CINCINNATI - Getting kids to do chores can be a chore in itself. Sometimes, it’s tempting to do the chores yourself and avoid the whining and pushback.
In a recent survey on parent-child chore wars, 74 percent of parents said their children rarely help with household chores until they are asked, and 50 percent of parents said they spend just as much time arguing with their children about chores as the kids spend doing them. Yet many pediatricians and child psychologists say that encouraging kids to pitch in around the house is an important part of parenting.
So, what if there was a way to make chores more fun? Enter ChoreMonster, designed by two fun-loving Cincinnati dads, Chris Bergman and Paul Armstrong.
A rewarding app
Using technology that kids already know and love, the ChoreMonster app lets children track which chores they need to do each day and earn points for completing them. They can choose to spend their points on a small reward or save points for something bigger. Parents choose the tasks, rewards, and point values. Rewards can be as simple as extra one-on-one time with mom or dad or as elaborate as a camping trip.
ChoreMonster is geared for children ages 4 to 12. It can be accessed through any computer, or with Apple iOS mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones, or iPod Touch.
Children use their own usernames and passwords to log into ChoreMonster via the website or app. Once they're in, they can check upcoming chores, let parents know if they’re done, and view potential rewards.
You can try the app for free to see how it works. But if your child wants to participate in the silliness of site’s “Monster Carnival” and start collecting a series of whimsical, interactive “Monsters,” you can join the ChoreMonster community for a monthly or annual subscription fee. Prices range from $4.99 per month to $53 per year, depending on the whether you subscribe through the website or iOS app.
ChoreMonster launched at the beginning of 2013 and is now available in 50 countries. So far, it has been downloaded in more than 60,000 households and has been used to complete 1.2 million chores.
Silly and serious
While other chore-management apps for parents do exist, ChoreMonster is one of the few that gives kids their own user experience.
“ChoreMonster gives kids the power to manage chores independently,” Bergman said. “They can prioritize when and how they want to complete them.”
If some humor on the site seems juvenile, it’s because Bergman and Armstrong remember how it feels to be a kid.
“We like to build things for the 8-year-old versions of ourselves,” Bergman said.
He recalls being a rebellious kid, and chores were a big source of tension in the home. He believes he would have been more motivated to do chores, if he had felt more empowered.
In a blog post, Armstrong notes that one of ChoreMonster's goals is to enhance family life by creating a digital extension of parenting while engaging the child in a process that flows into their digital lifestyle.
Bergman loves getting emails from parents who credit ChoreMonster for helping manage some of the chaos of daily living and improving relationships within the family. Some users have seen amazing changes in their child’s behavior, reporting that kids now beg to do chores.
One Cincinnati-area parent who likes ChoreMaster is entrepreneur Matt Chandler, who produces promotional videos through ElevatorInsight.com. He and his wife are the parents of four children, ages 2, 4, 7, and 8. They have begun using ChoreMonster with their oldest child, Naomi, who turns 9 later this month. Naomi uses ChoreMonster on an iPod Touch.
Chandler says the game-like interface gives Naomi a sense of satisfaction when she checks items off her lists of chores.
“My wife and I have the app on our phones. We get notified when Naomi has done each chore and is waiting our approval,” he explained.
As the points accumulate, Naomi can choose whether she wants to use some points to download new apps to the iPod or save them for the horseback riding lessons that she really wants.
Chandler said eventually Naomi will need to learn how to manage an allowance. For now, ChoreMonster is providing analogous lessons in making spending decisions. Naomi is learning how to save and manage the points she earns and plan her spending in advance. Seeing the points add up on the app is easier than managing an allowance because Naomi immediately sees the progress she is making toward bigger goals.
ChoreMonster can provide a great framework for real-world conversations about each child’s goals and meaningful rewards, says Chandler.
“ChoreMonster definitely makes kids feel like they’re in control of their own destinies,” Chandler said. “It teaches them the ramifications of decisions.”
He and his wife plan to use ChoreMonster with their other children when the time is right. But because each child is different, “We’ll probably use it differently with each child.”%page_break%
One father of a young son discovered ChoreMonster through Mashable.com. He posted a review on YouTube titled, “Chore Monster is Reaganzilla Approved.” In the video, Reaganzilla happily explains that “You get cool Monsters” for doing chores like helping dad cook or put away groceries.
Poised for growth, ready for anything
Before starting ChoreMonster, Bergman and Armstrong were partners in the Wiseacre Digital design firm that produced apps for other companies. Although they often helped clients solve problems related to app development, they decided to apply to The Brandery for help in converting their own idea for a parenting app into a global business. The Brandery specializes in helping selected start-up teams turn consumer-focused products into widely recognized brands. ChoreMonster participated in The Brandery’s 2011 program.
ChoreMonster has already received a slew of national publicity. The company have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Wired, The New York Times, Psychology Today and other publications. P&G’s Crest Oral B toothpaste brand has become the official sponsor of the “Brush Your Teeth” chore, and some pediatric psychologists have started recommending ChoreMonster to their patients.
One lesson Bergman learned at The Brandery was to always be prepared to pitch your company. This skill paid off when he was working in a shared office space in Detroit’s M@dison Building, which is also the home of Detroit Venture Partners (DVP). Fast Company magazine writers were in the building that day to profile DVP CEO Josh Linkner. They wanted to see Linkner evaluate a pitch a proposal, so Bergman volunteered.
“I just happened to be sitting there,” Bergman recalled. “So I pitched it to both Fast Company and Josh.” Because DVP typically doesn’t make investments outside of Detroit, Bergman wasn’t expecting anything to come of it. But earlier this month, DVP awarded ChoreMonster $1.5 million in additional capital.
ChoreMonster plans to use the funds to hire new people, including programmers who can help bring the app to additional platforms, starting with Android mobile devices.
Bergman said he is extremely grateful to The Brandery, CincyTech, and everyone in Cincinnati who has helped ChoreMonster succeed.
“The city of Cincinnati has been very good to us,” he reflected. “It takes a village to raise a start-up. We love it here and have stayed her on purpose. We’re not going anywhere.”