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.