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LImitations on Video Games and Healthy Alternatives

Video Games… TV….. Movies….. Ipad….. Electronic forms of entertainment *abound* in our world these days. How are parents to manage all of these potentially helpful and potentially harmful “tools” for their children? We have tried a lot of different things at different times, and will probably continue to make adjustments as we go along, but I will share some of the ways we have managed this area as of late: 

 First of all, we choose not to have a TV in our home, and we also choose to not have any video gaming system like a playstation or an Xbox or anything like that. However, these days you can play games with just about anything, like a cel phone or a computer. And the same for videos without a TV. Just with youtube, you can be entertained day and night. So, we are not immune. 😉 

After reading Jane Healy’s book Endangered Minds, I turned against all forms of electronic entertainment completely, but my dear husband does not agree that it is all detrimental, and truly, some good things can be said for certain forms of “electronic entertainment”.  However, regardless of any studies done “out there”, one thing we can say for sure from personal experience is that 
1) When the kids have freer access to electronics, they get “addicted” and can’t seem to get enough.
2) When the kids have freer access to electronics, they seem to be unable to think of anything *else* to do! In other words, it seems to kill all other forms of creativity. I say “all others” because some may argue that they are using creativity doing certain forms of video games.
So we have seen the absolute necessity of limitations and specific direction in this department.
Their favorite game is Minecraft. So, one of the things we have done is encourage them to do Minecraft papercrafting instead of using the computer. I’m still into tactile activities. 🙂 
You can find myriads of free minecraft papercraft printables online, and all of my children have really enjoyed creating their “worlds” out of paper. Here are some of their crafting examples:

Joshua and Johann working on their Minecraft papercrafting:

Joshua’s treasure chest of papercrafts:

Dominique’s is definitely more girly. Her world is a maternity hospital!

But, we have not prohibited the use of Minecraft on the computer altogether. This is our current system of limiting it: 
The children have to earn minutes by taking initiative to help with things around the house. They do not earn minutes for their normal daily chores, nor do they earn minutes if are *asked* to do something to help around the house. They have to take initiative in order to earn minutes. We created a list that specifies how many minutes they can earn by doing certain types of chores. Some of the things on the list are pulling weeds in the yard, washing windows, cleaning out the fridge, vacuuming the car, picking up messes (mostly that Olivia makes), cleaning the garage and things like that that don’t always get done on a normal schedule otherwise. 
 The rules are:
1) They can only redeem minutes on the weekends – that is, they can only play Minecraft on Saturdays and Sundays. 
2) They can only play up to 30 minutes each. The thing is, they ALL like to watch each other playing, as you see in the first picture above, so 30 minutes a piece becomes 2 full hours of all of them sitting in front of the computer. Which is just… plenty! 
3) They can lose minutes for certain infractions during the week, such as forgetting to do their normal chores, leaving dirty clothes or towels on the floor, or not flushing the toilet (we were having troubles with this one and it does seem to have helped!!). 
Each of the children has a chart like this one on the refridgerator to keep track of minutes earned, minutes lost, and minutes played:

And on all the other days, they have more time for creative play in other areas! This system is the best we have tried so far, and I love that it is encouraging them to take initiative to *notice*  things that need to be done.  Of course, since they (as all people) are basically lazy, they often wait until Friday and when they see they have no minutes to play, they all run around trying to find jobs to do so they can earn enough minutes for the weekend. Haha. At least on most Fridays, the house shines!!!  And they have something to look forward to on the weekends. 🙂