The question of how much, if any, screen time to allow our kids seems to be the bane of every 21st century parent’s life. Children are constantly asking to watch or play something! Meanwhile, every other article we read tells us the terrible future that lies ahead for our kids if we allow them even one hour per day in front of a screen. During the school year, time spent watching television or playing a computer game seems easier to manage. The kids have homework, practices, or clubs to occupy most of their time. But what about during the summer? How can we keep our kids from rotting their brains in front of a screen, but still allow them some time to watch the shows or play the games they enjoy?
A few years ago, I stumbled upon this blog post and it sparked an idea that has worked beautifully for our family. We now use The List in our home, and I’d like to share it with you. Our children have no limits on their screen time as long as they complete the following tasks:
1. Read Your Bible
For our family, this is the most important task we do each day. This summer, we’re participating in a Bible reading challenge through the New Testament and the Psalms. You can click here to learn more. I’ll read aloud to my three and seven year olds. My nine, eleven, and thirteen year olds will read on their own.
2. Clean Your Room
I’m not asking for rooms that will pass the white glove test. Anyone who knows me can attest to my low housekeeping standards. However, I expect that their beds be made and clothes and toys be put away in their proper places. Side note-I use this awesome “Mom Clean” list when the time comes to really muck out the kids’ rooms.
3. Enjoy Your Surroundings
For at least thirty minutes, they must go outside. The sneaky part of me knows that once they’re out, they’ll play longer than their required time. Of course, it’s so very hot down here in the summer, which means most of their outside play will involve water. Water play means muddy grass, water balloon pieces, and towels left on the driveway. This is a small price to pay for their being outside in the fresh (albeit, humid) air, getting some exercise.
4. Expand Your Mind
They must spend at least thirty minutes reading, and they may choose any book. Again, the sneaky part of me knows they’ll most likely end up reading for longer than thirty minutes. However, I do have a couple of kids who will set a timer and quit reading the second it goes off!
5. Explore Your Imagination
For another thirty minutes (are you sensing a pattern here?), they must create something. In our house, this means playing with Legos, making slime (#whydotheyloveitsomuch), drawing, painting, tinkering with tools in the garage, or cooking. Yes, they will make messes. Yes, I’ll have to put on my “fun mom” face and go with the flow. Again, it’s a small price to pay.
6. Finish Your Schoolwork
We homeschool but take a break during the month of June for swim team season. We start again in July because I’ve found that sticking to our regular routine helps combat the crazies that tend to creep up mid-summer, when all the camps and vacation Bible schools and summer reading programs at the library are over, and they’ve played every board game in the house twenty times.
The List holds them accountable and responsible for planning their own days, and I’ve been so pleased to see my older kids, especially, learning time management and organizational skills. If you have tried something similar, or would like to try it this summer, let me know how it works for your family!