WFMW – Computer Game Chips

wfmwWe’ve written about how our family handles computer game privileges before, here and here, but I thought I would share the concept in a bare bones, easy to read post.

Works for Me Wednesday – Computer Game Chips

Every Wednesday the children (and Tim) receive poker chips equivalent to 3 and 1/2 hours of computer game playing time.

White Chips = 30 minutes
Blue Chips = 1 hour
Green Chips = 2 hours

computer chips

Throughout the week the children (and Tim) are free to ‘spend’ their computer chips as they wish, so long as permission is granted (Tim, obviously, doesn’t need permission) and a computer is available. When the chips are gone, the children (and Tim) are able to earn additional chips through service projects around the house (laundry, cleaning, extra chores).


Computer time is carefully monitored by the use of timers (see our Tuesday Parenting Tip for more on our love of timers). We have several kitchen timers and a stop watch that we employ to keep track of game time.

One of the saddest sounds in our house for the children (and Tim) is that little beeper, signifying 30 minutes has ended. Oh, the moans and groans you will hear from the children (and Tim). On the other hand, this crew can hear the clink of a chip as it hits the floor or counter from any room in the house. It’s a tragic thing to lose a chip to the washing machine where it is claimed by the laundress.

Benefits of this Discipline

  1. We become better stewards of our time – no more hours slipping away unnoticed in front of a computer game
  2. There is a cap to how much time, overall, one can spend on the computer – chips gone/computer game over
  3. Mom gets extra chores completed by eager computer gamers who are out of chips
  4. Mom doesn’t have to worry about her computer being used for long periods of time – 30 minutes is actually a very short period of time
  5. The family is encouraged to find other forms of entertainment – outside play, board games, reading
  6. Dad provides an awesome example of how to put limits on extracurricular activities
  7. Less fussing and nagging from Mom

I’m sure Tim (and the children) can share further blessings from this practice, if we ask them.

gather around, ye computer players

All five children gather to watch an intense moment on Daniel’s Star Wars Lego game. See the family unity and love.

Stop by Rocks in My Dryer for other blogs with great tips. You’re welcome to leave a comment on our Duckabush Giveaway post and enter a chance to win some Starbucks and chocolate.


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10 thoughts on “WFMW – Computer Game Chips”

  1. I’ll read this more slowly this afernoon. Time is short-need to get out the door. But you know me, I can’t NOT write a response.

    I love the way you ‘love’ ‘discipline’ ‘teach’ your kids. You are GREAT parents and I’m proud to be your Aunt Kate.

  2. Hi Kathy,

    So, is the time allotment always 1/2 an hour or if your “misers” save up 24 hours worth of chips could they potientially spend an entire day at the computer?



  3. Tag, you’re it! The Tutor at Apollos Academy tagged me for this Reading meme; I’m passing it on to you guys.



  4. A few questions….I see real potential to adapt this in our home. Though tickets are working well these past few weeks. LOL Our young gamers, however, aren’t given any starting tokens they spend….they earn time by collecting tickets. I wonder.

    Can the gamers accumulate time? Say they dont’ use all their chips this week – do they have 4 hours next week or do they lose it?

    Do they all give up a chip if all are sitting around watching someone else’s turn? I mean I like the idea of companionship….but if I gave each child 1/2 an hour they’d be content to play their 30 min and sit another 3 hours watching everyone else. How do you handle this?

    I’m thinking of play station – Zander has to earn 30 tickets before he gets to play. However, most games are 2 – 4 man and I’ve noticed Nolan never spends his tickets for time…he plays with Zander and then gets a book or something else with his tickets. Things I’m rethinking. LOL

    Now – here’s a really painful but real question…..where do things like blogging and reading email fit in? Do you also allot 30 min a day for that sort of thing? Do you see where this could lead me???? I’m already down to about no time on SHS and have left all other homeschool/yahoo groups….

