As summer is upon us and we have less structure to our day, I have to be even more deliberate about limiting screen time. Don't get me wrong. We love movies and my boys enjoy video games but there really needs to be a healthy balance of hands-on, mind engaging, active play as well. By "balance" I am not suggesting equal time. Haha.
So, here are five categories of screen free summer fun.
1. Build - When kids build things, they are forming basic concepts of Physics in their minds. They don't yet understand kinetic and potential energy, but they know their homemade tent has the "potential" to fall. So, build with your kids. Build with sheets, blocks, scraps of lumber, etc. Take apart that slide and playhouse in the back yard and see what fantastic things they can build out of all the pieces. They will be entertained for hours. Admittedly, this is easier with the littles than the older kids. But, if your budget will allow, get model cars, boats, or airplanes from a local hobby store. (I prefer to support Hobby Lobby.) There are endless things that older kids enjoy building and you can usually find a coupon if you search online. Pick up some hammers and 2 X 4s and turn them loose building a clubhouse or tree house.
2. Disassemble - After you have built things, "un-build". Disassemble things. It's okay, really. Go to your local thrift store and purchase old computers or small appliances and let them disassemble and then put them back together. I'm not big on messes or little pieces all over the house so I have them keep things in an old box. They love to see how things work and you may end up with a fantastic appliance repair person in your home:)
3. Bake - We love to bake in our house. Well, maybe we just enjoy eating what we bake but either way, it's a way that we can spend time together. So, bake things together this summer and maybe even give away part of what you bake to bless an elderly neighbor. Baking is a great way to practice living math as you measure things or double (or triple...haha) a recipe.
4. Create - Unleash the artists in your home and create things with different art mediums. For the larger families you can have the littles finger paint while the middles paint by number, and the olders copy a landscape painting. Hand out yarn and crochet hooks and see who can make the longest chain (or an blanket for an American Girl doll as would be the case in our home). There are so many different craft kits available that I bet you can find one that each of your kids will enjoy.
5. Exercise - Summer is a great time to keep kids exercising (now that PE is over). There are a plethora of ways to keep them exercising without them even knowing that they are doing so. My favorite is the pool. Ah, those lazy summer days by the pool, right? Well, not quite with seven kids. We play "motorboat, motorboat" and marco-polo. We have races. My boys are ever amazed that their mom can still win in a race across the pool., although not for long:) Good thing it's only one lap! Haha. Another great idea is a slip-n-slide for the backyard, a sprinkler under the trampoline, a family relay race, or a morning nature walk. Whatever the case, be deliberate about keeping those kids exercising this summer.
5. Play & Imagine - Play is one of those things that does not come naturally to me. I have to be oh so deliberate about setting aside time to play:) So, this summer we will be busting out the board games and taking time to just play and enjoy one another. Other great ideas for play are puppet shows, family talent shows/plays/concerts, or dress up. Now, I know those of you with kids beyond about 8 years old are thinking that there is no way your kids will dress up. But, sometimes it's all in how you present it. I admit that if I handed my 11 year old a Buzz Lightyear costume, he would not, could not:) But, if I hand him a video camera to make his film he would and could. They all get excited about making a homemade film (maybe from this year's literature *wink*) and jump right in with the planning. So, in a sense, they are still playing dress-up:) We are currently in the process of making our own version of "Pilgrim's Progress" and we all have a role. Now, I know this last suggestion is borderline for a "Screen free" post but it is definitely more along the lines of hands-on, mind engaging, active play.
So, as you plan out your summer fun, remember to include plenty of media free or screen free activities that engage the brain and foster creativity. You won't regret it or the memories you make in the process.