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Screen-Free Summer?


Article by Stephanie Hower

Photography by Provided

The year 2020 turned our lives upside down in more ways than one.

Coming to terms with life during a global pandemic, in addition to managing the stress of work, home, and family, proved to be overwhelming (if not impossible) for many people. Parents were suddenly thrust into the dual roles of stay-at-home employee and stay-at-home “teacher”, often resulting in feelings of inadequacy on both fronts. Screens dominated our lives, with work, school, and personal time reliant on platforms such as Zoom or FaceTime to connect us to the outside world. Isolation in the home led to burn out...and turning to screens to entertain little ones. 

There is no shame in allowing our children extra screen time when needed. Personally, I have been much more lax on enforcing limits for my two children, especially when mental fatigue has pushed me to a breaking point. Our Nintendo Switch and iPad have been on double duty since COVID became part of the daily lexicon. 

However, as we swing into summer, I find myself hoping to taper back on our screen-reliance (I am just as guilty as the kids of being absorbed by social media, Hulu, and NY Times crosswords). I have compiled some ideas and suggestions for those wishing to spend the summer emerging from not only a lifestyle restricted by the pandemic, but also from behind the screens.

“Do-it-Themselves” Arts and Crafts

Bear with me, here. I know even the phrase “Arts and Crafts” may leave some parents (like myself) rolling their eyes rather than eager to begin. Some ideas require more work to set up than actual time spent “arting and crafting” (Pinterest, I love you, but come on, my 5 year old is not going to be able to assemble a bird feeder without serious parental involvement). Avoid arguments and headache by keeping it simple.

One idea starts with a roll of 30” x 100 ft. brown construction paper (Amazon for $18.99). Roll out a section on the patio or kitchen table (with a drop cloth) and let the kids go to town with crayons, markers, paints, glue or whatever their hearts desire. It is inexpensive and very hands off for parents hoping to take a few minutes to themselves.

Directed Drawing

This one may be cheating because it involves a screen, but I promise it will not only entertain your children, it will have them bursting with confidence about their artistic skills. 

A quick search of “Directed Drawing” on YouTube will guide you to a multitude of options for step-by-step drawing videos geared towards kids. From their favorite characters to silly animals, the opportunities are endless. One of our personal favorites is the “Art for Kids Hub” channel on YouTube. 


Planning a road trip this summer? Hoping for quiet time that doesn’t involve Netflix? My kids love listening to podcasts. Listening to stories engages young imaginations and requires concentration beyond that of visual mediums. Car rides have become quieter and seem to pass more quickly when we find a podcast which we all enjoy. A few we like include:

Stories Podcast

Tales by Parcast Network


Learning the value of responsibility (as well as the value of a dollar) early is beneficial for kids. Instead of simply buying that new dinosaur from Target or ordering the new Minecraft figure from Amazon, ask your children to complete chores to earn the items. My kids have done yard work with me, vacuumed, cleaned the blinds, put away laundry, and more. Since they are usually only earning quarters or $1 at a time, they have become more appreciative of new toys or other purchases. It can also instill a sense of responsibility and pride in maintaining their home, room, backyard, etc. 

Community Activities

Take advantage of being able to venture outside the home again. Look for activities or story times at the local library, visit a children’s museum, take a bike ride around the neighborhood park. There are a number of inexpensive and fun ways to spend a few hours that are both enriching and entertaining for kids. Perhaps purchase an annual membership at a museum or zoo, giving your family a continued option for entertainment throughout the year at a reasonable cost.

Buy a Pool

Don’t have a pool, but find yourself wishing for a way to beat the summer heat? Invest in an above ground pool. We purchased one last spring and used it daily throughout the summer. Setup is fairly simple and our model included a filter pump which keeps the water safe and clear from debris. 


Get Outside

According to Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, three hours is the daily prescribed dose of outdoor playtime for kids. Unstructured, independent outdoor play (think climbing a tree, rolling down a hill, or playing tag in the woods) will foster creativity, boost critical thinking, and develop coordination and strength in children of all ages.

Enjoy a Date Night…or Weekend

Coming out of quarantine means we can see family and friends again. Take advantage! Grandparents are dying for quality time with the grandkids, so pack their Avengers suitcase that has been on the shelf for a year and send them away for a night or a weekend. A change of scenery is good for all involved, kid and parent alike.