As we approach summer and many of our kids face less structured time, screens can be an easy go-to – highly desired by the kids and quickly allowed by their parents. It’s a one-stop shop for endless entertainment and communication:  social media, texting, Youtube, games, Netflix, etc. But before you charge up the screens, do two things to insure less screen time:


First, check out this article from the Mayo Clinic on safe and healthy screen time. Be thoughtful, intentional, and active when and if your children take to social media and texting. But remember, less screen time is better than more!


Second, find ways with your children to incorporate tried and true forms of communication and relationship building, and make these a priority. Consider these ideas to fill imaginations, hours, and physical mailboxes:


Get a pen pal.


Before school is out for the summer, arrange to swap letters with a friend from class. Or help your child choose family members or old friends to whom they can write. Instead of exchanging e-mail addresses, get real addresses, buy stamps, and get a fresh pack of gel pens: the whole shebang!  Spend time writing or coloring on special stationery, and let your child stick on the stamp and mail the letter. The art of formatting a proper letter and envelope doesn’t have to be lost!


Make a family calendar.


The simple act of incorporating a family calendar into the family room or kitchen can bring structure, time management, responsibility, and creativity. Let your children list out activities and outings they’d like to do, then include chores that must be done, and add in some bonus events like family movie night. By letting your children have some control over their days, they will learn to appreciate the fun activities as well as find balance between rest, work, and play.


Start a club.


Does your child love Star Wars? Baking? Skateboarding? Now that smaller groups can gather safely, encourage him to invite friends and neighbors to join him weekly in exploring his passion. Depending on your child’s age, this may take more supervision and effort from you, but building relationships and exploring interests will make a lifelong impact and be well worth it!


Create a play-date co-op.


Help your kids build relationships while also getting a break for yourself. Plan ahead and arrange a weekly play date with three of your child’s friends. One day out of the month you will host the play date, and the other three play dates you will drop your child off at the hosting parent’s house. Sweet freedom!


Explore art.


You could choose a different technique or medium for every day of the summer and not run out of new art projects to try. From canvas and acrylic paint to molding clay to a stack of magazines for collages, encourage your children to express themselves. Depending on ages and abilities, you could study an artist together and impersonate her style. Or go on a nature walk and try to capture the most beautiful thing you saw in a picture. Or use butcher paper and fingerpaint and go crazy outside (by the hose to wash off!)



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