As the time for school ending and summer beginning approached last year, I wondered what I was going to do to help my children occupy their time for ten weeks while I still worked a demanding job that requires hours of sitting in front of the computer. In order to keep some form of structure despite my work schedule, our family embarked on a challenge that resulted in some really great results.
My theory was this: If my children could survive a whole school day without the use of electronic devices (TV, videogames, etc.), then there was no reason why they could not survive it when school was not in session as well. I announced a full month before summer vacation began what rules were in order to give them time to adjust. When dad left for work until dad returned home, all electronics were off limits. As expected, there was a little bit of grumbling about the unfairness and questions of what would they do, but it ended quickly when they saw that this was nonnegotiable.
There were exceptions to the rule as well. On specified days that friends were over or relatives were visiting, the rule was lifted. Those times were considered vacation and who does not want to enjoy a good movie or the chance to play the latest videogame with your friend or cousin?
Our kids, overall, found the experience fun. They discovered games and toys that were forgotten about, they rediscovered their imaginations which are really quite clever, wrote books, drew comics, and mastered some chores that they found to be almost fun. On one particular rainy summer day, they put on bathing suits and played outside for hours, splashing in mud puddles and sliding on the slippery grass. They also participated in their first ever Lemur Run at our local zoo. In addition, they had fun being involved in a golf program, zoo camp, and we ended our summer with a 12-day family vacation that spanned Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Washington D.C.
Does that mean that they stopped loving all things electronic? No. Some days they counted down the seconds until their dad pulled in the driveway so they could sit and veg out in front of the TV, and we still enjoyed plenty of family-friendly movies all together. However, it also means that we have learned a little bit about balance. Our kids are quick to ask to go play outside and do not grumble quite so much when we spend time together as a family curled up in our favorite spots in the living reading instead of glued to the television.
I do not see us giving up TV or videogames or electronics as a source of entertainment completely, but at least it is regaining its rightful place for us instead of being the center focus. What about you – is there a particular challenge that you want to embark on this summer? Feel free to share it below and maybe our family will join you…we are up for the challenge to take it to the NEXT level this year!