In most of my life roles, I can feel overwhelmed by the information on how to be or do them better, how we can achieve that ideal balance where all parties (kids, friends, coworkers, and family members) feel heard, valued, and bolstered as individuals and also “team” members. No where do, I think, we as educators and parents get more conflicting “advice” than on how to manage our kids engagement with technology.

I read the New York Times blog on the “Intentional Summer” with interest. For me, it still embodies this struggle for balance – how we need to plan in order to relax, to set goals in order to have fun – but their advice is probably spot on for today’s parents struggling to achieve balance on so many fronts – “research-based suggestions for ways to set this season apart from the rest of the year.”

How do you fight the Summer Slide while allowing kids to enjoy the longer, often unstructured summer days, with or without the back up of technology?

In April, my eight-year-old accepted the challenge of Screen-Free Week. We did pretty well, and it gave me hope for reducing the arguments over screen time this summer. Here is what I learned, or had reinforced, and what I am using as my summer go-tos:

  1. Adult books – After reading The Martian, I felt more comfortable tackling a tougher book (with edits). Somehow it feels “cooler” to read out loud a harder book. We are working through The Hobbit, and I might have her convinced to try Tom Sawyer next. (Bonus for the multi-tasker: this can be bibliotherapy!)
  2. Chores/projects – I gave her the opportunity to earn some money by helping with some daunting projects such as washing windows and organizing the basement. We also went through her stuffed animals, board books, and baby toys, sharing memories while straightening her room.
  3. New hobbies – She expressed interest in sewing and woodworking. I invested in the basic tools and took her to the library to find books that appealed to her on these topics. The blessing and the curse is that I know little about these topics, so I too need to read the books.

Where do screens come in? Well, all of the above activities require some parental intervention and assistance; these are not buying me time to make dinner or to mow the lawn. That is where I need the screen time and where I intentionally decide to let her choose pre-approved computer games or television shows.

We shall see how the balance shifts as summer progresses!

Need some book recommendations? Check out Jane Knight’s list, second-grade-girl-approved list (great series ideas too!), and CLiF’s Pinterest page.

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