Monday, 11 January 2010

Learning to Save at Timezone

What??? Learning to save from Timezone?? Are you joking??? The only thing happens in gaming arcade is spending money, not saving!

Calm down, parents.. :-)

First of all, I didn't say "Let's save at Timezone".. because obviously it's impossible! I only said "Learning to Save at Timezone".. why?? Because it is the perfect place to teach our children the concept of saving in the logic that children understand.

Second, I'm not trying to teach you anything, I'm writing this post mainly to share my own experience with my sons, Ariq and Aza. So far, I don't have any 'problems' with Timezone.. In fact, I sort of enjoy the place myself too.. ;-)

Now let me explain more clearly..

When I came back from Yemen with Ariq, the reality for me was, I was 3-month pregnant, away from my husband and I didn't drive! So, when any one of Ariq's grandparents was available, I could take him to the zoo, the beach, etc., but when I took Ariq out by myself, the mall was the safest option for me (close to home, easy access to transportation, variety of choices of food and kids' entertainment).

Ariq was 3 years old at that time..

After our first trip to the mall (and Timezone), I started thinking.. If I could not control Ariq's spending in the gaming arcade, and soon he wouldn't be my only child, it would become hard to keep up with 'family entertainment cost'!

Then, I noticed something interesting when we went to the mall during school holiday, at Timezone's entrance there was a big banner saying "100% credit on purchase over Rp 60.000,00" (about US$7.00). I found an idea that I really hope Ariq could understand.

I slowly said to Ariq, "Honey, Timezone is having a discount because it's school holiday."

Ariq looked excited, "Wow! That's good then. Can I play?"

I nodded, "Of course! I also have an idea. If I buy a lot of credit today, you can play here a few times without having to buy anymore for a long time."

Ariq looked confused, "How? How can I play without buying credit?"

I thought, Yesss! This is my chance! And I said to him, "If you obey me when I say that your credit for today is up, we will have enough credit to come here again next time."

Ariq did not totally understand, but I didn't want to confuse him more, so I made a quick calculation in my mind (each machine costs around Rp 2.500,00 -about US$0.20), 10 games would cost around Rp 25.000,00 and said to him, "You can play 10 games each time we come here."

He quickly agreed. Well, he was still very young at that time and there were very limited choice of games that he could play, so 10 games were enough to entertain him.

I started the 'alarm' once he had played 7 games, so he started choosing the ones he really, really liked. Then, we stopped and I started exiting the arcade. I took a quick chance to show him the credit reading (at the credit checking machine) and explained to him the balance. By then, he understood what I tried to explain to him when we entered the arcade.

Was the process complete just like that?

Of course not!

Kids are not computer program.. They are so much smarter than any AI!

The next time we went to Timezone, he negotiated after the 10th game, so I had to put a limit on the negotiation (I usually gave 1 or 2 extra, but no more that that!). There was also a couple of times when he was being difficult because he was already getting tired and sleepy, but being a child he insisted on playing instead of going home.. So, I had to be consistent and I got him home and later on made him promise not to behave like that again.

Once Ariq was older (about 5 years old), he also started to understand the concept of game tickets (the tickets he earned for playing games on the machines). He exchanged them for drinks and snacks after he was finished playing and kept the rest until he could exchange them for something else; school stationery or toys.

Ariq is now almost 7 years old and Aza is 3.5 years old. I don't have to struggle teaching Aza the concept of saving when we go to Timezone, Ariq has been telling Aza when they have to leave the arcade because their credit for the day is up. And of course, since Ariq is speaking in 'children language', his explanation is much easier for Aza to understand.. ;-)

When my husband came home and we went to Timezone together, he was worried about how much we would spend there. He almost fainted when I told him how much credit I purchased because there was a discount.. I asked him to watch the children after their 10th game.. and he was very surprised!

Ariq calmly asked me, "Credit for today is up?"

I nodded and answered, "Yes. Get your brother, please."

Ariq nodded and turned to Aza, "Aza, today's credit is up! Let's go!" And Aza followed Ariq out of the arcade.

My husband asked me, "How did you do that?"

When I told him my experience with Ariq four years ago, he asked me, "Wow! They understand it!"

I smiled and said to him, "Don't underestimate children! They are people, humans, just in smaller body.."

One little tip for parents when going to Timezone.. Play with your kids on the machines! One or two, if not all..
When they see you play, and you say that it's enough entertainment for you, it sort of gives them an idea that the same amount of entertainment should be enough for them too, or at least a signal that the end of their playing time at the arcade is coming up very soon.. I find this more effective in teaching my children not the be addicted to gaming arcade (rather than giving a strict time limit while watching them play).
Some options for parents: street basketball, rowing, hit the mouse, deer hunting, table-hockey, soft-play area (with younger children, where available).
So many things around us these days, which can either help or harm us, and it all depends on us how to perceive it. I used to come to Timezone with Ariq and found myself as the only mother playing there, but lately, I saw more and more mothers play with their kids there. I see it as a good thing (as a stay-at-home mother, I find playing with my kids at a gaming arcade is one good alternative of refreshing activity when we don't have much time to plan a proper outdoor/other activities).
What you need is a little calculation of how much you would like to spend in the arcade and how often you plan on going there. Then, discuss the concept with your spouse and children.
Don't forget to watch out for discount banners or offers from your credit cards or other sources.
Timezone is there to provide family entertainment, not to add to family stress.. :-P

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