Summertime is here. That means less structure and much more free time. Some people dread it but I love it.
Well, maybe I don’t love EVERYTHING about summer.
If you’re a parent like me, you may also struggle with keeping up positive habits for your kids during the free-and-easy summer months. For example, getting up at a reasonable time, tefilla, learning Torah, practicing reading and other learning skills, doing chores, and being a helpful, contributing member of the family.
If it’s 2 p.m. and no one got dressed and started their day, we know it’s summer vacation.
If we all sit down to the Shabbos table and find that no one has a clue what parsha is that week, we know it’s summer vacation!
This is not a disaster and we all get on with life nevertheless, but I’ve often wished we could better maintain good habits over the vacation, even without external structure.
That’s why we invented The Mitzvah Tickets Game.
If your positive family habits tend to wilt like a cucumber vine in the August heat, I encourage you to try The Mitzvah Tickets Game with your kids too.
We have designed the game to be easily printable for you at home. I’m including the free printable files, the rules and everything you need to get started in this post.
But first, let’s ask an essential question:
Why is this game so fun and motivating?
It’s thanks to a concept called “intermittent rewards,” which has been shown to be extremely effective for behavior modification.
The fact that sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t is the magic ingredient here.
Interestingly, I learned about this from a buying my 7yo son packets of stickers for a commemorative album featuring photos of Rav Chaim Kanievsky. He was so motivated to do things to get those packets of stickers and all his siblings were excited when he opened them – waiting to see if he got any “valuable” ones.
So let’s harness the power of intermittent rewards to motivate our kids to do positive things that make them feel good about themselves and help your home run smoothly.
How does The Mitzvah Tickets Game work?
Every time your child does something categorized as positive, they are allowed to randomly choose an enveloope of tickets out of the box.
Each ticket may earn them the following:
- 1, 2 or 5 shekels – to be saved and used towards a big prize at the end
- 1, 2 or 5 bonus packs – which they can immediately pick out of the box
- Pieces of a puzzle. When they collect all the pieces, they win the specified prize, such as an ice coffee or slushie. Puzzles containing more pieces earn more valuable prize when complete.
- Nothing – there are many non-winning tickets in the box. However, if they collect 7 non-winning tickets, they can exchange them for a new packet of tickets.
The printable versions of these tickets are linked below. If you want to get creative and modify the game. More on that below.
How and why to modify the game
It took us a few weeks of trial and error to get The Mitzvah Tickets Game right for us but it might still need tweaking to be perfect for your family.
For example, you might be in a higher or lower socioeconomic bracket than us, and therefore want to modify the value of the prizes accordingly. Make sure they are just enough to be fun and motivating for your kids.
Any easy way to modify the reward levels without editing the ticket files is simply to change the number of tickets in the envelopes. If your kids have higher expectations, put in 4, if they have lower expectations, 1 is enough. We do 2 per envelope.
Of course, your kids may not like the prizes offered by our tickets. Or maybe they are lactose intolerant and can’t have ice cream! So get creative and make up new puzzles for more enticing prizes!
Also, note that our game is in Hebrew. Feel free to translate it into whatever language works for your kids. Though if you want them to improve their Hebrew, this game may help.
FAQs for Success (learned the hard way)
What ages is this good for?
It’s ideal for ages 6-12 but will work for older and younger kids too.
How many tickets do I need?
This depends on how many children you have, how many tickets you put in each envelope and how long you want to run the game for. But don’t stress. Start with one batch and feel free to make up more envelopes when you see you need them.
What if my kids win all the big puzzle prizes in the first week?
Here’s how to avoid that: Don’t put all the puzzle pieces in the first batch of envelopes. If you want to run the game for a few weeks, set some puzzle pieces aside and gradually add a few more to the envelopes with each new batch.
What do I do with tickets after they’re used?
Tickets and envelopes can reused repeatedly to save waste. Only the money tickets have to be reprinted regularly.
What if one child keeps getting the same puzzle pieces?
This is where this gets even more fun! Kids are allowed to trade puzzle pieces among themselves. Get ready for a bustling marketplace in the living room!
How do I keep this from getting too expensive?
Determine how much you are willing to spend on this game and make sure the value of the prizes in the envelopes isn’t higher than that. Keep in mind that this game is much healthier and more motivating than other rewards parents often use, so feel free to allocate a real budget so that your kids can save up for a meaningful prize at the end. When I thought of how much I usually spend on junk food, shmontzes and cash incentives to win my kids’ cooperation, this game is not costing me extra but it is teaching my kids valuable life skills.
Do you seriously expect me to get this game going with my kids right now? I’m already so overwhelmed and exhausted this summer that I can barely get off the couch! I guess I’m just not a good mother like you are! [sighs and scarfs a packet of half-stale chocolate wafers, because that is the only chocolate in the house]
I know how you feel, sister! Believe me, I have also had summers like that! Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not up to creative home projects right now. Hopefully you will feel more energized soon IYH. Meanwhile, you deserve some higher-quality snacks!
Why am I sharing this game on an urban farming blog?
In my homesteader head, it makes perfect sense. Let me explain.
The idea that “we can make it better ourselves” is core to the city farmer outlook. It stands in contrast to the generally accepted city-dweller wisdom that “if I need something, the only way to get it is to swipe a card.”
Making games like this yourself and encouraging your kids to do so is the beginning of the DIY mindset – and that is a lifestyle that offers massive intermittent rewards, in the most meaningful and productive way.
Let your kids decide on the prizes, cut the tickets out and stuff them into the envelopes.
And of course they earn themselves tickets by contributing in this way!
Let the game begin!
Wishing you a happy and healthy summer!
My name is Naomi and this is my tiny little farm in the heart of the rapidly growing city of Beit Shemesh, Israel. I enjoy growing, making and processing as much of my family's food and household essentials as possible, while nurturing a biodiverse ecosystem filled with beauty and life.