It used to be, not so long ago, that kids looked forward to getting out of school each summer so they could do the things they didn’t have time for during the school year. Things like camping, building sand castles, or just being free to explore the outdoors with their friends.
Today, it seems that kids are using their precious summer downtime to do more of the same. They are surfing the Internet instead of surfing the waves. Texting friends non-stop instead of getting together in person. Making new profiles on social media instead of making kites to fly.
This summer, they don’t need more of the same. They need to find ways to unplug from their devices and experience the kind of summers we grew up with. Summers full of long days to be outdoors playing until it gets dark.
If the kids need some inspiration from an expert, throw some of these great ideas their way!
11 Tips to Unplug Your Kids This Summer
1) Letter Boxing. This is an outdoor activity that involves art and puzzle solving. Have the kids decorate small containers or boxes and then hide them in public areas. Give out clues to finding the box. This is like old style geocaching, a game today that uses a GPS.
2) Put on a play. Most kids like to pretend they are someone else once in awhile. Stir their imagination and let them become their own superhero, princess, or favorite character and act out the part. This can be as simple as putting on some costumes or more elaborate by building a stage, using props and inviting an audience.
3) Creative toys. Find things for your kids to play with that encourages them to use their imagination, not something that is programmed to engage with in a certain way. Lots of toys have limited uses, so find toys that will spark creativity. Big boxes can become castles, made into mazes or used to build a fort.
4) Learn a musical instrument. Children often enjoy learning a new skill over the summer, rather than having it after school. This gives them something to look forward to when they have open time, instead of prolonging the school day.
5) Play with your kids. Join your kids in their play. This actually doesn’t take as long as you think. Research shows that just a half hour of your time engaging with them one-on-one is enough for them to feel valued and connected.
6) Camp in the backyard. Remember the first time you tried to put up a tent all by yourself? It was both frustrating and satisfying to be able to create your own space that was for “kids only”. Let them give it a try this summer and maybe do a family camp out.
7) Use the OurPact application. OurPact is a new free parental control app that allows parents to set limitations on when Internet and applications are available on children’s mobile devices. This app is an absolute essential for ensuring that your kids aren’t sneaking in tech-time during beautiful summer days when they have agreed to play outside instead of chatting on social media. Download.
8) DIY projects. Need a birdhouse or a new mailbox? Kids love to build things using “real” tools. Have your kids look around the house to see if something needs to be replaced, or build something totally new, and then grab a list of materials and instructions from the internet!
9) Ideas for your teen. With teens, it can be even harder to get them to put down their cell phones or limit social media. Don’t turn this into an ongoing battle. Help them get involved in a community project or good cause with their friends. This provides the opportunity to meet new people and also lets them experience what it feels like to give back to the community. My kids do this on their own now and find it really rewarding.
10) Tell ghost stories around the bonfire. Kids or teens and ghost stories seem to go together. Encourage a small gathering with friends in your backyard after dark. Let them use the fire pit to roast marshmallows and make s’mores.
11) Let them be bored. Kids need to be able to tolerate boredom and find creative ways to break free of it. They can only do this if given the opportunity, so don’t jump in to rescue your children if they complain about being bored. Let them find solutions to boredom on their own.
Don’t let this summer suck your kids away from the real world. Help them use this unstructured time to try something different. Their phones will still be waiting for them when they come back inside.