Honestly, I don’t think I could go completely screen-free this summer with the kids. Sometimes, a movie day is just necessary. But the other night when I saw a father give his two daughters their tablets at a restaurant and the family sat there without speaking a word to each other while waiting for their food, I started wondering, How much screen-time is too much, really? Are we doing our children a disservice by not teaching them how to properly behave in public? I hand my kids my phone to play too often. This summer is the perfect time to start making changes to how much we rely on technology to occupy our kids instead of teaching them to live in the real world.
Once upon a time, we would daydream. Riding the bus home from school, waiting for an appointment, sitting in church – these were all opportunities for children to observe the world, take notice of how people behave, and learn how they should behave. But now we have tablets so our children’s brains don’t get the chance to stretch their minds. Here's how to give your kids a screen-free summer.
1. Encourage Free Play
If there’s one thing our kids don’t get enough of these days, it’s free play. Nearly everything they do is structured in some way. This summer, make sure your kids get to make up their own games or play tag in the yard. Whatever it is, it has to be them, their siblings, their friends, or the neighborhood kids just hanging out together. They can come up with ideas on what to do all on their own — you just have to let them.
2. Offer “Craft” Time
Most of us plan arts and crafts for our children these days, including sitting with them to help make sure they do it right. There’s great benefit in allowing children to paint their own pictures, or build their own house out of popsicle sticks. It takes trial and error and it allows their brains to think both critically and creatively. So hand them the craft box and walk away.
3. Make Chores a Must
Children need chores. It isn’t a form of punishment or something that should even be rewarded, necessarily. Chores are a part of being a member of the family. Divide the chores up based on age and maturity level. Talk to them about how much it means that they care about the family, the home, their toys, and clothing. Chores teach them responsibility and the value of hard work.
4. Encourage Reading
Reading is a great way to help your child’s imagination grow, along with her reading comprehension and vocabulary. Head to the library and let them choose books that interest them so they always have a story to get lost in.
5. Play Board Games
Your kids can play board games together without your supervision. Let them learn to get along, accept losing, and be team players together. And every once in a while, you should get in on the fun, too.
6. Play Cards
This may be something you have to do with your kids, but when I was growing up, I learned to play all the classic card games with my grandmothers. We loved it, and it’s still something I remember fondly.
7. Try Specific Summer Camps
Sports camps, science camps, Lego camps, dance camps – the options are endless these days. Even signing your children up for just one camp can break up the monotony of summer and give you a little break.
Ditch the TV and tablets as much as possible this summer, and allow your children the joys of being children.