Have you ever had a conversation with a child that goes something like this:
“What did you do this summer?”
“Play video games and watch TV.”
That answer isn’t that unusual anymore. As digital devices become the activity of choice for many children, summertime may not equal swimming or riding bikes. The outdoors is being swapped for the indoors. Screen time is enjoyed instead of make-believe play time.
If you want to raise a social child who likes being with people, a summer on screens doesn’t sound like much fun. Here are five screen free activities to engage your family and make memories together:
Outdoor Magic Toy Box. Take a plastic bin or cardboard box and fill it with toys your child hasn’t played with for a while. Present the bin with great fanfare. Bring it outside and challenge the kids to do something creative with the contents (anything!). Go back outside in an hour and see what your kids have done. You can do this weekly or daily, putting different objects in the box each time. You can also challenge your kids to create a play using the objects in the box. Then you can video tape the show!
Water Fun. Send your kids outside with squirt guns for tag, or let them have the hose to douse each other for five minutes. You can also take an ice cube tray and put small objects in each cube (toys, beans, bouncy balls). Add water and freeze. Then give your children a cube to melt in their hands until the treasure emerges. You can do it with coins for a real treasure hunt (melt).
Create a Play Library. Choose a room in the house to make your library or clear off the dining room table. Have your kids gather several books from home and/or library books. They can sort the books alphabetically by author or by category (adventure, biographies, board books, etc.). Have them create library cards for everyone in the family. When the play library is ready, parents can check books out and read them to the kids. The kids can make posters about the books or write reviews that can be posted on the walls of your home library. You can advertise a special book night such as “Book reading of Charlotte’s Web at 7 pm on Tuesday” and you can be the reader (or one of your children).
Plant a Summer Vegetable Garden. If you’ve got a patch of dirt your kids can take over, let them! My kids love going to grandma’s house and poking around in the dirt, wearing their garden gloves and digging little holes. Vegetables like tomatoes, bush beans, okra, and peppers can be planted in the summertime. These veggies need longer periods of sunlight to thrive (just like your kids).
Serve Another Family. Maybe you know a foster family who could use some help. You can offer to take their kids to the park with yours for two hours. Or have them over for dinner and here’s the twist: have your older kids make the dinner. Make homemade cards and deliver cookies to families who are going through a hard time. Maybe there’s a child you know who doesn’t have a parent who can teach him/her how to ride a bike. Your family could teach that child how to ride and then have an ice cream party to celebrate success.
Don’t let your summertime get eaten up by screen time and video games. The goal isn’t just to keep your kids occupied during hours of free time. You want them to learn how to entertain themselves without screens, to serve other people, to grow emotionally and yes, even intellectually (get those summer reading lists going). Here’s to fewer screens (and more sunscreen) as you ditch the video game console and head outside for a great summer.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. She has been a guest on the Today Show, Family Life Today, The 700 Club and Turning Point with David Jeremiah. Arlene and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children. Visit Arlene’s website at www.ArlenePellicane.com.
Publication date: June 5, 2015