Think Outside the Computer: How to Set Up Great Work or Play for Kids That Doesn’t Involve Screen Time

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Expert Advice for Screen-Free Summer Fun: Tips from Amanda Richards, Possip Parent, Reporting Lead, and Former Principal.

As summer approaches, many of us are looking forward to spending more time outdoors and reconnecting with the world around us. For kiddos, this means a break from the screens that have dominated much of the past school year, and an opportunity to engage in outdoor activities and explore new interests

Here are some tips for schools to encourage students to take a break from screen time:

Get Students Outdoors

When kids, and adults for that matter, are out in nature, stress is reduced, attention is restored, and our health is positively impacted. Check out some creative ways to get students outside:

  • Write about the outdoors. Check out our webinar called “Engaging Students Without Screens” that discusses how to write about a nature walk. 
  • Connect nature to science content. Any kind of science that can connect to the outdoors should be taught outside if the weather permits. 
  • Move practice outside when applicable. For example, if your student likes to make paintings indoors, try to take that activity to the yard or a community park. 
  • Do art projects outside to relieve stress. This is backed with scientific evidence! 
  • Observe nature as a learning activity with these great resources

Get Students Exploring

Allowing children to get creative, get active, and explore the world around them as a learning experience has so many benefits. Here are a few ideas on how to get kids exploring during the summer:

  • Academic Based Scavenger Hunts. Parents can get creative with student’s spaces and get them moving through at-home scavenger hunts that connect to content. Here are a few ideas of what this could look like. 
  • Real-World Connections. Ask your children to connect the content to something in their world. An example of this could be to have them find something in their house that relates to something they learned in the school year, and tell you about it. Allowing kids to be creative and connect with the content they’ve studied through exploration is both fun and beneficial. This could also be used in lower elementary when learning letters or counting. For example, find an item that starts with the letter R or find 15 of something.

Minimize Screen Time

Kids developmentally need time away from the screen. Find time in the day for them to get up and get away from the screen. A tip I’ve heard is taking at least a 20-second break every 20 minutes. Ultimately, though, it’s up to each student to find out what breaks they individually need. 

  • Schedule Low-Tech Brain Breaks. Make sure brain breaks are not on the screen. Have kids get outside, run around the neighborhood, make a snack, do some jumping jacks, play with their pet, or another off-screen activity. 
  • Moving Your Body: If necessary/applicable, children can use a standing desk or a medicine ball to keep them moving. It may help them take more screen breaks during the day, increase focus, and help create more movement. 
  • Create Supply Lists: Schools can create supply lists that accompany at-home activities. Schools could ask parents to buy chalk, art supplies, or other tactile supplies that teachers can expect parents to have and send directions for more hands-on activities at home. This will help students still have kinesthetic learning activities and get some learning time away from the screen. If parents can’t purchase the supplies, schools could have a community drive to fill that need.

Get Students Learning About Their Family, Community, and City

This is a great time to have kids invest in learning about family and community history. Here are some ways to support students in learning about these important parts of their life: 

  • Write Family Stories or Timelines: These are great literacy-based activities that allow students time to read, write, and understand sequences of events. Here are some ways to do this with families at home. 
  • Community service projects: Find out what your community needs and see if students can help fill that need. This creates a greater sense of responsibility for children and understanding that they can personally impact their community every day. 
  • Explore your city: Here are tips to do this safely while at home.