Kansas mom turns chores into unique board game

? Family night out was important to Norma Herdman while raising her three sons.

Now that they are older, with only one child left to fly from the nest, they have encouraged her to market a game she created when they were younger.

“I was having a tough time getting them to help around the house,” she said.

So like many parents she developed a chart of duties and posted it on the refrigerator. But with her artistic instincts, she used bright colors and designed a colorful map of tasks and rewards. From that, the game “Family Night Out” evolved.

After four tasks — whether sweeping, making a bed, picking up toys or taking out the trash — the child earns a reward. That’s followed by four more tasks, then free spaces, until they get to the center of the board. Once there, they win a family night out.

At her house, that meant bowling or a movie night, or sometimes staying home and playing a game. It all depended on what the child who had reached the goal wanted to do.

The determination to create the game was fueled by Herdman’s desire to be the best mother she could be, and that meant spending time with her children.

“I grew up in a poor family,” she said. “My mother was a single mother with six children.”

Herdman began working at the age of 7 to earn money.

“I always worked hard,” she said. Any money she brought home didn’t go to anything frivolous, but to buy such necessities as her own underwear.

“School was hard,” she admitted. It wasn’t easy being part of a poor family that didn’t dress well.

“Kids looked at us as the trashy kids because we didn’t look good. You learn from those experiences,” she said.

Along with learning to clean apartments and paint houses, a strong desire to do her best was ingrained in her.

By the time she was 16, she was working in a nursing home, where her co-workers were nurturing.

“I grew from those experiences,” she said.

Herdman was the first of the six children to graduate from high school — a major accomplishment in her family. Her own mother was forced to quit high school when she was 15 to take care of her siblings when their mother died. But not only was Herdman the first to graduate from high school, she went on to Barton Community College with an art scholarship.

At 19, she married and settled into the role of wife and mother.

“I had a rough childhood and a rough marriage,” she said. “Now, life is good. My boys and I are very close.” Something she attributes, in part, to the family night out game.

She continues to work as a med-aide at Pleasant View Home in Inman. Along with marketing the game, selling it at fairs and online, she has a side business — Norma’s photos.

Marketing the game has come with new challenges. Though she wrote to Parker Brothers for help with developing her game, they turned her down. At that point she felt she had reached a dead end.

“But Justin kept pushing me,” she said of her 22-year-old son.

So with the encouragement of her sons, she found a company to produce the colorful magnet board game that comes with several magnetic smiley faces.

“This is a way to include children,” she said. “It’s exciting, bright and draws kids’ attention.”