Ready or not…summer is around the corner. Summer is fun. Summer is free. Summer is HARD.
Whether you’ve got one kid or a whole team, summer brings its own challenges along with the freedom and fun. The need for entertainment, activity, and creative outlets puts pressure on families. And it’s not like the parental responsibilities and work requirements go away during these months. Patience of both parent and child are tested. And boredom looms.
For our family of four kids, screens are an easy fallback. The kids are happy being entertained by videos and games. And I get moments of peace and quiet and a chance to accomplish some work. That’s a win/win situation. Although I’m aware of some of the side effects of too much screen-time, our kids still get their fair share of their devices and gaming consoles.
But last summer, we tried something new. We decided to make a plan to help us be more intentional regarding our summer screen time. We set goals for physical activity and reading, with rewards for meeting those goals by end of summer. I even started reading a Harry Potter book aloud to my kids…and failed to even get a quarter of the way through it…for the second summer in a row. But that’s okay! Maybe third time’s a charm.
One of the most rewarding intentional steps we took last year was kicking off the summer with ONE screen-free week. I’m sure there are plenty of families who take this approach for longer periods of time. But this felt do-able for our family. My main goal was to set a primer. Just like a primer coat of paint – meant to ensure better adhesion, durability and protection – this primer was meant to encourage our kids to explore the many possibilities of creative and active entertainment. If they built forts, played board games, shot baskets and pulled out the sprinkler during this first week, it might just be easier for them to imagine screen-free entertainment options the rest of summer as well.
Our kids were not excited. But, believe it or not, they survived. I might even be tempted to say that they thrived. The house was surely louder, messier, and the sibling rivalries and arguments abounded. But they looked to friends, in the flesh rather than virtually, for entertainment. One week of screen-free primer sealed the new surface of summer.
I’m looking forward to the break of morning routines and spelling tests that will arrive in late May. But, I’d be lying if the thought of summer didn’t already exhaust me a little bit. Ready or not, it’s coming. Our family will take one day at a time as we seek a healthy balance of technology in our home this summer. And I do look forward to filling our house with kids playing hide and seek. I can hear it already, “Ready or not, here I come!”