A common request I hear from parents a lot lately is ideas to offer as alternatives for all the screen time that kids will inevitably ask for. And, to be honest — it’s nice to give kids screen time because it gives them something to do and distracts us from the tedium of being locked in all day.

So instead of fighting it, I’ve been using their understandable desire to watch television (and my desire to let them) to help them accomplish a few things along the way, to teach a few lessons about work and its rewards. And – with this system, we make clear but acceptable limits to screen time that everyone can agree to.

We set up this work-point system:

1) Every point = one minute

2) Every child has their own work and every point they rack up has different point values  The older kids are doing harder work and so are rewarded accordingly. The younger siblings may grumble at this but acknowledge that his or her tasks do not equal that of Older Brother or Sister.

3) In addition, we’ve made acts of kindness, exercise (laps, sets, as appropriate) and creativity (crafts) part of the point plan to reward those as something we value as good.

4) And, to mix it up a bit, we’ve also included our Chore Sticks. Chore sticks are popular on other mommy blogs and we’ve take up the idea and put point values on each chore to help contribute to the total screen time points. Here’s a picture of our chore sticks:

Kids pick a stick from the jar (no peeking!) and when they complete the task they can add the points to the total.

This is what our simple point tracking board looks like:



I’ve put the board in a high traffic area (unsurprisingly, the kitchen table) and we keep tabs on it throughout the day. At the end, we tally up the points and we let them watch as many minutes as points they’ve earned.

A few tips if you want to try this as well:

  • Be flexible but realistic: try to have in mind how many minutes you’re willing to let them have for screen time and make the point values accordingly. I.e., you don’t want to end up promising 600 minutes of television time.
  • Don’t get too involved policing the system and try to use it as a way to get the kids to encourage one another and work together: win-win-win!

I don’t use this system every day – it’s more of a way to mix things up and to sometimes get us motivated and out of a rut. I’m not sure how well it would work if we did – but I’d be curious to know if anyone did something similar on a regular basis.

What are some things your family does to keep things interesting?

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