I have a love-hate relationship with children's television. Without going into all the pros and cons that I perceive, let's just say that I fall into the camp that thinks that carefully-selected TV for kids is ok in moderation. In our house, that means a handful of PBS shows and some videos. TV is seductive and at some point, my elder son started constantly asking for more, more, more. We got into some bad viewing habits at some point. My solution: TV tokens.
I used images representing a few kid-tested, mom-approved shows and combined them with the printed name of the show and clock faces showing the time at which the show airs. I also made a token for one computer game (represented by characters from one beloved website), and one token for a movie. I covered the finished product with clear contact paper. Voila, sturdy tokens!
My son chooses a set number of tokens in the morning. If he wants to trade a token for another, he may do so, but once they're gone, they're gone, no more TV for the day. The results? MUCH less struggle over TV viewing. He can plan how he wants to spend his time and he knows what to expect from the day. He knows that our deal is that he watches only the show on the token, and he voluntarily turns off the TV when the show ends. He has also learned some basic budgeting skills from our token trades. Additionally, the clocks and text support his budding time-telling and literacy skills.
What's more, having the tokens and sticking to a set amount of TV per day forces ME not to cave in and allow "just one more" show. Knowing what the plan is helps me to plan some down time during the day. In general, these have helped us to put TV into perspective: it's fun, we can enjoy it, but too much isn't good, so let's choose wisely!