This evening my 7 year old unloaded the dishwasher, swept the kitchen floor, made his bed, picked up his toys, and expressed gratitude in the form of a polite "Thank you for making dinner." I kid you not...and I'm not trying to impress you with my uber mothering either. In fact, this is the first time he ever did some of those things.
The magic behind this household chore windfall was a new app I installed on my iPhone and my son's iPod Touch,
EpicWin. The idea is that this chore tracking app has the interface of an adventure computer game. You get to pick an avatar and create quests (chores) which have different point values. Chores can be set to repeat daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or just once. When a chore is completed your avatar gets to beat the chore up in a tiny little animation. Earn enough points and your avatar wins loot and experience points and levels up.
Apparently this thrill was enough to encourage my son to complete a slew of chores, running to the iPod between each one so he could vanquish it and ask for more when he had completed them all. We have tried rewards charts and just about every other technique on the planet and nothing has worked as beautifully for my son as this jaw-droppingly simple iPhone/iPod Touch app.
Epic Win! does not have many of the features that other chore tracker apps have (With Epic Win the app is the reward.) iPod apps like Chore Rewards and Chore Hero allow you to track more people on one device and have better systems for earning points that kids can then cash in for rewards if they do all their chores consistently. Chore Hero allows you to randomize the assignment of chores which I liked in theory but it didn't work that well since one person could end up with more tasks than others (imagine the scandal that would cause).
One nice thing about using an app to track chores is the number of chores is not limited by the size of your paper, so, in addition to household chores you can add good habits like expressing gratitude, sharing with a sibling, doing homework, or any other life skills you'd like your child to practice. I love that my son now spontaneously thinks of nice things to say throughout the day so that he can kill that quest—hey, I'll take it.
Will the novelty last? I have no idea, but for the $2.99 pricetag seeing my son do all those chores even two days in a row feels worth it. And if he does it just long enough for these to become habits on their own, or even for chores just not to be a fight, I will feel like the uber mom I know is lurking in there somewhere.
You can buy EpicWin from our affiliate, the iTunes store. Click here to buy EpicWin! now.
Note: For the record, I did not get these apps for free or receive notice of them from a publicist. This is just something I'm looking into and wanted to share.