A couple of months ago, we made the joyous mistake of showing our two-year-old YouTube videos of… well, pretty much whatever he was interested in that day. Mostly trucks, animals, and a few short clips of kids’ shows that we found at least 50% tolerable. We know screen time should be very limited, but a tiny bit each day buys us a bit of sanity while we prepare meals, make an important phone call, whatever.
I work with kids with special needs and many of the kids at work have visual schedules. They are essentially little icons, usually mounted on a velcro strip, that help them understand the transitions in their day and what to expect next. Now, my son doesn’t need this type of thing to avoid epic meltdowns on a daily basis, but when it came to YouTube videos, he really was having a hard time hearing that they were all done, or that we felt he’d watched enough and it was time to play with toys or read a book or do any other logical toddler activity. (YouTube makes this especially challenging with their menu of related video thumbnails that pops up the moment a video ends. Thanks, YouTube.)
So I went ahead and hacked (and I mean hacked) together a little ‘schedule’ for videos that would help my son see (1) how many videos were okay to watch before being done (we agreed on this ahead of time), (2) how many were already watched vs. still upcoming, and (3) what “all done” looked like. I was hoping this would ease his whining when we attempted to get him moving on to something else, as my verbal heads-ups and explanations about keeping our eyes and brains healthy by taking breaks were just not cutting it in this case.
To make this, I hacked up an old cereal box that was in our recycling. I attached an adhesive Velcro strip to the cardboard and a small square of complementary Velcro to each of the video ‘tokens’. I drew crappy pictures on them to represent various videos he likes to watch. Then I taped whatever needed to be taped using clear packing tape, like the done ‘envelope’ and the fronts of the tokens, which I thought might get a bit too well-loved without some extra reinforcement.
Note: toddlers never let you photograph a damn thing in peace.
The way I use this with my son is like this: We talk about how many videos are okay to watch when we first sit down. Maybe it’s just one, maybe it’s two. No more than three, anyway, as I only made three tokens. But we agree and then load up the schedule with that many tokens. After the first video is done, I remind him he needs to rip off the first token and put it in the ‘done’ spot. Then he gets to start the next one (if there is a next one). After the last video is done, and its token is put in the ‘done’ spot, we talk about how all the videos are done and it’s time to choose something else to do.
You can see what a hack job this is by looking at the back of it. It seriously took me about 10 minutes, max. It’s really ugly. I measured nothing. I cut crookedly.
But guys? I’ve already used it twice and it worked. Like a hot damn. The second time I set little A up with this, when the last video ended he independently ripped off the token and put it in ‘done’ and said “all videos done”. Then I asked him what else he’d like to do and he said “play with toys” and went on his merry way without a hint of a whine. It was kind of magical. And I didn’t even need a laminator. BOOM.