How to Get Kids Off Screens And Outside This Summer
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How to Get Kids Off Screens And Outside This Summer

Swap lazy days of summer with healthy outdoor play.

Swap lazy days of summer with healthy outdoor play.

Families resorted to screen time (lots of it) over the past year for practical reasons. But with looser restrictions this summer, it’s time for a reset. “The fact that kids have essentially become indoor creatures is not normal or healthy,” says Dr. David Greenfield, clinical psychologist and medical director for the Center for Internet & Technology Addiction. “The most damaging part of screen time other than the neurological and psychological changes it creates,” he adds, “is that it eats up so much time.”

Time that could be better spent exploring the world, getting fresh air and exercise, and spending quality time with friends and family, adds pediatrician Dr. Mary Feilmeier. As schools let out in the coming weeks, make a plan to beat summer boredom without resorting to screens with these pro tips.

1. Remember that boredom has its benefits.

“Outside, unstructured play leads to lifelong benefits in every facet of child development,“ says Ginny Yurich, founder of 1000 Hours Outside. Running, playing, and exploring nature helps a kid’s brain neurons process faster and can help kids avoid injury in the near and long term, she notes. “Nature helps our children (and us) manage our emotions. Because kids are intrinsically motivated to play, unstructured time outside with other kids greatly helps enhance social skills.” And that’s something kids need after a year of isolation. “If we work through those uncomfortable feelings when there are complaints of boredom, we can trust that boredom is the bridge between nothing and creativity,” Yurich adds.

2. Eat outdoors as often as possible.

“Everything tastes better outside.” says Yurich. Eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner al fresco, even if it means grabbing a picnic basket and heading to a local park. “I’m motivated to try new snacks for our hikes and we even attempt to cook outside when we can,” says Yurich. “And often, an outdoor summer meal will turn into other outdoor fun like observing ants after breakfast, a game of catch after lunch, or a board game on a picnic blanket after dinner.”

3. Change your scenery.

“Our brains are wired for novelty. Tech companies know this and draw us in with pings and notifications,” says Yurich. Summer, for that reason, is a great time to mix it up IRL. “Try out a new park, a new playground, or a new branch of a trail. There are lots of places to look for ideas,” she adds. Look for highly reviewed green spaces on Google Maps, your local parks and recreation sites, the AllTrails app, Pinterest, and even Instagram for fresh ideas. “Whenever possible, as you send the kids outside, go out and join them too!,” adds Dr. Feilmeier.

4. Make a summer bucket list.

“The years fly by. Pick strawberries. Jump off a dock. Head out for an ice cream cone. Make a sandcastle. Blow bubbles. Plant some zinnias. Cook over a campfire. Head to a local farm. Go on a hike. Watch the sunset. Stay out until the stars come out. Pitch a tent. Make s'mores,” offers Yurich. “Having a list helps ensure you don’t skip over the little things…that are really the big things in the eyes of a child.” Need more ideas? Check out Circle’s 60 Simple Ideas for Bringing Family Together.

5. Schedule regular play dates.

It’s easy to lose touch with friends over the summer, especially if you have an introverted kid, but encouraging play dates can also inspire activities that are good for their health and socialization. “Physical exercise is the opportunity to have face-to-face social interactions, and to experience the world in real-time instead of through a two-dimensional screen,” says Dr. Greenfield. Give kids the gift of real friendship by keeping in touch with neighbors, your pod, and good friends. “The ability to experience life in the moment is not experienced on a screen,” he adds, “it's by walking out into the world.”

Learn how Circle can help you limit screen time at home with award-winning features like Time Limits and Pause.

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