When March of 2020 hit and future plans were being canceled, friends became unavailable and favorite pastimes were disappearing, I knew my family needed a little pick me up. The first book I turned to was Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter where she opens with these words, “You are stronger than you know. You are surrounded by potential allies You are the hero of your own story.” Reading those words and knowing my children’s love for gaming, I grabbed a white board and the only marker we had and started to build our family’s first quest game.
Day one looked like this:
My boys were in their late teens so I crafted my words to be more engaging than going outside, or eating dinner with your mom and I attached points for a little motivation to play. It feels important for me to point out this was in invitation and not an obligation. This was my fun way to set up daily invitations that would remind them that they could do hard things, they were not alone and they had control over their own narrative. Over time I’ve added colors, quotes and more than one dad joke to shake things up.
So how do you get started?
It’s all about tapping into your own family culture and finding a way to bring that out in game format. First step, deciding on the reason for your quest. Is it to help build those resilience muscles or are you looking to spice up the day to day routine? Knowing your own intention will give you a place to start from and a source to build your creativity.
I highly recommend creating in-game characters on day one of any family quest. Young children spend so much of their time “in character” that this piece will be so engaging for them. It’s as easy as asking each family member what their superhero name is followed up with hearing about their super powers. I liked to jot our names and post them on the wall. For younger children visual representations might be way more engaging. Why not kick off day one with a character building craft day. At the end you have your characters, their accompanying images and a story or two as a jumping off point. Don’t forget to get just as lost in it as your children are, I promise they will feed off of your enthusiasm.
Your family quest has officially begun! Now what?
Keep the quests attainable and engaging, especially for the youngest humans. Day two can kick off as simply as a note on the table with a list of quests to be ticked off. The mere mention of jumping into character is going to pull those superheroes right into the land of imaginative play where they thrive. Again, think about your family and the things they love most to do and put that magic into every quest. Here are a couple of examples to get your creative juices going : capture a kiss from two humans, eat something green and dance to a song you’ve never heard before.
For busy parents, which come on is all of us, I highly encourage you to look at what needs to be done and spin it into something that will be fun for your children. Teeth brushing becomes a mission to polish the pearls nested inside their mouth. Toy pick up becomes, rescuing trapped items from the lava they fell into and bringing them to safety. Rest time becomes fuel up for your next mission by resting your head on a pillow until the timer releases your next energy boost. Sure it takes a little extra creativity ahead of time but you’ll make up for it when those teeth and toys are handled in record time.
Keeping track of your quest game can be as complicated or as easy as you want it to be. A piece of paper on the wall with a sticker next to each day gives everyone a visual. A drawing in a notebook to highlight the quest day or a note in your phone as a reminder of what everyone got up. Why not take a snap shot each day and use an app like ChatBooks to create your own Family Quest Storybook. I have tips on how to do that using Social Media posts that I’d be happy to share. It is so important to celebrate along the way. However that rolls into your family culture make sure you name the challenges you are pushing through. We’ve had take out dinner from a winner's favorite restaurant, dance parties, just because cupcakes and even an award ceremony where everyone got a title they were proud of. The celebration is about naming all the hard things we do each week and who we are as a family unit. Our children end up with a bank full of sweet memories and a solid sense that they belong to a pretty cool team of allies.
I hope you feel ready now to set out on a joy building Family Quest of your very own.
About the Author: Shannon Loucks
Shannon considers herself a fierce defender of childhoods. Ever since her first job, she has sought out opportunities to be in the presence of children as they explore the world around them. From babysitter, to camp counselor, to a Degree in Education, to finally landing as a full time witness of fun to two boys who have become her greatest teachers. Shannon is the author of Love More: 50+ Ways to Build Joy In Childhood.