School is ending soon, and the kids will be out for summer! As fun as it is having the kids at home for a few months, it can also be quite the challenge. How are they going to spend all their time? How can we keep them engaged, learning, and growing? What camps and activities do we want to sign them up for to keep them busy?
One of the larger problems with kids in this decade is the issue of spending all of their time indoors, sitting on a couch, and staring at their phones, computers, or televisions.
The Screentime Dilemma
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids between the ages of 2 and 5 should have no more than one hour of screen time per day, and children between the ages of 6 and 18 should have no more than two hours of screen time per day.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that most children exceed the recommended guidelines. Common Sense Media found through a study that 53% of 11- to 12-year-olds use screens for more than two hours per day, and 26% use screens for more than four hours per day.
Excessive screen time has been linked to various negative results, such as weight gain, insomnia or trouble sleeping, and trouble focusing in school. As parents, it is crucial to regulate screen time, such as taking phones away at night and during dinner time, as well as having limitations on television and computer usage, especially during the summer. Try to model healthy habits to encourage your kids to go outside and partake in other activities, like reading, spending time outside, gardening, or taking up an interest in sports or other creative outlets.
How to Get Kids Off Their Screens and Outside
Walking the walk is one of the best ways to model healthy habits for your kids. Parents are the biggest influencers and role models for a child throughout their lives. If you instill healthy practices in your life, they will follow suit! It is a win-win situation – your kids will be partaking in positive activities, and you will also feel the benefits of a positive mental health shift when spending time exercising, playing games, reading, gardening, and enjoying the great outdoors.
Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas on how to get the kiddos to embrace life off of the screen…
- Reading: Encourage children to continue to grow and expand their knowledge, vocabulary, and literacy this summer with books, comics, or magazines that interest them. Many public libraries have summer reading programs to incentivize kids to read more, or you can always take your kids to the bookstore for the special experience of picking out a book of their own.
- Sports and Exercise: Couch potato no more! Instill the healthy habit of spending time outside by engaging in physical activity. They can play sports, ride bikes, or go for a walk. Outdoor sports and activities are an added plus, as it allows kids to burn off steam, get a better night’s sleep, and improve their mood across the board. For a fun activity to do together, try taking your kids to a park or hiking trail.
- Arts and Crafts: Instigate the Picasso in your kiddos! Art is an underrated outlet that is so beneficial for the mind. Drawing, painting, playing with clay, or knitting are all fun activities that encourage creativity and expression.
- Board Games: Bring game night back! Oftentimes, in the evenings, we head straight to the tv to figure out what movie or show we should watch. Board and card games can activate the brain and uniquely create connection and fun.
- Cooking and Baking: Give your kids the gift that will keep on giving – cooking lessons. Spending time together in the kitchen is fun, encourages sensory engagement through smell, sight, touch, and taste, and is an important life skill that can be implemented early on. Add to the experience of cooking by asking your kids to harvest some fresh herbs from your patio garden to top their favorite pizza, taco or pasta. The ‘I grew that” feeling is real and fun.
- Building and Construction: Encourage children to build things using Legos, blocks, or other materials. This can be a great way to develop their problem-solving skills, creativity, and resilience.
- Music and Dance: Dance and music are amazing ways to foster creativity, expression, and pure joy. Dance with your kids when you are cooking, allow them to belt out songs when driving, and maybe even get them started on an instrument.
- Gardening: Last but certainly not least, get your kids outside and into the garden! Gardening can feel like a whole new world of experiences transporting one to another world. Allow your kids to help plant flowers or vegetables, water plants, and even help with weeding. Gardening is also a great way to ground and cultivate your child’s appreciation for nature and the environment. Studies find that children who garden have reduced amounts of anxiety, stress and tend to be in a better mood. Spending time outdoors in nature is powerful for restoring a sense of well-being and balance. Sensory interaction with plants, such as touching and smelling, can reduce physiological and psychological stress. Children learn from growing things. They develop new skills and learn about science and nature from growing their own food.