Perfect for the start of summer (but also anytime!),
here’s one of our favourite strategies for motivating all-star behaviour around home!
Let me tell you why this particular method works so well.
First, it’s a fun, fun game, located in the centre of the home — on the fridge. It has magnetic appeal and lots of daily proximity, which helps keep their focus. (Plus it doesn’t clutter up any tables, like a regular boardgame).
Kids especially need goals and targets in the summer when days are long, unscheduled, and unpredictable. Every time they pass the fridge they are reminded of the prize = maximum motivational magic!
Second, it’s the brainchild of the kids themselves. All their gaming aptitude can be channelled into the communal project and their buy-in will be higher if it’s homemade. Our games gain beautiful complexity year by year as their ideas layer and evolve!
Third, good old positive peer pressure comes into play. The way we play, one must earn the right to roll the die at the end of the day. Crappy behaviour can disqualify you. And being the only one at the end of the day who doesn’t get to roll feels pretty rotten. A lesson quickly learned!
Fourth, this game is a parallel universe where daily little flare ups can be addressed in a softer, indirect way, through ‘play.’ Simply reference the game with a gentle warning cloaked in analogy — “oh dear, do I hear whining aboard the Turtle Starfish Ship? Or is that the sound of the wind blowing your ship backwards a space?”
It’s a relational portal if you do it right. Lots of laughter and quality moments have graced our kitchen as we do our nightly ‘roll.’
Parents, this is your chance to lean into your own in-the-moment brilliance. Sometimes a rule isn’t really working. So change it! Sometimes a flash of inspiration hits in the middle of the game — just add it in!
I love the way this communal game models teamwork, adaptability and problem solving. We modified our game as we went, really making it our own through trial, error, and consensus. Not only was it wildly successful in guiding their behaviour, but what a valuable experience in group project development!
How to Do the Game:
- Decide what your daily goal is. This becomes the “Qualify to Roll Today” Rule. It can be in the habit forming category, such as make your bed and take your dishes to the sink every day. It can be in the behaviour category, such as make it through the day without whining/squabbling/shrieking/hitting. It just needs to be tangible enough that you can measure it.
- Create your giant board game with whatever theme you wish. We love the “Ships at Sea” theme. (Google search party themes and you’ll get a hundred ideas that can be turned into a game). Get the kids to help design and colour and think of obstacles. Be sure to have some ‘helper’ squares on there, like kind mermaids or turtles who let you move forward or roll again! Super fun!
- You will need a Grand Prize at the End. For us, it was a trip to the Ice Cream Store! (just to make it more special we went on a “no ice cream diet” for the whole month leading up to it!)
- Clarify your rules. Can be super complex or super simple. In our game, 6 meant move 3, 4 meant move 2, and 5 meant you had to roll again & move that many backwards. You could have bonuses for certain rolls like “get out of chores for a day”…..basically any game you’ve ever played you can borrow their rules.
That’s all we did and we just loved it!! So give it a shot, send me a picture, let me know how it goes! Questions? Throw them in the comments…
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