Work With Your Kids to Plan a Fun Summer (Technology Boundaries Included!)

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  • Create a Summer Screen Time Plan together. We want to give our kids ownership in the process. By doing this, we teach them how to create boundaries in the future when they are out on their own. Not sure where to start? Use our Quick Guide to help you! We share insightful questions and a basic framework to help your family create your own screen time boundaries.

    As we sat down to do this with our own kids, everyone had a different idea of what we should do. This is normal! We listened to everyone and wrote down all of the ideas. We then talked it over and told the kids that Tyler and I would discuss it further and we’d all come back together to decide on our plan of action for the summer.

    We decided to stick with our regular screen time plan (typically two-three 30 minute turns during the week and occasionally an hour on a Saturday) with two addendums just for summer. Our two additions are:

    Older children (pre-teens and teens) can have more flexibility with screen time during the week if they are creating (rather than consuming.) We’ve had many conversations about the fact that not all screen time is created equal. Older kids still need to have jobs done and spend time on goals/service/skills before they move onto creative screen time. (More on that next!) We made a list of creative screen activities such as taking and editing photos, coding, writing, making an iMovie, watching a hairstyle video and trying it, DIY/learning a new skill, etc.

    Addendum Two: We added one more screen-free day for summer. We always try to make Sunday mostly screen-free with the exception of calls with cousins/grandparents or an inspirational movie we might watch together. I invited the kids to add one more screen-free day. (Communicating doesn’t count for our teen.) They picked Thursday. There will likely be several other days that we won’t even touch a screen because we’ll be busy with some of our summer bucket/live list activities.

    Apple’s Screen Time feature and Google’s Family Link can help to manage time spent and accessibility to certain apps and sites, but at the end of the day, an active parent will spend time talking to their kids about what they are viewing and maintaining reasonable time limits. 

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    • Make a Summer Fun List together as a family! Some families call it a Bucket List and others call it a Live List, based on Kelly Jensen’s idea to make a list that serves as a “guidebook to living your life more intentionally — namely, more fun.” We sat down and let everyone make their own list on our Summer Dreams and Goals sheet (link above to get your own copy), and then we combined them all onto one family Summer Fun List. We post this on the fridge every summer. I started doing this many years ago when our teenager was just a toddler as we were driving home from strawberry picking. (Before Pinterest and Instagram existed—ha, ha!) I’ve done a list with my kids almost every summer since for over a decade. We all look forward to experiencing our favorite parts of summer!
    • Have a regular summer routine for the days when you are home. Make expectations clear ahead of time so kids know what jobs need to be done each day. This can look like jobs written on a post-it note for each kid or something you can reuse. I made a summer routine chart for each of my kids in Google Docs years ago, printed them in half sheets, laminated and attached them to mini clipboards. I keep these in a plastic bin on the countertop. (We have a different one for the school year.) I fill these out the night before (or very early in the morning) and set them all out so kids can get started as soon as they are ready. I have seen so many printables with a list of things for kids to do each day…and at the top or bottom it says something like, “Then you can have screen time.” I highly discourage putting anything about technology or screens on a list. I don’t believe it should be the reward. While our kids need to have certain things done in order to have screen time, it’s not the end-all for the day. Some days we don’t do screens and we’re getting our jobs done so we can go do something fun. When you can, reward your kids with your time, not screen time. Screen time can be just one more thing we do, not a goal or reward we are always seeking to attain.
    • Work with your kids and teens to create a summer goal, ideas for service, and a list of skills they want to develop. (We’ve created a printable for our family and yours to help with this! Grab your copy at the bottom of this post.) We encouraged our kids to just set one goal for the summer. Then if they accomplish that goal, they can cross it off and add a new one. We’ve found that being laser-focused is the best way to accomplish a goal! I used Saren Eyre Loosli’s (Power of Families) Do-It-Yourself Summer Camp Kit for several years. One part of the camp encourages your child to set goals in various areas of their life (physical, mental, spiritual, etc.). I found that we were gone too much in the summer for me to adequately help my kids in so many areas. We now just let the kids pick one goal and zero in on helping them to achieve it! Your child or teen can also brainstorm ways they can serve someone this summer. In addition, we talked about developing analog skills. It’s great for our kids to use their hands to build, create, and learn. The ideas on this list are not a daily requirement, it’s just a place to start when jobs or the fun summer activity is done for the day! These ideas will help when someone utters these words, “I’m bored” or when they want to turn to a screen because it is the easy thing to do.
    • Allow boredom. This can be painful, but so good for our kids! I’ve noticed our kids come up with some of the best ideas when they push through the boredom slump! You might have to listen to an hour of groaning and complaining…they’ll rise above it eventually.
    • Create some at-home screen-free day activities that your kids will look forward to. We don’t have to make this too complicated. The reality is, there will be days in between camps, vacations, BBQ’s, and pool days when you have to do laundry or get work done. Take a few hours and plan a few simple activities that kids can do at home when you need a down-day. I realize that if you still just have really young children, this is unrealistic. (Enjoy that nap time and early bedtime while you can!) For school-age kids, pre-teen, and teens you can give them a bit more freedom. We’ve done a read-a-thon, had friends over for popsicles and running through the sprinkler, and this summer I’m planning a sidewalk chalk contest (prize for each kid/make up a silly award)!
    • Reward your kids with one-on-one time. What can you do with each of your kids one-on-one this summer? Again, I love the idea of rewarding my kids with my time and with everyone at home, I try to carve out quality time with each child one-on-one as much as I can.
    • Keep a secret stash of quiet time activities for all ages. When my kids were little I was a big advocate of quiet time. (April Perry’s Quiet Time tricks are golden!) Some of my kids didn’t mind it, and others tell me it drove them crazy to be quiet that long! It was good for them. They learned how to entertain themselves and read a lot of books! Now that I have older kids, I need to allow more freedom. But, I still need some quiet time to get work done and to recharge from having five kids home all day. This summer I’ll be the one in quiet time from 1-3 p.m. The kids will have more freedom to talk and do what they want, but this will also be a screen-free time in our home. I start collecting activity books, crafts, and kits ahead of time for those days when kids just need something to do and I need to get something done.

    There is no “right” way to do summer. Work with your kids to create a screen time plan, and then make that secondary to everything else you do. Create your plan, post it, talk about it as needed—but make the primary focus of your summer be something more important than screens. Connect with your kids, help them to meet their individual goals, find opportunities to work and serve, and help them to develop analog skills. And sure, they’ll probably want to enjoy some screen time here and there. That’s okay! With a plan in place, you can be sure that you are prioritizing the skills they’ll need to raise their own family and to contribute to society in big ways!

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