The Fun Theory and household chores

The Fun Theory has been covered in so many of my classes, it’s embarassing. From Computer Science through to Advertising, everyone seems to have an a-ha moment with modifying people’s behaviour by making boring stuff ‘fun’. (Not A-ha the band from the 80’s which was also embarassing, but a-ha as in ‘good grief that was as obvious as the fact that chocolate is one of the five food groups and I managed not to see it’. Seriously people, pay attention.)

The whole ‘fun’ thing isn’t new. It’s not innovative and different. It’s not ‘out there’ or risky. It’s just bloody well obvious – and it’s been done before, and has been done every day for years.

Exhibit one: Mary Poppins. She even sang a song about it. “And snap! The chore’s a GAME!”

Exhibit two: Every mother armed with a kitchen timer who ever tried to get her kids to put their toys away/aim straight/stop fighting etc.

Exhibit three: Flylady.

The only memorable fact from the Fun Theory is that sometimes we forget our human penchant for excitement, competition, pitfalls and winning. Because we’re so bloody focused on everything else. Marketers continue to think of price points instead of other options. It isn’t, however, innovative when they consider tried and true ways of getting consumers to engage and thus change behaviour.

Kids and engagement

Parents are tired. It is easier to do the work-for-pay thing, where kids have a list of jobs on the fridge which get marked off when done, and pocket money or allowance is attached to successful completion. This methodology directly reflects the working life so many adults hate. Kids end up working for the weekends, just like their parents. It is also said to lead us to grown children who won’t do anything unless there’s a pay packet at the end of it. This is BORING. It’s tedious. It KILLS initiative. It’s like getting blood from a stone. And it doesn’t work – kids skive off, lie, don’t do the jobs and then still want the money… ugh.

Mums and engagement

Mums wear many hats – and every single one of those hats has a long list of chores associated with it, which see us on auto-pilot, going slowly mental while we fold another load, drive another teen, do another round of the supermarket. We don’t drop the ball, so it’s not necessary to change our behaviour. We just do it and look forward to an escape or someone to come in and do one of the jobs voluntarily without making us feel like they’re “doing us a favour.” The fact of the matter is that these inane chores are not really hard. They are just time consuming, and at times, life defining and thankless.

So I’m saying, let’s initiate our own version of Fun with them. Instead of focusing on the chores that the kids are not doing, let’s look at the ones we do, and come up with some better, more fun ways of making them personally rewarding.


I have a laundry system. Each family member has a basket, and after I’ve washed and folded, I fill their baskets. I do not take baskets to rooms – that’s the family member’s job. I’d like to play basketball against the family as I throw things in the baskets. I get points for things going in, they get points for taking things out.

Mopping floors

There is ceiling mounted video technology which projects onto the floor, and receives the information of people interacting with the projected information. I’ve seen it used for things as diverse as advertising, and kids playing games. So why not make a massive shuffleboard version, and have the real stick things as mops? (It would need to be a fast game. Not chess or something which would take too long to complete, and the mopping would not happen.)


The invention of the Roomba kinda appreciated this already – many people buy it simply to watch it work. It’s fun! But we all know the Roomba doesn’t do the same kind of job a person (mum) does. I want a ride-on. If there are ride-on lawnmowers, I want a ride-on vacuum cleaner. In fact, many of the gardening type of jobs are fun. What about a wood-chipper? That’s fun.

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