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Marble Jar App Rewarding for Parents and Kids

“Please pick up your backpacks!” “Did you brush your hair?  Your teeth?” “Have you done your homework?” I know we aren’t the only household constantly asking our children these questions because I see parents kvetching about it on blogs, Twitter and Facebook and when we visit friends I see a variety of chore charts and reward systems on fridges and mud room walls.  I, too, have tried various charts and positive reinforcement systems so that I don’t have to feel like a constant nag and am often annoyed by the clutter they create.  We have had stickers, popsicle sticks in jars, marbles and so forth.

And along came Marble Jar, the app.  I was already considering it before I was asked to review it, so naturally I jumped at the chance!

Just like its physical counterpart, the idea is that you set up jars where your child earns a marble for accomplishing a task.  You determine which task and you can set up different categories of jars if you like (i.e. Morning Routine) or put everything into one jar.  You also determine what goal your child is working toward once they fill up the jar.  There is a shelf for all the jars.  Once a jar is completed, it becomes a “golden jar” and you may simply copy that jar to start over again.  This allows you to have short-term goal jars and long-term goal jars.  For example, completing daily routine jars may simply allow the child to then have free play time, whereas long-term goals may be a reward of a coveted toy or a slumber party.

There are many different colored marbles to choose from and a satisfying “plink” when the child drops the marble in the jar.  Also, there are jars for the parents too, such as a “Calm” jar (using a calm voice, etc.)  Anyone in the family can use the jar system!

I love the fact that this is highly customizable (it comes with some default jars and tasks, but you may change them, add/delete jars and tasks, say how many marbles it takes to fill a jar).  However, in its current state, the app is not without its problems — all of which Marble Jar creator Anna Roseblum Palmer assured me are about to be fixed, when I spoke to her at the Blogalicious ’11 conference.

Originally she designed the program to be partially hosted on a server so it could be on multiple devices (i.e. Mom and Dad could have it on both of their phones and you could update the jars from either device) but this meant it required a login every time you wanted to go into the marble jar and also led to a lag time every time you performed some sort of a transaction.  Palmer plans to redesign the app so it resides completely on your phone, eliminating the need for a login and no phone-to-server lag time.  This change, however, means that  it can only live on a single device, but I think that compromise will be worth the sacrifice. Knowing that these changes are coming along makes me even more willing to stick with the Marble Jar app. Talking to Palmer gave me some good insights as to how to use the system — initially I was setting up separate jars for each kid, but she said she lumps her kids together and that way they egg each other on by saying, “Hey, you haven’t brushed your teeth and that’s keeping me from getting my free play time!”

The JavaKids love any opportunity to get their hands on my iPhone and they enjoy the array of colors of marbles and the sound of the marble drop and watching the jars fill up.  So far we are only using short-term goals, but I can see that this would work for long-term goals.  And my favorite part — no clutter on the counter tops!

Interested?  Download Marble Jar from the App Store.

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Disclosure: This post is part of a compensated post series sponsored by Marble Jar.  Screen shots provided by Marble Jar.

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