Think back to summertime when you were a kid. What were some of your favorite things to do? Ride your bike? Go swimming? Play kickball with the neighbor kids in your backyard?
Ah, the good old days. Now, getting a kid to play outside can feel like pulling teeth. Technology has made it incredibly difficult to get children off the couch and active like kids should be.
Longer days and warmer weather are right around the corner. If you want to prevent your kids from turning into screen zombies over break, now’s the time to start strategizing a low-tech summer. Here are five tips to keep in mind when planning.
1. Narrow Down Their Lineup of Tech Gadgets
In today’s digital age, it’s not uncommon for kids to possess some of their own tech gadgets. From tablets to gaming systems to smartphones, there are plenty of ways to keep your kids occupied with technology. The question is, how much tech will you allow? And for the gadgets you do allow, what features should they have (and not have)? These are all important questions to consider.
For example, when your kid asks for their first phone, you might automatically assume this means an iPhone or Android phone. However, there are other options available. If you aren’t comfortable with giving your kid unfettered access to the internet and social media, start with a kids phone. A phone like this will provide the features they need — calling, texting, a camera — and none that they don’t. With fewer digital temptations, they’ll spend less time looking at their phone.
2. Use a Calendar to Schedule Times for Tech
If you want your kids to have a low-tech summer, it’s going to require intention on your part. Use a calendar to start planning out what your kid(s) days will look like. How much screen time do you realistically see them having per day? How often do you want them to engage in other activities such as reading, going outside, doing arts and crafts, etc.?
Once you know how much time you’ll allow your kids to use tech, start laying out a typical week. A customized family dry erase board calendar or even a family planner can work great for this task. Just make sure to mix up your kids’ day-to-day activities so they don’t get bored with redundancy in their schedule. This way, they’re more apt to be OK with low-tech days.
3. Plan Fun Activities Throughout the Summer
An entire summer is a long time for a kid to be at home. Without fun activities and events planned, it’s likely that they’ll get bored at some point. This is why it’s so important to think up family-friendly activities kids will enjoy that don’t require tech. If they have something exciting to look forward to, staring at a screen will be the last thing on their mind.
Family vacations are always fun to organize, but they don’t have to be the only activity you schedule. Something as simple as a short hike or a trip to the park will suffice. Or plan days of the week where you go out to eat, letting your kids choose the restaurant. Anything that you can pencil into the calendar that’ll get them excited will work perfectly.
4. Create Low-Tech Spaces in Your House
Let’s be honest. Kids can’t spend all of their time outside, especially when it’s raining or the weather is uncomfortably hot. Children need a good balance of inside and outside. Fortunately, they can still engage in tech-free activities inside your home — provided you prepare for them.
Of course, kids will feel tempted by screens if there is technology everywhere they look. Part of having a low-tech summer requires some reimagining of your space. Create areas for tech-free activities your child enjoys, such as an arts and crafts zone or a reading nook. Or you could designate a room specifically for playing board games and doing puzzles with the family. Get creative with your space, and your kids will love it.
5. Find Ways to Encourage Exercise and Activity
While you’re working to limit your children’s tech use this summer, you should be finding ways to incorporate exercise. No matter a person’s age, physical activity is always a good thing. Start teaching your kids this philosophy, and find creative ways to make them want to exercise. Basketball hoops, slip-and-slides, and backyard obstacle courses are all enticements to get moving.
Remember, too, that low-tech doesn’t have to mean no-tech. A fitness tracker for kids can be a fun way to incorporate exercise into a kid’s life, especially if a sibling or friend has one, too. Such trackers let your kids record their physical activity, making exercise a fun competition rather than a chore. When you make exercise fun for them, they’ll actually want to do it. More time exercising means improved health and less time in front of a screen — it’s a win-win.
Summer vacation offers children the opportunity to get out of the classroom and engage in other activities. Whether or not that activity includes a screen will be up to you. As a parent, you should start planning now if you want your kids to have a low-tech summer. It’s not impossible, but it does require some planning. With these tips, you can make sure you and your kid are prepared for a fun, low-tech summer.