Philosophy Talking Point

Fun Theory and the Extraordinary Power of Fun

Fun Theory
Written by Stuart Wickes

The Fun Theory

There are grand and complex theories of change and simple ones too. The fun theory is a simple one. Put simply it says if you want to get people to change their behaviour, make what you want them to do novel and fun. That’s it. It’s a very simple and useful idea…

Fun theory in action - on a trampoline

A simple solution to a complex challenge

If you’ve read even just a little of this blog, you’ll know I believe it’s healthier for kids (and grown-ups too) to be active, outdoors and tuned-in to nature. But it’s not easy making that happen in today’s digitally immersive, 24/7, always on, internet-dependent society. In fact just getting someone’s attention can feel like rolling rocks uphill.  So I’m not surprised we get lots of questions about how we motivate ourselves, the kids and each other to do some of the things we do. Fortunately, unlike the problems of technology, I find the answer is, in part, very simple; work hard to make things fun.

How do you get kids out in the rain? Fun theory says - make it fun

How do you get kids out in the rain? Fun theory says – make it fun

Novelty + fun = engagement

Fun theory tells us that novelty makes things interesting and making something fun makes it feel good. When something is both novel and fun, it becomes intrinsically rewarding and we love doing it. What’s more, it can have a lasting effect, because when you do something fun you not only feel good about what you’re doing at the time, but afterwards you want to do it again. Fun can be mildly addictive which makes it powerful stuff.

Fun is so powerful it can turn mundane and apparently ‘boring’ things into attractive options. Just think of the recent PokemonGo! phenomena and how it incited all sorts of normally sedentary gamers to get out of their bedrooms and go running around looking for pokemons. Without any nagging, cajoling, incentives or lectures on the benefits of getting out and exercising. That’s the power of fun. It makes people want to do things.

Making ‘boring’ things fun, the piano stairs way

It just goes to show that fun can be used for serious purposes. Fun theory has been used to motivate people to do all kinds of ‘boring’ things. Like, using the stairs instead of an escalator. Check out this video of piano stairs and see which side you would choose.

Musical stairs are a great example of fun theory in action. You make exercise more interesting and people will choose exercise. It’s a great lesson to learn when you are in charge of kids. (If you are liking the musical steps then you can try them out for yourself at Vienna’s Haus Der Music.

Meanwhile what could liven up the task of recycling more glass bottles?

You might not think putting litter in a bin could be fun, You’d be wrong. Watch how much interest this bin gets with just a little bit of added imagination. And how much litter gets put in it.

Fun is a serious business

So fun has a serious purpose and as you can see in the videos, if you set things up right, it can get serious results. It’s catchy too. When something looks like fun, others get interested in joining in too, creating a kind of a virtuous viral spiral of engagement.

How to make daily life more fun?

Next time you are trying to persuade the kids to leave their bedrooms and come out on that ‘boring’ walk or you’re trying to cajole your partner into that dull sounding adventure of a lifetime, stop before you start persuading. Think of the fun theory and see if you can find the fun in the idea, not just for you but for them. Remember the music stairs and the magical bin and see if you can find a way to reframe, replan or reinvent your idea so it really will be fun for them. You might just find they’re on board without you really trying. After all, who doesn’t want to join in something imaginative and fun?

If you need ideas, we have canoed to the supermarket for pizza (along the canal not on the sea) we have turned our village into a giant treasure hunt with prizes, we have taken a walk to our local motorway services for hot chocolate or a Greggs lunch, and been family jogging with a zombie app. We have kept geocache and Pokemon apps handy on our phones. We have taken night hikes instead of day walks to spice up the routine. We have counted sheep and fed ducks and looked for dodos and written poems and done quizzes and all manner of things that make life more interesting. The only limit is your imagination. Try the fun theory sometime with your kids.

Talking Point

Do you believe in the power of fun? How do you inject fun into your travels and adventures? Do leave a comment and let us know.

About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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