10 Strategies for Keeping Kids Off Screens This Summer
by Katherine Johnson Martinko
Summer is the best time to give kids a digital reset. You’re out of the regular routine and there are numerous ways to keep busy without relying on devices. What follows is a rough plan for helping your family have a screen-free summer. By the time fall rolls around, your kid will be recharged and ready to cope with the digital deluge that school brings.
Talk About Screens
Talk to your kid about why it’s important to reduce screen time and what you hope the entire family will gain from the experience. They don’t have to like it or agree. Just be transparent and consistent in your approach, and acknowledge that boredom can be a powerfully creative state.
Confiscate the Devices
“Out of sight, out of mind,” as the saying goes. If you make devices temporarily inaccessible, kids will be more inclined to find other activities. Much of the allure of handheld devices lies in their accessibility and the ease of distraction. When that option disappears, it opens the door to other creative endeavours.
Sign Up for Activities
See if there are sports camps, art classes, or music lessons offered in your community. Having an activity that gets kids out of the house each day goes a long way toward filling time and fueling enthusiasm, especially if friends join.
Prioritize Outdoor Time
Send your child outside every day. It doesn’t matter what they do, whether it’s reading or art, lying in a hammock, visiting a skate park or BMX track, meeting friends for basketball or soccer, practicing on a trampoline or pogo stick, or going for bike rides; the point is to normalize being outside. Use a tracker like those created by 1000 Hours Outside as motivation.
Engage in Microadventures
The concept of microadventures is delightful—doing outdoorsy things between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. Often, we wait for bigger chunks of time to plan things like hikes, camping, and stargazing, but then they never happen. If we can squeeze in these activities during the week, they help us feel refreshed. Take your kid on some microadventures this summer.
Put Them to Work
Assigning household chores keeps kids busy and reduces parental workload. Put them to work doing dishes, laundry, and vacuuming. Outdoors, let them handle weeding, watering, and cutting grass. Older kids can tackle jobs like repainting, cleaning gutters, and washing windows.
Get Them Cooking
Cooking is a fundamental skill that everyone should learn. Assign weekly meals that kids are responsible for planning and prepping. Show them the basics, but then hand it off and see what kinds of culinary creations they come up with.
Do a Kid Swap
Invite friends over whenever possible to entertain and engage in active play. Set up regular hangouts. For older kids whose friends are free to play, establish safe travel routes and let them move between houses.
Invest in Loose Parts
Instead of spending money on tech, put money toward making your backyard an inviting place to play. Set up a trampoline, a basketball net, a slackline, a treehouse, a hammock or swing. Get a scooter, skateboard, or pogo stick. Scrounge for materials that let your kid invent and build things. Embrace the messiness and see what happens.
Create a Challenge
Ask your kid if there’s something specific they would like to achieve, such as reaching a savings goal, learning a new sport, instrument, or language, getting a certification, or starting a business. Help them create a plan and watch the transformation occur.
It’s up to us parents to introduce kids to offline activities. The more they’re exposed to these satisfying analog possibilities, the more inclined they will be to incorporate them into daily life going forward.
Katherine Johnson Martinko is the author of Childhood Unplugged: Practical Advice to Get Your Kid Off Screens and Find Balance, coming July 2023 from New Society Publishers. She lives in Ontario. Find her at katherinemartinko.substack.com and on Twitter @feistyredhair.