn’t think he’s either he won’t eat or sleep).
Wow what a great idea! We are going travelling in a caravan with 3 kids for 5 months. This will be perfect!
Maybe I missed something (as I often skim what I read), but are the total amount of points to earn rewards per child or per family? Does only one child earn a zoo trip or do all the kids earn a trip? What if one wants a zoo trip and one wants a movie trip with the points or does a certain number qualify for a certain trip automatically? I am sorry I didnt understand the exchange system 🙁
Wow!!! What an awesome idea!! You, as always, rock!!
Wow! What an excellent, positive plan! For creative learning experiences, I can suggest a few.
Backyard (could be an apartment or even a single room) adventure and mini treasure hunt.
First, you need to search through the play areas and list the tiny things that usually go unnoticed, such as tiny insects and animals such as ants and worms (flower pots and planters really do have life), a leaf that is changing its color, a flower of a particular color, an embroidered flower or even a door stop. Any small item will do.
Rather than picking things up and “collecting them,” (depending on age/s), either pre-make or provide the materials and demonstrate how to make a small picture frame. Wooden, used matchsticks work well for indoor and outdoor hunts, craft pop sickle sticks are better for outdoors.
Explain how to take a pretend picture in the picture frame. And, yes, this is an honor game. Using Wellness Mama’s point system, assign points to each item on your list.
Another activity for children with more patience, use the matchstick frame and sit or lay on the lawn and just look for a minute or two, into the picture frame, placed on one spot. Life is amazing!
You can make a list of things to touch, to smell, to hear (and for tasting, read on….)
A family activity that teaches choices and consequences – create an artfully arranged platter of tiny morsels (1/2 inch cubes or smaller) of tasting foods such as veggies, fruits, tofu – including some with pungent aromas or flavores such as lemon, lime, garlic, etc.) with a little space between each. A green pea would be one morsel. There can be several of the same item or varieties that have different flavores. Sit in a circle with the platter in the middle. Ask them to name the items and help. Talk about each item tell what it tastes like to you and what happens after you taste it and what it does for your body. Then encourage exploration by having the participants – one at a time – choose and eat or merely taste their selection. Encourage comments. This is a great game for introducing new foods..
If your (age 2+) child is convalescing, you might want to do a guided exploration concentrating on one sense at a time, for a minute or more, and have him/her describe each thing noticed while concentrating on that sense. This is fun for grow ups, too.