Help Kids Conquer Fears with a Fear Factor Challenge

Are your kids scared to do this?

How about riding down a huge water slide in this?

Does the idea of popping one of these into their mouth make their nose wrinkle in disgust?

If so, I can relate.  My kids were scared of all of those things and more.  So last summer we began a new tradition – our annual Fear Factor Challenge.  It was inspired by a clever ‘try new foods’ program at my kids’ school.  Each month they provided a new food for the kids to sample at lunch.  Anyone brave enough to try it signed their names on a poster and got to shout out ‘Fear is Not a Factor for Me!’ in the lunchroom.

My kids were pretty picky eaters so I decided to try it at home as well.  It worked beautifully.  Any new food they tried (without complaining) earned them a point.  Once they earned 10 points, they got to choose the next Sunday’s dinner and dessert.  Totally simple and effective – I loved it.

After a month or so, I started realizing that the fear factor concept could help out in other areas too.  Anytime my kids were nervous to try something new I would give it a fear factor point value and offer it to them like a money job.  For example, jumping off the dock at the lake was worth 3 points for my son.  Riding the big roller coaster at our local amusement park was worth 5 for my oldest daughter.  Instead of earning custom meals, they’d save up their fear factor points to earn prizes – like a trip to the gas station for a treat or a Redbox movie.

Honestly, I was amazed at how differently my kids approached new things.  They looked at everything like a challenge to be conquered rather than an insurmountable obstacle.  They jumped in lakes, rode scary rides, ate terrible-looking veggies, you name it and they tried it.  They were still nervous, of course, and they didn’t conquer everything (my son swears that no amount of points will get him down the big water slide) but they liked it because they were in control.  I didn’t have to persuade or plead – I just offered the points and let them work out whether or not it was worth it.

Most of the time, it was.  Consequently, I’ve got quite a few video clips of last summer’s adventures where my kids are triumphantly shouting “Fear is not a factor for ME!”

We generally kept track of the points in our heads or on the big board but I thought it might be fun to make an actual chart this year.  It’s nothing fancy, but if you’ve got kiddo that’s a little hesitant to sleep with the door closed, try out the high dive, or ride a bike down the big hill, this chart may be just the thing you need.  You can find the free printable below.  Just thought I’d pass it on.

Download: Fear Factor Scorecard


  1. Melody

    Simply brilliant. You totally need to write about this for Family Fun magazine. Seriously.

  2. If they tried those terrible-looking veggies they must not have seen their Aunt Amy try them during Thanksgiving dinner. I was willing to try them without any fear factor points till I saw Amy’s face after trying to keep one down. I’m laughing out loud right now just thinking about it! She’s convinced me that I don’t ever need to try those things.

    I like your fear factor idea, though. I’ll have to try that one with sleeping in the dark. Our girls have to sleep with some sort of a light on… mostly Ashley. Even if she is sound asleep and we turn off the light she wakes up within minutes screaming.

  3. This is a GREAT idea!!! Too bad I have kids that are just the opposite – especially in doing the scary rides & jumping off things… lol Maybe I should make a chart for ME so I don’t freak out when they do crazy things… lol

  4. Awesome idea! I am going to download your card for my grandchildren.

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