How to Keep Kids Active All Summer with Adventure Points


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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:

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?


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