    Things have been way better as far as MY wasted time on the computer. I worked diligently all January to recapture my priorities… of course, I thought of ME and my time too when reading about this system.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  5. ARGH – what happened to my long comment full of questions????? I’m going to wait and see if it shows up. I was really looking forward to a dialog with you/Tim….

  6. De’Etta —

    As you know, we moderate comments, so they don’t appear right away (unless we’re sitting by the computer, hopefully waiting for those comment nuggets … ). Sorry, we were away most of the day today, and didn’t see these.

    Your questions:

    Can the gamers accumulate time? Say they don’t use all their chips this week – do they have 4 hours next week or do they lose it?

    Definitely they keep ‘em. We have one or two kids who stockpile the chips, and we have to issue “bank draft IOUs” in denominations of 25 and 50 so that all the poker chips aren’t taken out of circulation. The kids use them for gifts, which I think is very cool (ahem, having been a recipient). Why not let a child enjoy the semi-security of being a ‘chip miser’?

    Do they all give up a chip if all are sitting around watching someone else’s turn?

    We don’t require paying a chip for watching. In fact, even if one of the children uses a chip to watch a movie, we allow others to watch. Personally, I think it is cool to see five children gathered around one computer, giving each other advice and cheering the ‘driver’ on.

    One day a couple of weeks ago, they were all trying to solve some difficult level on the latest game, and Rachel figured it out. “Rachel’s a genius, Rachel’s a genius!”, they all sang, while Daniel or David actually implemented her suggestion. We try hard to strengthen the relational bonds between siblings, so I’ve got no problem with freeload watching. Besides, how would you ever enforce it? “OK, David, I see you watching that game from across the room. Better give me a chip!” … But if two children play a two-player game, they both have to pay.

    Now – here’s a really painful but real question…..where do things like blogging and reading email fit in? Do you also allot 30 min a day for that sort of thing?

    We currently do not put limits or require chips for blogging or e-mailing, mainly because Kathy won’t submit to it. (Mostly kidding.) Seriously, if you view blogging as creative writing and e-mailing as relationship building, you could make the argument that such activities should actually earn a chip. (In fact, I have successfully made that argument, and I’ve been paid a chip ‘bounty’ for a couple of late night blogs when Kathy couldn’t think of anything to say.) Even reading other people’s blogs, if you comment, could be considered relationship-building — so far we haven’t tried to assail that moral high ground with chip regulations.

    Burning questions, all. We haven’t got it all figured out, yet. Three and a half hours a week is pretty stingy, I think, and every month or so I am tempted to throw off the restraints of these cursed chips and just play as much as I like. “Why should I submit myself to this ridiculous restriction?”, I growl. “Aren’t I the Big Papa? Who would dare to call me to account?”

    Then Kathy looks at me sadly, and I sigh and wait for Wednesday, when the weekly chip allotment is disbursed.


  7. Thanks, Tim. This is very similar to how we handle screen time…though they earn it with tickets.

    We could ease up a bit – maybe – and give them chips or tickets to spend….have to think and pray about this. We have one who tends to totally become antisocial if he spends much time on the screen. Currently….he earns 30 tickets (which takes about a week) and then spends an afternoon playing play station….maybe if he had 30 minutes spread out…but then again the play station is not easily accessible and requires digging out a TV et al….maybe we’ll leave the PS rules as are. LOL

    We also love to have all gathered around the screen…..this really is very similar to what we do – but I would NOT have to use so many brain cells keeping track of their computer time. LOL

    The younger ones all get to decide what they want to “buy” with their 30 tickets….Zander always choose play station. Arielle chooses either to redeem it for $3 (yeah – this is a sneaky allowance system of sorts) or $3 towards a book. Nolan mostly does PS with Zander and then opts for a DQ trip with his tickets. LOL I wonder why I’ve not thought to tie the ticket system into computer time…..I’m thinking now. Thanks.

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