Those long summer days tempt me to fall back on screen time to occupy my daughter. The heat makes me lazy while, at the same time, school is closed so I have to keep her busy all day. But each time I feel like asking Dora to take my kid on an adventure so I don't have to, I remember how important screen time limits are to me, and I'm motivated to choose another option.
In my former career as an elementary teacher, I saw major differences between kids who had unlimited screen time and those whose parents enforced reasonable limits. I noticed that those children who viewed screens excessively had smaller vocabularies and were less able to hold their focus. My observations are backed by scientific research. And it's not just that screens affect children's development, it's also about what they miss out on, namely physical exercise, meaningful conversation, and adequate sleep. With that in mind, I have come up with a few ways to help me get through the summer without letting my screen time rules slide.
Planning lots of outdoor activities is the number one way I remove the temptation to rely on screens during the summer, especially since one of the problems with screen time is that kids lose out on physical exercise. When we're not home, the option is not even there. Summer is a time of year where I can easily take my child to the beach, the swimming pool, on a hike, or even just out to the playground without worrying about the weather. It's fun and easy to spend all day out and have a picnic lunch. When I get home, there is just enough time to get in the half an hour to an hour per day of screen time I do allow before dinner and bedtime, if that.
On days that we spend less time outdoors, I spend extra time working on academics. I want to avoid the summer slide, while still keeping things fun. We visit the library weekly and subscribe to a handful of kids' magazines so that there are always new books for me to read aloud or for my daughter to read. I also do a lot of hands-on educational activities throughout the summer, like filling up a tub of water and doing a sink or float test with objects from around the house.
My general approach to limiting screen time is to simply fill the time with other fun and engageing activities. I'm lucky in that I can take my daughter out and about every day to make that happen, but you don't have to. There's plenty of ways to make this work for you and your situation! That way, none of us have to to deal with whining or pleading. The fact that my summer screen time rules are exactly the same as my school year rules (a maximum of one hour per day) also keeps my daughter from complaining. She knows that she can watch a couple of episodes while I cook dinner or a movie on the weekends, and that's it.
When I feel myself beginning to resent summer as a time where I have to devote all of my time to childcare, I try to completely shift my attitude. Instead of grumbling about it, I tell myself that this is the special time of year that I can finally do all of the fun things I want to do with my daughter. And those moments that we share always beat screen time.