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Many moons ago when I had a three year old and and one year old, I ran into a frustration with screen time that was solved by using TV tokens. They worked brilliantly for some time, but eventually we went cold turkey on screen time, except for Friday movie night, with incredible results. That system has been working well for us for years, but as things go, we’re entering a new phase.
No screen time worked well for us until the lock down began because our days were full. Homeschool or co-op in the mornings, soccer practice, theater class, Taw Kwon Do and more filled out days. When we weren’t scheduled for something, we used that time for free play. And on Fridays, we all were psyched and ready for pizza and movie night. It was a great system.
Well now, like the rest of you, life looks a little different. We are home a lot more. We have a lot of wonderful time for creative free play, school work, moving our bodies, and life skills. And then we still have time left over. It’s been pretty great for the most part, but it brought about a new struggle for us.
With the extra time, Hailey wanted to check her email more; Kaitlyn wanted to play on her Codeverse platform; and I wanted some structure in our day that didn’t include whining. When our days were busier, this responsibility chart with paid chore option worked well for us (and before that, the door-hanger chore chart was a hit!).
However, I noticed that the girls were no longer motivated by money. I’d have to hound Kaitlyn some days to get through her responsibilities because she couldn’t care less about earning money with the paid chore option when she had no Target trip to go on and spend it. We had a chat with the girls and discovered that what they wanted most was time on their screens. So I listened, and David and I came up with a new plan.
We created a responsibility chart that created a win/win situation. They accomplish what I want and need them to, and they earn a reward that is meaningful to them.
Here’s how it works:
- The girls have a list of daily responsibilities they must accomplish. These can include but are not limited to: getting dressed and brushing teeth, reading for 20 minutes, doing a chore, completing their school work, outdoor time, practicing piano, making their beds and cleaning up their room, etc.
- Once they have completed those things and I’ve signed off of them, they receive a screen time token worth 30 minutes of screen time of their choice (TV/computer/iPad)
- They have the option to use it at any time during the day, or save it for another day. I love how this empowers them to make the choice of if and when they use their reward and teaches delayed gratification.
- If they lose the token, it’s void. This teaches them to be responsible with their prized possessions.
- If they choose to do something together (they love playing Adventure Academy together), they only need to use one of their tokens. This means that they can essentially get an hour of screen time each day, if they spent one token to play computer together and one token to watch a show together. We’ve decided we are OK with that because it means they have to compromise and work together to make their choices.
- If one person does not earn a token for the day, they may not participate in the other’s screen time reward. This hasn’t happened yet, but if it does, we have a plan in place.
- Need some chore ideas? Here’s our take on age-appropriate chores. Remember, a chore for a younger child may not be especially helpful to you, but the idea is that they are learning to pitch in. For example, one of Kaitlyn’s chores is to wipe down all the door handles and light switches. It’s not something that is vital to complete, but it’s something she is able to do and fall under the chore/cleaning category.
This system has continued to work really well for us. They wake up motivated to check off their boxes and earn their reward. What has surprised me is that they have been slow to cash them in. It’s been really rewarding for me to see them practice delayed gratification and contemplating their options.
They will use one token to play the computer together and save the other one. They say they want to save up to cash them in on a single day where they could have computer time AND a movie. They’re empowered and I couldn’t be more pleased. I hope this screen time token printable is just as helpful for you and your family!
Interested in trying it yourself?
Download your free responsibility chart and get started!
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Thank you so much for sharing! Kinda random question…if they clean their room in the morning if and then it gets messy again throughout the day what do you do? I think my kid’s rooms are clean then messy again multiple times a day! Ha. Do you require a clean room before bed regardless of screen time tokens?
Brittany Dixon says
I don’t but I don’t feel like their rooms get all that messy during the day because they usually play downstairs or outside. I do have them help me clean up the living room and stuff at the end of the day though 🙂
Brittany Dixon says
Yay! So glad it’s helpful! 🙂
Liz T says
Love this! Thank you. I’ve been contemplating doing this, especially involving “character goals” for them to accomplish or work towards. The template printable is super helpful
This is wonderful. Thank you! I have been struggling a bit with my 5 year old as she wants to watch TV ALL day long – and gets a big snippy (maybe just entitled) about me turning it off so she can go play. I also deal with the “why do you make me do ALL of these chores” comment when asking for help from her. I’ve had the convo that we all have to help around the house, but that doesn’t seem to sink in. I appreciate the thought you guys put in to this plan and may utilize a good portion of it for my two kids.
Glad you found a system that works for you! I’ve never tried a chore chart, but I like the idea of it! I’d have to find another motivator for my boys (probably money), because to be honest, there are many days where it is 3 pm and I am literally begging my boys to sit down and watch a TV show. It’ll be better after a week when grades are due and I’m finished with distance teaching, but for now just getting 30 minutes of peace while they watch a show is great. They have always had free use of the TV, but most of the time they just want to play inside and outside (which is great! BUT, also noisy, messy, etc. and not great when I am trying to work, send emails, make calls, get into meetings). We don’t do any other electronics, so for them it is TV or nothing. I could totally use this chart though for cleaning responsibilities!
TV time is definitely a motivator for my three boys and I might try this. I worry that making reading a requirement might take away their joy in reading or make it so that they only read the required 15 minutes instead or longer. Do you find this to be the case? Do you include family movie night in their earned time?
Brittany Dixon says
I worried about that for the reading, too, but it actually got Hailey more hooked into her books and often times she’s ended up reading longer.
As for family movie nights- those are no-token-needed, as are any other times I might let them watch something. The tokens are more to empower them for when they want to have a say about screentime.
This is great! Money is just not cutting it with my 4/6 year olds.
Hi! Where is the link to the Token printable? I only see the chore chart one. Thanks!
Brittany Dixon says
Hi Amy! I thought I had responded to this, but now I don’t see my response, so let me try again! Check out my resources page- it has all my printables!
Brittany Dixon says
Check out the resources page under Home Management 🙂