The lazy hazy days of summer are upon us. If you’re a parent, the novelty of summer break is probably just starting to wear down a bit. My kids have slept in for the past few days, and the schedule definitely needs to be readjusted. While I’ve secured passes to a local theme park/water park, I’m also always on the hunt for inexpensive—or free!—ideas to keep those boys entertained…and away from their devices.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the screen recommendation for kids six years and older requires that parents “place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.” While pediatricians won’t necessarily state a certain hour limitation for older kids, technology time shouldn’t exceed time spent engaging in real-life social interactions and physical activities.
That means…no gaming for six hours straight, kids! So what’s a parent to do? Technology might not be free, but it’s convenient…and rolled into the monthly electric bill! Relax, though. There are a lot of ways to keep even the craziest of kids and moodiest of tweens busy and engaged during the summer without leaning on that screen for support.
Check out these fun (and free!) and out of the ordinary ideas to keep kids busy and happy this summer! Trust me…you’ll have fun, too!
1. Free movies!
There was a movie theatre that used to host free movies every summer on a designated day of the week. Now they charge $3 a ticket, but it’s still an incredible deal! While the movies will often be older releases, heading to the theater is a fun treat and an entertaining way to stay out of the heat and blistering sun! Check out your local theaters to see if they are hosting free summer movies. Also be on the lookout for free outdoor movies at local parks. Most cities will host free outdoor movies during the summer, so, chances are high that there is a free flick near you!
2. Park splash pads.
While not ideal for tweens (although, they may still love it!), splash pads are located at various parks across the country. They’re a cheap way to cool off and get kids out and moving. Pack the swimwear, towels and sunscreen and run through the water!
3. Feed the woodland friends.
If you have a backyard, you have birds and squirrels. Give kids a project this summer and encourage them to build a DIY squirrel feeder. Yes…a squirrel feeder! Those pesky rodents will get into too much mischief if they aren’t diverted. And, while they can be a pest (especially if they find their way into your attic), those puffy tailed squirrels are also pretty cute and wildly entertaining to watch from the window! Sciencing.com recommends making a homemade squirrel feeder using a pinecone, an old milk carton or a corn cob. Hang feeders from a nearby tree, but never hang them on your porch or near the house…you don’t want uninvited guests!
4. Encourage tweens to get a job.
No, we’re not pushing child labor! However, tweens may enjoy earning a little extra money babysitting for neighbors, pet sitting or even mowing lawns. Encourage them to explore ways to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit.
5. Explore summer reading programs.
Many local libraries host summer reading programs for all ages. Kids may earn prizes or even free tickets to events or local sports games. The programs also encourage kids to read during the summer break, which helps support and grow their reading skills.
Give kids a technology vacation this summer by exploring other ways to keep them entertained. Make sure children get a healthy dose of in-person social interactions with peers and a healthy amount of physical activity. While summer is a break from the school schedule, kids shouldn’t live on the couch glued to their screens. Have them get out and enjoy their summer…because school will be in session before they know it!
About the Author: Hilary Smith has parlayed her love of technology and parenting into a freelance writing career. As a journalist, she specializes in covering the challenges of parenting in the digital age. She loves all things tech and hasn’t met a gadget that didn’t spark her interest. The Texas native currently resides in Chicago, IL and braves the winters with her two children, ages 4 and 7. @HilaryS33