Throw out Fortnite and Tiktok and dive into real-life activities this summer.
The full effects of the recent lockdown will not be realized for a while but one thing is for certain: our kids (and all of us) have been spending way too much time on screens. Our ideas for non-tech summer activities will help your family thrive this summer.
Over the past year, many children have spent too much time in virtual school and not enough time in free play, outside, being with friends, and exercising. They have been living in a virtual bubble, becoming stressed, anxious, and depressed. So instead of investing in more screen time activities this summer—online tutor, virtual camp, iPad time, or video game hours—consider giving your kids the gift of a low-tech summer. Put those entertainment screens on a vacation and enjoy a real summer instead.
Need ideas for non-tech summer activities? We’ve got you covered. On our website, we have some screen replacement activities and tips here for a ScreenStrong summer. Below are even more ideas to open the doors for a healthy, happy low-tech summer:
Non-tech Summer Activities for a ScreenStrong Summer
1. Summer Chores and Jobs
Chores are essential for teaching life skills and healthy development. They help our kids build competence, confidence, productivity, and a sense of accomplishment. Chores also build a strong connection to family—household chores during childhood are one of the top predictors for success later in life.
When the school year is filled with early morning classes and afternoon homework, chores feel more like, well, a chore. But with a more relaxed schedule in the summer, kids can jump in, work hard and see progress. Families can work together to accomplish larger projects that can’t be tackled during the hectic school year. Consider deep cleaning and updating bedrooms, organizing the garage and kitchen, and tackling all the dirty windows in the house. Put on some happy music to make it more fun.
Every teen can benefit from a summer job if their schedule permits. Ideas include pet sitting, yard work, restaurant work, teaching music, camp counseling, child care, refereeing, tutoring…the list goes on. Keep your teens busy working and developing key life skills this summer.
2. Reading for pleasure
Books are one of the first things to go when your child enters the screen world. If you want to give your kids an edge in life, teach them to read for pleasure now.
Increasing your child’s love for reading starts with updating their book collection with age-appropriate novels, making reading goals and charts, and beginning the tradition of reading together as a family on a regular basis. Be sure every member of the house has a library card and visit the library often.
3. Unstructured Play
With all the time spent indoors and online, chances are that your kids need to reboot their play skills (we all do!). In his book Play, Stewart Brown explains that play is an essential to stay healthy for adults, kids, and even animals. He unpacks the benefits of real play: stress relief, innovation, social skills, and creativity. He also outlines the important difference between structured play (team sports) vs. unstructured play (playing in the backyard).
For young kids, real play begins when you open the backdoor and let them out with a snack and a water bottle. Get the backyard ready with a slip-n-slide, water balloons, sprinklers, and a badminton set. Refresh the sidewalk chalk, put air in the bike tires, and get a driveway hoop for basketball. For tweens and teens, invite some friends, add a football or frisbee and turn off the TV. And never underestimate the fun a water gun fight can bring to even the oldest kids.
One subject that took a big hit in school this year is art. While some art skills can be learned online, the best way to learn creativity is by using your hands in the real 3D world. Great news—you don’t have to spend a lot of money to bring art back into your routine! You can easily make art projects at home for all ages. Remember every child is an artist so keep some easy art supplies in the common areas of the house. Try sketching, rock painting, paint by number, scrapbooking, knitting, origami, jewelry making, and cookie or cake decorating.
Consider hosting a backyard art camp for your neighborhood. This is easier than you think. Simply invite neighborhood or school friends over for the day and provide the supplies. Have them bring a sack lunch. Plan 2-3 projects and wrap it up with some water sports to cool things down. The mess stays outside and your kids will enjoy the benefits of art and socialization. It’s a win-win!
Gardening is a perfect activity for all ages. Digging in the dirt, pulling the weeds, and watching things grow will help your child more than just about any therapy I can think of. You don’t need a big space—a small patch in the backyard, a raised bed, or containers on the back porch will work.
Fishing and camping are wonderful non-screen summer activities. Look for local ponds, lakes, and parks that permit camping—these are usually very affordable. Backyard camping is perfect when you don’t have time to drive far.
Learning to play an instrument not only does wonders for your child’s brain development but it provides years of creative and fun downtime activity. Use the summer months to introduce your child to music lessons. Resist the urge to depend on YouTube; in-person is always preferable. No need to buy a big piano, look for a used digital full-size piano instead. Music lessons are a gift for all ages that will keep giving the rest of their lives.
Tweens and older teens can create a garage band that offers the opportunity to blend socialization with music. Don’t forget that karaoke microphones are a great investment for hours of memorable fun for all ages including mom and dad.
We all need to move more! Our digital culture forces all of us to be too sedentary but kids especially need to focus on staying active. Exercise is not only healthy for brain development but daily exercise will help with depression and anxiety for teens who have been soaking up too much screen time. So get those teens off the sofa and get them moving!
Activities to try: daily calisthenics (put a chart up), running/walking (early morning or evening is best), biking, swimming, or any sport. For older teens a summer gym membership is perfect. Also don’t forget to add a trampoline and swings to the backyard, and get your child a jump rope.
8. Group Hangouts
Summer is the time for casual gatherings. If you have started a ScreenStrong Group at your school don’t stop meeting during the summer. Gather friends as much as possible. Social media and virtual meetings are not the same as real face-to-face gatherings—they will never meet your child’s need for social time.
Get-together ideas include meeting at local parks, canoeing, sandlot baseball, hiking, and swimming. For tweens and teens, plan an outdoor dinner and a movie night once a week, a board game (or cards) night or just fire up the firepit and make s’mores. Teens just want to be together and summer is the perfect time to fill their social tanks.
This summer may be the perfect time to get a family pet. If you’re not ready to take the plunge, consider helping out with a rescue center and fostering some puppies or kittens this summer. Offering to walk the neighbor’s dog or take care of pets when owners are on vacation is a perfect non-tech summer activity that can provide a wonderful way to fill downtime.
10. Family connection
It goes without saying that summer is the perfect time for intentional family connections. We often think of great ideas but fail to plan to make them happen. This summer can be different. Write down your goals for how you want to spend your family time. Make a list of non-tech summer activities that focus on family time to include such as picnic dinner outside a few times a week, camping in the backyard, neighborhood family pot luck dinners, and having friends over for board game nights. Keep a 1000 piece puzzle out in the den this summer, have dinner-and-a-movie nights, and watch educational or character-building movies together as a family. Outside of some regular vacations, plan a few local day-trips, local outdoor music concerts, and symphony or theatre performances.
A note about family vacations
This year may be a good time to consider having a family-only vacation. This means no outside friends are allowed. I know it’s tempting to let your kids bring friends along for entertainment, but the benefits of being together as a family are priceless (and it’s difficult to control the screen use of other people’s kids.) Leave the screens at home when you pack your bags!
Summer is the perfect time to reduce screen time in your home. If your kids are showing signs of screen overuse it is time to take action. Use the summer to jumpstart your screen detox—take the ScreenStrong Challenge, remove toxic screens for a week, replace your teen’s smartphone with a talk/text phone, and continue throughout the summer. Who knows, you may never go back.
A summer without video games and social media is possible. Join our community for support and start a ScreenStrong Group in your neighborhood or school—meet other families who are choosing to live life without toxic screens.
The next time your kids say they are bored and need a screen to keep them happy they will have plenty of other options. Bring real-life balance back to your home and send the screens on vacation. You have everything you need for a ScreenStrong summer. Remember, the best things in life are simple and screen-free.