15 Ways to Stay Connected This Summer With Out Screens
By Tina Mattsson
It’s summer time! The kids are home from school, and the snow is finally melted. Most parents start the summer off with grand plans. Plans to get up at a decent hour each day. Plans to keep the learning going. Plans to spend many quality hours connecting with your kids. But then after the first week of summer break and the constant bickering, some of us give up and hand out the tablets, laptops, and video game controllers and say, “Have fun!” We’ve all been there. It can feel exhausting to be your kids’ summer “cruise director.”
To help you stay sane this summer, we’ve created a list of 15 summer activities to do with your kids that do not involve screens. We are going old school over here! According to Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, 8- to 18-year-olds consume an average of 7 hours and 11 minutes of screen media per day (Selected Research on Screen Time and Children).
Obviously some of this screen time is likely for school or work obligations, but we clearly have a serious disconnect happening within ourselves, in our families and in our culture. Summer is the perfect opportunity to work on re-connecting with your family. So set a goal to find one way a day you can connect with your kids in a meaningful way, sans screens.
Help your child pick a skill they have mastered, then let them teach you. Examples could include, making a paper airplane, throwing a baseball, drawing animals, building Legos, and playing an instrument.
Let them get bored. I am always amazed at what creative games my kids invent when they get bored. Don’t forget to join in on the fun! Have suggestions at the ready!
Have them plan a neighborhood activity like a block party. Help them with the guest list, party activities, and snacks. After the party, show them how to write a thank you note to their friends and neighbors who came.
Gather old magazines and poster board to make collages that represent you. Clay could also be used for this activity. Have your child explain why they chose the pictures they did.
Sign up for you local library summer reading program. Help your child select both fiction and non-fiction texts. Read together to learn together about an important historical event.
Show your kids how to use the library to conduct research on a topic that interests them.
Yoga is an excellent way to connect and calm the mind. Yes there are free instructional videos online, but we are going for screen-free right? Check out your library. There are countless books with detailed instructions on different yoga poses. Let your kids pick a few that interest them and practice together. As an added bonus, you’ll get to laugh together while learning.
Teach your kids mindful meditation.
Step 1: Find a place where you both can sit down, such as on kitchen table chairs. Sit forward and straight on the chair so your back isn’t touching the back of the chair. Place your feet flat on the floor, and rest your hands on your legs.
Step 2: Practice breathing in and out, paying attention to the breath as it goes in and out. How does it feel in your nose? In your lungs?
Step 3: Your mind will wander and chatter; you will quickly find you are no longer thinking about your breath. This is normal. When this happens, practice returning your attention to your breathing. Increase the time you can sit still, focused on your breathing for five minutes to ten minutes, or even fifteen minutes.
Plant a garden together. Could be flowers or plants or vegetables. Watch the garden change and grow. Discuss the changes happening to seeds and whether they are positive or negative
Organize a family or neighborhood talent show so your kids can showcase their talents. After the talent show, discuss with your kids how they felt as they shared their talent with others.
Gather your family or a group of your kids’ friends and sit in a circle. Each person should write their name on the bottom of a piece of paper, then pass the paper to the person on their right. After receiving a new paper, each person should write something they admire about that person on the page. After the paper travels the entire circle, have each person read the list of compliments aloud.
Check out books on honesty. A few examples include David gets in Trouble by David Shannon and Ruthie and the (not so) Teeny Tine Lie by Laura Rankin for 0-8 years old; Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Nothing but the Truth by Avi for ages 9-14; and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and Deathwatch by Robb White for ages 12+.
Learn to cook a simple, healthy meal together. I recently taught my daughter how to make scrambled eggs, and she now asks all the time to make eggs for dinner. It was surprising to me how much fun it is for my kids to participate in meal planning and cooking.
Set a summer exercise goal. In our family, we plan to run a marathon by the end of summer. We will accomplish this by running/walking a mile together 3 mornings a week. Another goal could be to do a different hike in your city each week.
Help your kids organize an obstacle course for their friends. How fun would it be to create an obstacle course for pets too!
This list is based on the five different qualities from our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child. Check it out for more inspiration.
The most important thing to remember is each day doesn’t need to be an event. Simple is usually best for everyone and provides perfectly good opportunities to bond, connect, and establish new traditions. Good luck and happy summer!
Tina Mattsson has a BA in Journalism with a Minor in English. She is a mother, writer and advocate for children’s safety and education.
Selected Research on Screen Time and Children. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2016, from http://www.screenfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/screentimefs.pdf