I would like to KISS ON THE LIPS whichever commenter mentioned the plan of making children earn video game minutes with reading. ...Wait, I'd give a kiss on the lips but I won't take a few seconds to look it up? Hang on, BRB. Okay, so on the post where I asked for input on how much time children should be allowed to play video games, it was in fact SEVERAL commenters who get kisses on the lips (cash substitution available) (kisses have no cash value): Sara Hammond, my friend Mairzy, Andrea Unplugged, js, Donna, and Beyond ALL mentioned the concept of letting kids EARN video game time.
Looking through to find which commenters those were, I was reminded of how GOOD that comments section was (really, go look if you haven't already---a great assortment of viewpoints). It showed me what I thought about video games, as I found myself identifying with certain comments. It turns out I'm on the side of not setting a particular number of minutes (for one thing because my kids, like some commenters' kids, would then make SURE they played ALL the minutes, rather than some days playing less or none), and on the side of basing daily video game decisions on what else has been done that day, and whether video game playing seems to be leading to poor-quality moods, and whether we have a brand new game to play, and what type of game is being played, and so forth.
Several commenters also pointed out a problem I'd noticed but hadn't NOTICED-noticed, which is that the trouble with a lot of kids is that if one kid is playing and the others are watching that kid play, then having a certain number of minutes doesn't really work: even if each kid were allowed 30 minutes, they could theoretically watch another TWO HOURS of someone else's video game time. This is a problem with TV time, too, as you might imagine.
ANYWAY, I was most inspired by the concept of letting kids BUY video game time. I was worried this might lead to increased playing (because they'd have EARNED the right to play, rather than it being up to my whim), or to them feeling like books = chores, or SOMETHING, so I broached the idea tentatively to the two older kids for discussion. They were RIVETED by the idea, and we talked for a long time about what would count toward earning minutes, and also I said I would change the rules if things weren't working out.
Here are the things they can do to earn minutes: read, write (journal or creative), do workbook pages, do Sudoku or crossword puzzles. It's one minute of those things to buy one minute of video games, and they don't start with any free minutes.
Well, and then the twins wanted in on it too. So here's what they can do to earn minutes: read, practice writing their names/letters, do workbook pages, do flashcards. So we modified the older kids' list: if they help a younger sibling with flashcards, they earn minutes too.
We went out and bought a timer and a package of poker chips (which we call "tokens"), and some workbooks and flashcards (Target has a bunch in their dollar section). We labeled disposable plastic cups with the kids' names (except Henry, who is too young for this), and we made a code for poker chip colors: blue is 10 minutes, green is 30 minutes, etc. When they do a token-earning activity, they put a token in their cup; when they play a video game, they pay a token first, then set a timer for the number of minutes of the token. (They can do computer research for free, assuming it doesn't get out of hand.)
We left some things undecided for now, such as what if two kids both have tokens and both want to play, how long can one kid play before having to give the other kid a turn? And I'm hoping no one will notice that when one kid spends a token, the other kids can watch without having to spend tokens. We'll see if those issues come up or not.
And do you know what all this has led to, at least this first week? TOKEN HOARDING. Almost ZERO video-game playing, and LOTS of token-earning. COMPETITIVE token-earning. Children saying things such as, "Hey, how many tokens do you have? WHAT!! I'm going to go read RIGHT NOW." Children saying things such as, "I'm tempted to spend a token---but I'm not sure it would be worth it." Children saying things such as, "Wow, half an hour goes by a lot faster than I thought!" We have AWARENESS OF VIDEO GAME TIME FLOW developing! We have AWARENESS OF SPENDING PRIORITIES developing! PARDON MY ENTHUSIASTIC USE OF CAPITAL LETTERS.
And--AND--now we have an EXCELLENT punishment: we can TAKE AWAY TOKENS. We don't have any system set up for that yet, but if something comes up later I can say, "From now on, whenever you do that, you lose a 10-minute token." This is easier than saying, "That's it, no more video games today!" which, first of all, punishes ME too, and secondly can lead to the child saying, "Fine, I didn't want to play any more games ANYWAY!" and then I'd have to bang my head against the wall for awhile, so really this is to everyone's benefit. This lets me take away video game time from whenever they WOULD have wanted to play it, nyah nyah.
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...