Oh the lure of the newest video game or endless TV Land reruns. Or maybe it’s the online forum chats that keep your child going for hours. Today’s screen-addicting activities aren’t all bad — they might be highly productive with problem solving challenges or get your child learning or swatting in a virtual space. But, no matter the positives, they become a nuisance when they consume a child’s entire day. And, let’s face it, sooner or later children have to figure out how to make real life exciting and joyful too.
Thus, the challenge of today’s parent is to find alternative activities your kids will accept — and enjoy! Here are some tips to help kids reduce or limit screen time for kids and still have fun:
- Compete with an event: Take a cheap monthly calendar and write in a fun activity for each day. Give them creative, curious names to grab their attention – without giving away the full details. All kids love being surprised.
- Don’t despair if you work during the day: If you only have evening time with kids, take into consideration time constraints and also maximize weekends. Try to include hands-on physical exercise, the outdoors, and nature whenever possible. Make sure kids have outdoor experiences during the day while you are away so that they get needed sunshine.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel: Places like zoos, aquariums, and arboretums are ready-made nature attractions with year-round events and special exhibits. Buy a family membership and take advantage of free admission all year, plus most memberships are connected to other nature centers for discounts.
- Make it simple: Go back to the basics with water, dirt, or rocks. Any activity incorporating one of these three items are a child’s natural playground. Water gun anyone? Sand castles? Rock hunting?
- Pair with food: Trim the costs of eating out by making a picnic from home and taking it to a nearby park, along with a Frisbee or basketball. Whenever you can use food as a lure to get out of the house, do it. It’s an easy way to get young and old up off the couch.
- “Sherlock Holmes” it: Having a summer full of discovery doesn’t have to break the bank. As you plan activity days, find fun and free places to visit that your family hasn’t yet discovered – science centers, regional park trails, geocaching sites (see www.geocaching.com), museums, historical sites.
- Dangle a carrot: Most local libraries have summer reading programs with rewards. But you can also do your own with goals on a calendar and a reward for finished books.
- Find your inner Julia Child: Summertime is the perfect opportunity to teach your older children how to cook. Plan menus together, work on kitchen skills, and grocery shop. Children who learn how to cook healthy have less weight issues.
- Get hands on: For teenagers, help them find summer work. If not a job, then volunteer. It looks great on a resume and you make friends. Nature centers (like zoos) will often train teens to volunteer over the summer. Many environmental groups welcome teenager volunteers. Two helpful websites are — www.handsonnetwork.org and www.volunteermatch.org.