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Parent-tested tips for screen-free summer fun

Many parents these days worry their kids spend too much time on screens. But if you want to change your family’s screen habits, it’s hard sometimes to know where to start.

The most recent guidelines from the World Health Organization suggest parents limit screen time to less than one hour per day for children ages two to four. When it comes to older children, the Canadian Paediatric Society does not suggest a time limit but does recommend parents pay close attention to the “Four Ms”:

  • manage screen use by creating a family media plan;
  • encourage meaningful screen use that is educational, active or social, such as FaceTiming Grandma, playing dance games with siblings, or discovering new outdoor play ideas by watching videos together on YouTube;
  • model healthy screen use by enforcing screen-free times for parents and kids, and ensuring parents set aside time for hobbies and activities that don’t involve screens;
  • monitor children for signs of unhealthy screen use such as oppositional behaviour when screens are limited, complaining of boredom when screens aren’t an option, or screen use that interferes with sleep, mealtimes, playtimes, or time with family and friends.

Related read: 10 tips to manage screen time


It’s one thing to talk about limiting screen time, but quite another to do it, so we asked Active for Life readers how you keep your kids active and off screens. Check out some of the best tips and tricks below:

  • “We do lots of gardening and enjoy fires at night.”
  • “I always have lots of books, craft activities and fun outdoor things ready to do.”
  • “A small assortment of outside toys and access to water to make mud pies and concoctions keep my 3 kiddos busy outside.”
  • “On rainy days we usually paint & do all kinds of crafts.”
  • “Just say, ‘Get your helmets, we’re going for a bike ride!’ and they come running!”
  • “We love to visit splash pads, water parks and pools!”
  • “Bring board games outside.”
  • “We have a set schedule for activities and we have ‘tablet time.’”
  • “Go outside in the backyard and play with them!”
  • “Lots of activities lined up! From outdoor ones like swimming, biking, going to the park, to craft and educational toys at home.”
  • “Provide a challenge! My kids love challenges…who can build the highest tower out of sticks and decorate it with flowers and rocks? Who can make a ‘campsite’ out of a tarp, piece of rope and what you find in the woods?”
  • “Borrow my friends’ kids to play with my daughter!”
  • “Dance parties!”
  • “I disconnect the internet. We make a jar of plans for the summer and each day we pick out one or two, plus we go to the park for a picnic lunch.”
  • “Family and friend water fight!”
  • “We make screen time special by having family movie night with treats once in a while instead of allowing it all the time.”
  • “Day trips to local lakes for some fun in the sun and water and hikes and picnics.”
  • “Limit the number of screens of course!”
  • “We create a summer fun list filled with ‘I’m Bored’ activities which they choose themselves.”
  • “We like to paint rocks and hide them around the city. It keeps us creative, active and away from screens.”
  • “Limit the number of available screens in the home. Model the no-screen behaviour.”
  • “Always getting outside no matter the weather, modeling is key!”
  • “Give them chores to do outside. They think they are helping, yet they’re having fun.”
  • “We head to the woods together whenever we can. Family camping is our go-to screen-free adventure!”
  • “Geocaching”
  • “Each summer, we get a piece of poster board and brainstorm a ‘summer fun list’ filled with activity suggestions from each person in our family… then we spend the summer trying to see how many of those ideas we can do.”
  • “We love crafting when it’s cold, and gardening when it’s warm! Anything that keeps them interested and inquisitive.”
  • “I saw a suggestion list the other day that included helping a family member first. That really resonated with me. It’s important to teach the importance of daily helping our family members, which hopefully will overflow to helping our neighbours and our community.”
  • “My trick is to have many smaller activities planned to keep them interested and their minds exploring! We’ll have some playtime in the yard, then go for a walk and discover nature, then come home for a craft!”
  • “All the kids in the neighbourhood paint rocks and hide them for each other. When we go for walks in the evening our girls love finding the rocks and hiding them or delivering them to friends’ houses.”
  • “I give my kids a list of items that they need to complete before earning screen time. They get minutes for doing chores, spending time outside, reading, etc. They can choose to use the time right away or save it up and have more time on rainy days, etc.”
  • “I disconnect the internet. We make a list of things everyone wants to do during the summer and then we pick 2-3 a day depending, of course, on the activity.”

What about you? What screen time tips work in your family?

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