Gentle Bamboo Solutions

Gamifying my son’s education with the Forest app


I have a five-year-old son who doesn’t like writing. He has made it abundantly clear on multiple occasions. His grandmother and his mother have both tried and given up. For an otherwise smart kid, it’s weird to see how far he will go to avoid writing.

For the past week, I have been spending three hours a day with him. On a lucky day, we get half a page written down. I cajole him, request him, beg him, scold him, bribe him, threaten him. Nothing worked for the first few days. Then an inspiration struck.


I started using the Forest app with him. It is an award-winning mobile app which helps people focus.

The idea is simple. You plant a tree and promise yourself to focus for 20-60 mins. If you keep your promise and don’t get distracted, the tree grows fully. However, in that time if you use the phone or even go away from the app, the tree withers and dies. Every time you focus, you grow a tree. Every tree that grows creates a forest. You become better and better at focusing on your work, while a lush green forest becomes the symbol of your achievements. The effect is extremely powerful on adults.

I didn’t think it would work on kids. Why would a kid care about a tree or the forest? I just used it as the last resort as I was at the end of my patience (and ideas). It worked. Beautifully. He believes that the trees grow only when he writes and because he writes. That’s a powerful motivation even in a five-year-old mind.

Now, my son and I plant trees and work together. He has written more in the last two days than he has written this entire academic year. His mom and grandma are amazed. I am too, but I am not showing it. (I am pretending as if I always knew this would work).

There’s a lesson here. Learners are willing to learn when learning is fun. That’s what gamification is all about. Fun is not an afterthought. Fun is not a bolt-on decision. Fun should be baked into the learning. I will focus on Gamification in Learning & Development over the next few emails. I will share some tried and tested ideas as well as experiments we are running ourselves along with research findings from some of the smartest minds in this area.

Gamifying my life (and my son’s)