Sunday, June 21, 2015

TV Time Tracker (Super frugal version)

I feel like my child watches a lot of TV. He only watches educational little kid shows (when he's with me) and he generally plays with his toys while watching TV but still. My husband grew up in a household where the TV was always on. When I was a kid my brother's and I were ALWAYS outside but towards the end of my days at home with my mom and siblings the TV was always on and someone was always watching it. I prefer the TV be off more often than not. None the less it feels like the TV is always blabbing away in the background at our house.

Many years ago a friend of mine showed me how her boys had to earn screen time. She used Popsicle sticks and cups. Her boys were school age and if I remember correctly the Popsicle sticks were assigned different time limits, maybe 5 minutes for some of them, and 10 or 15 minutes on others. Since my little buddy is getting bigger, comprehending SO much now, and I am a bit concerned about how much the television is on here I decided to finally (I've been meaning to do this for awhile) put into use the idea she gave me years back.

I am a huge proponent of re-using jars. Thus the empty pizza sauce jar came into play; peeled off the label, gave it a washing, and now we have a TV Time jar.

I don't remember the last time we ate Popsicles so we don't have any sticks lying around that can be re-purposed. I did price a bag of craft sticks at the store. There was one with something like 100 sticks in it for $2.99. Nah, too much. This spring when I was pruning the bushes out back I actually kept a bundle of sticks I'd trimmed that were nice and straight thinking I could maybe use them for something crafty in the future. I trimmed one of these sticks that had since dried out nicely into six equal parts and then spray painted them with a can of yellow paint I had. And there you have it, a FREE TV Time Tracker; my favorite kind of craft. I may spray paint the word's TV TIME onto the jar but for now my mission is accomplished.

We've used the TV time tracker for two days. Right now each stick is allotted 30 minutes of TV time. 30 minutes amounts to two little kid episodes. He has to take a stick out of the jar and give it to me when he wants to watch TV. Then I start the timer (I've had a timer specifically for him for a long time now; we use it mostly for time outs or if we say, "okay, only 15 more minutes until..."). When the timer goes off then we turn the TV off or he has to give me another stick and then I start the timer again. When the sticks are all gone then we're done watching the television for the day.

There are a few really great things about this simple tool. It helps him better learn to prioritize and make choices. It's a great way for me to keep track of how much TV he's watched/ how much the TV has been on during a day. It's a visual way for him to recognize that, say there's one more stick left in the jar, there's only a small amount of TV time left so once it's been used the TV will not go back on today. I have had this idea in the back of my mind since years before ever having a child so I'm pretty excited to have finally brought it out. 

We've started simple with a few sticks being in the jar at the beginning of the day and each stick holding the same allotment of time. As time goes on I almost certainly will have him earn sticks and I will probably give them different allotments of time (much smaller than 30 minutes) as well as adding, oh heaven forbid, video game time. (Maybe when he's 25 he can start playing video games)

Now please, don't get in your into your imaginations that I'm a super structured mom (I'd love to be actually). I'm not. I mean sometimes we eat dinner at 3:30 and sometimes we eat dinner at 8:30. We'll do five crafts in a week and then won't do another for three weeks. I've been an artist with an artistic personality all of my life and structure is, well, it falls pretty far off my radar. But things like this little trick are a great way for me to get structure into our lives and teach my son a few really simple but valuable lessons along the way.

The really great news, (mind you after only two days) is that the TV thus far has not been on nearly as much as I'd thought. He's only used three sticks each day, and one thus far today.


  1. I think that is a great idea and he is learning how to prioritize and make choices. My house is like your husband's house was - the tv is on ALL the time, mostly on a baseball game, but for noise more than anything else (was the same way in my house growing up). The ironic thing - neither of my kids gives a hoot about tv - my daughter doesn't even have one at her house and my son may watch 1 or 2 shows/movies a week while I'm addicted to it....go figure.

    1. Ah ha that is another way you and my husband are alike then. I actually prefer silence or positive music as background noise. The TV as background noise tends to make my mind noisy too... not sure if that makes a ton of sense. Little Abe watches really good shows, I mean he genuinely learns a TON from them and he does play while watching TV unless he's really tired but I know it's not good for him to have it always on. It's been shown to create attention issues for kids and I know that television like video games is habit forming so that your body or mind craves it.

      I am really excited to have implemented this learning, time management tool. I hope I can stick with it. I think I can, I think I can...