Last updated on August 31st, 2023 at 04:40 pm
Some kids can’t wait for summer vacation because they look forward to staying home, sitting on the couch, and playing video games or watching their TV for three months straight.
As a parent, you need to ensure that’s not all they do. Instead, they need a healthy balance of screen time and time outside. Too much screen time can negatively impact your child’s mental and physical well-being, so let’s discuss why and how to give our kids a screen-free summer–or at least reduce their screen time and get them outdoors.
Keep reading to learn more about the negative effects of screen time, the importance of spending time in nature, and fun things to do outdoors.
Why Kids Don’t Need Screen Time
While there’s plenty of quality entertainment on television these days, and many shows have educational aspects, there’s no reason to allow your kids to sit in front of the TV all summer. It’s not a good use of their time, and it’s not healthy.
The couch can be comfortable, but when kids don’t get up and move around, they fail to get the exercise they need. They can become lethargic and even overweight–creating bad habits and setting them up for severe health problems in the future.
Excessive screen time can be especially dangerous when your children are younger because, of course, television can’t provide the care and nourishment they need at their young age. When they’re staring at the screen, they’re not interacting and looking at you, and eye contact is essential for proper brain development. Visual development is so important because if vision doesn’t develop well, it can impact your child’s fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
These are just some of the reasons why children ages two through five should have limited screen time–an hour or less per day, ideally.
There are multiple ways you can reduce screen time in your child’s life; one is to impose rules. Tell them they are allowed only one hour of TV or video games per day unless you make an exception, like for a family movie night.
You can also do the reverse, and require that your kids play outside for a certain number of hours daily.
You can make this experience more fun by having a screen-free challenge where no one in the house watches a screen for a day, a week, or the whole summer.
By removing screens, you’ll likely find that your family can sleep better and find new hobbies and interests. You may be able to bond with them on a deeper level. You can expect some complaints, at least initially, but you can mitigate those by coming up with fun activities ahead of time.
Why Kids Should Get Outside
Getting your kids up and off the couch is the goal. They may mill around the house looking for things to do. However, what you really want is get them outside.
Spending time in nature can benefit your kid’s mental and physical health, so much in fact, that many doctors may recommend it as a form of preventative healthcare.
Just being outdoors for some period of time every day can help to reduce the chance of anxiety and depression, and time around greenery can even help concentration, which the kiddos will need when they’re back in school.
We just tend to feel a lot more at ease when we’re in nature, and you can stretch those benefits to the max by planning a camping trip either in the backyard or at a nearby national park or campground.
While you’re there, your kids will have a blast as they walk along trails, identify animals and plant life, press leaves in a book, or simply lay in the grass, and try to find shapes in the clouds.
There are also many opportunities to teach your kids practical skills, like how to start a fire, administer simple first aid, and identify harmful plants.
If you struggle to find fun outside activities your kids enjoy, one way you can encourage them to leave the house is to get a new family pet, if you don’t already have one.
Dogs, in particular, are a great choice. They thrive outdoors, they love to run and play, and your kids can do that right alongside them. Plus, having a pet teaches your kids empathy and responsibility, among other things.
Create a Summer Bucket List for a Screen-Free Summer
Another fun way to get your kids outside is to create a summer bucket list that’s full of fun and unique activities.
Get input from the kids about the types of things they’d like to see on the list, and unless something dangerous comes up, remember that there are no bad ideas.
A bucket list is an excellent idea because your kids will have fun trying to complete the list, and the feeling of checking off a completed activity can be incredibly satisfying.
There are all kinds of engaging activities that you can add to the list, and they don’t have to be long, drawn-out experiences. Instead, you can start with simple objectives like flying a kite, relaxing outside with a book, running through the sprinkler, and playing outside with sidewalk chalk.
Add some fun local events to enjoy on the weekends too. Consider going to a drive-in movie theater, checking out the local aquarium, or attending an outdoor concert.
If you need ideas, search a list of summer activities online for inspiration. While there will be some similarities, every list will have its fun differences. It’s almost impossible to run out of things to do outside. You just need to set an example, and encourage your kids to go out and something new.
Parents, a screen-free summer will have benefits the whole family, so make sure you join in on the fun. Let’s make this a summer to remember!
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