Understandably, this year has seen an increase of screen time in Aussie homes throughout lockdowns and the pandemic. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, families reported that they spent more time watching TV and movies than before and children were spending an extra 35 minutes a day on screens on the weekends.
Disturbing research reveals up to 30% of a child’s waking time is spent in front of a screen with 77% of pre-schoolers and 85% of children (aged 5-12) spending more than the recommended two-hour daily limit for screen time.
With the school holidays upon us, parents are having to come up with new ideas to keep the kids entertained outside of turning the box on! Many families may have already exhausted their go to activities through lockdown and so are in much need of new and innovative ideas, especially as the Omicron variant means this summer might not allow for quite as many fun outings as we might have hoped.
So, what can you do with the kids this summer, that doesn’t involve yet more screen time? Here are some ideas.
Start with a summer bucket list
I know a number of families who do it, and have stored away the idea for my own family. Start with a big blank piece of paper, and then have a family brainstorm of all the fun activities you could do together this summer. The only rule? No screens allowed!
Next, break the activities down into categories by things like time required, or cost, or weather needed. Then you could start to map out a summer calendar! Plus, the leftover items can become a great response to the cries of “I’m bored!” you’ll inevitably start to hear on day 2.
While La Nina might not be making it easy to find a non-rainy day, outdoor outings are a very COVID-safe way to enjoy summer. Whether you’re heading to the beach or the park, or just heading for a family walk or bike ride around the block, spending a few hours outside each day can break the screen cycle and give kids great memories of summer.
Other outdoor activities you could try include…
- Going to the zoo – this will cost you, but nothing beats a fun day out with the animals. Bring a packed lunch instead of buying to save some money.
- Making a creative map of your neighbourhood – try illustrating local landmarks or planning out new routes for your next adventure
- Playing a fun game like French cricket, Finska, Kubb or croquet – check out Kmart for a great selection of cheap outdoor games to learn and bring on your picnics.
- Go for a bushwalk – to make it even more fun, bring along a compass and let the kids navigate!
- Chalk art – stick to your own driveway and write and draw happy uplifting things to cheer up your neighbours
Whether you’re cooking or crafting, making something is a fantastic way to keep kids occupied for a long time. Worried about the mess? Try washable paints in the bathroom, or water painting on the back fence. You could also set challenges like making the best animal out of things you can find in the garden, or for older kids, painting portraits of each other.
Share love with others
Summer is a great time to work on generosity with kids, so perhaps you could make a list of friends or loved ones and spend time each day figuring out how to make them smile. Making them cards, giving them a call or baking for them could all be lovely ways to show their love.
If you give your kids pocket money, you could also consider starting a little family fundraiser with a money box in your kitchen, and suggest they give a certain amount of their pocket money each week to support your church or a charity. Designing the money box together could be a fun summer activity, or for more mathematically-inclined children, making a budget!
Get active insid
If it’s just too hot to head out, put on an upbeat album (kids will embrace the classics, so don’t feel like you must stick to repetitive children’s music!) and host a dance party in your living room. You could play musical chairs (if you’ve got enough kids!) or statues to liven things up, or just try and make each other laugh with your silly dance moves.
Build a blanket fort or sheet tent to create a snuggly space for quiet reading time. Pile in the pillows, give the kids a tasty snack that feels a little bit special and settle them in for an hour or two. Maybe they’ll even fall asleep, and you’ll get a few hours of afternoon peace!
Play a board game
For older kids and teenagers in particular, there are a number of really fun family-friendly board games that you might enjoy, which are more sophisticated and often a lot more entertaining than the old classics!
- Sushi Go, Exploding Kittens or Love Letter for a quick card game
- Codenames, Dixit or Apples to Apples to get people talking
- Ticket to Ride, Catan or Powergrid for a longer strategy game.
Set daily challenges
The summer holidays are long, so add some structure and routine into each day by giving your kids a daily challenge. Whether it’s reading a chapter of a book, running to the post box and back or writing a letter to a friend or family member, having one task they need to do each and every day (plus a sticker chart to mark their progress) can take up time each day without you needing to come up with fresh ideas all the time, plus ease the transition back into school routines later in the summer.
Pair screen time with creativity
Yes, this article is about getting kids off screens, but there’s no denying that technology has its uses. It’s a gold mine of fun and creative ideas, so from time to time, it’s totally appropriate to lean into this.
Rather than banning screens altogether, work with your kids to use their screen time to facilitate other activities. Perhaps you could browse together on a website like The Family Project to find some fun craft projects to complete, then do a click and collect order for the supplies? This is also a great way to show kids the effort needed to make a project happen, and will increase their excitement as they wait for their supplies to arrive.
Don’t feel guilty
If your kids do end up watching TV or playing on the iPad at the end of a long hot day, don’t feel too guilty. We adults also love our screens, so it makes sense that our offspring do as well. And technology does have a lot to offer in terms of creativity, education and mental stimulation. Just like money, it’s not inherently bad – but it can become bad when we worship it.
So if your kids end up on screens more than you’d like, don’t beat yourself up. But with a few extra creative ideas up your sleeve, and a few guidelines in place for summer, hopefully you’ll be able to fill your days with fun, connection and making memories, before you collapse in front of the TV to binge Netflix once the kids are in bed!