3 Ways Turn Tech Time Into Outdoor Summer Fun (Without Being a Tyrant)
By Laura St. John
So it's summer: Time to sit back, relax a little, and let your kids be kids -- right? We all hope so. So what do you do when you expect your kid's friend coming over to mean entertainment, sprinklers, and outdoor fun -- but then it turns into, "Check out the new game I brought over to play on your Xbox"?
When this happens, of course it's natural that your child is psyched (and doesn't want to be rude or uncool to his friend), but you are suddenly placed on the other side. How do you steer them to do other things without being the mean old mom? (Well, maybe not old. But mean.)
I look at it like a friend bringing a bottle of wine: It's rude to open yours first. If the gesture was well-intended, and not inappropriate, I am not going to squash my son and his friend's excitement. I basically just let them get it over with. I set a limit on technology uses for passive entertainment and after it's over, we move on. But if it's a game I wouldn't let my child play (for some reason), I would just explain "These are our house rules," and not put the blame on my child or me. It's just the way it is, and that's that.
In order for your kids not to get sucked into an all-day screen fest, prep now.
1. Tap Into Their Creativity: Kids today want to be engaged. Let their creative juices flow. I went online and stocked up on paper, paints, and enough colors of the rainbow of sand to last me a lifetime of sand art. Before the playdate, just like a teacher preps a classroom, have your child help you prep stations on a table for creative art projects. I bought little sand art trinkets that their friends can take home after the playdate is over.
2. Plan for Good Ol' Fashioned Fun: I live on a country dirt road about thirty miles from Denver. So when people "come to the mountains" to my house, we joke they are stepping back in time. A sandbox of mini monster truck courses, water guns and slip-n-slides, lemonade stands, bean bag toss, tree forts, and good old fashioned cops and robbers are the norm here. Once they are outside playing, they get so into it.
3. Engage Them with Sports and Active Play: With three boys, I have to keep things super active or in about two seconds they will all wind up wrestling each other. With a lacrosse net, mini baseball diamond, swings and slide, trampoline, archery, basketball, and four-wheelers, you can say we've got outdoor play covered.
Now where does that technology come into play? Don't shut it off completely! Use it to amp up creativity even further. Let the kids video or take snapshots of their day with something as simple as your phone. A few weeks from now,when it comes to practicing reading and writing, use the tech footage so they can make a little digital journal about their summer.
Now I don't want to be rude, either, so if you want to bring over a bottle of wine, we can certainly hang out on my front porch and watch the kids play outside. That's the way to kick off summer!
Photo: Laura St. John / Courtesy Renee Glick Photography