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I was just looking at the calendar. Summer vacation is less than 5 weeks away for my family. ACK!! I work full time from home. Summer is basically a nightmare for me. I just need something to keep my kids entertained which usually includes some screen time for kids. I need to get my work done! Recently spring break was especially hard on me. My son was grounded from friends AND electronics for most of the week! I informed my husband that those punishments actually hurt me more than it hurts our son.
I watched Toy Story (the first one) the other day. It reminded me that we used to just play with toys for hours on end, with nary a screen in sight! Summer time is literally just around the corner. It’s time to start making a plan to strike a good balance with screen time for kids, and other activities. Let them get out of that bubble and do something else!
Give a little bit of free screen time for kids, let them earn more –
My kids start out every day with 10 minutes of free screen time to use however they want during the school year. It increases to 30 minutes on the weekends and the summer. I set this with our Screen Time app that I’ve talked about SEVERAL times on this site already. We seriously love this app. I do have to adjust the time once summer starts, and then again when school starts, but other than that it handles the weekday/weekend dynamic on it’s own.
Once they have used up their free time, they can start earning more time by doing tasks, and reporting that they are done through the app. You will get a notification on your device that they have completed their task, and if you approve it, it will grant them more free time (however much time you have specified the particular task will grant).
These don’t have to be actual chores either. Each of my children has a checklist of chores they need to complete. These are non-negotiable, so I don’t have individual chores in their Screen Time app. I just have a “finished checklist” task. Since multiple chores are included with the checklist, the kids can have another 30 minutes of free time. There are more general chores they can do that will give them even more time. My kids are assigned chores on a first come, first served basis. Whomever does the chore first, will get the extra free time!
It’s so convenient that you can manage your kids’ screen time wherever they are, from your own smartphone, tablet or desktop. There is also an instant pause feature for those particularly frustrating moments – from the app on your own phone, simply press ‘pause’ and your kids’ device will stop any activity.
Visit www.screentimelabs.com to sign up now and get started with the app for your family. There is a free version that allows you 14 days to test out the premium features I’ve described – as you can tell, I think they are well worth it, but if you prefer the free version, you will still have the ability to monitor what your kids are doing on their devices and for how long.
Allow apps that encourage creativity and learning –
Through the Screen Time app, certain apps can be excluded from the daily time limit. There are a TON of apps and things you can do with a phone or tablet that require more than just sitting in front of the screen. I set up Screen Time to allow these apps, even when my children have reached their daily limit.
Here are some of my favorites…
– OneNote: This is a Microsoft Office application and is great for creating a field journal. They can go around and explore the plants and animals near the house, or you can take them on a nature walk or nearby hike. They take pictures with a phone or tablet, and then load them into their OneNote Notebook. From there they can look up the plant or animal and then write information about it in the notebook. Making sure to include the date, time of day and location they spotted it!
– Wonder Workshop: There are quite a few apps from Wonder Workshop that go with the toys Dash and Dot. Using the app your child can code the toys to do all sorts of things. Not only do they learn coding concepts, they also learn how things you do on a screen can affect real life objects. It’s a great lesson for young minds to learn!
– SketchBook Pro: One of my daughter’s favorite things to do is draw on her tablet. She has access to so many colors and textures, that she might not be able to find or create in real life. I love that she continues to improve her drawing skills (without making a huge mess!)
– StikBots: These are easy to position figures that make stop motion videos really easy to make. I LOVE seeing what my kids come up with when they do stop motion videos. They can really use any toys they already have to create these, and there are a ton of great stop motion video creation apps available to download.
– Camera: They can also use the camera to go on a photo scavenger hunt! You can give them a list of things to find, and they have to snap pictures of everything on the list.
Help them resolve boredom on their own –
Make a plan with your children when summer starts about what they can do to resolve boredom on their own. This way they won’t come bugging you every 5 minutes with your favorite tune of “MOOOOMMMMM, I’m BOORRREEDDDD”. You can use this great contract before summer hits, so your child knows exactly what they can expect from their summer screen time.
One fun way to do this is to make a prize spinner, except for prizes in each slice of the pie, it’s something they can do to relieve their boredom. You can have things like “go to the park”, “create a craft”, “build something out of LEGO’s”, and “cook something” on your wheel of boredom. They won’t come to you to ask what they can do, they can just spin the wheel!
You can also get a ton of Popsicle sticks and write a different project or fun thing to do on each one, and they can draw them out of a jar when they are at a loss on what to occupy their time.
This year I’m going to make a deal with my kids that if they allow me to get my work done every day during the week, on Fridays after they finish their chores, we will go out and do something fun. We can go to the pool, the children’s museum, on a hike, or even the water park! This way, they have something to look forward to, AND it gives them incentive to stay out of my hair when I need to get my work done!
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com