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“The Summer List” or How I Limit My Kids’ Summer Screen Time Without Losing my Sanity

The days are quickly approaching where my sweet school-aged children will be released from school for the summer!

Home with me.

All day.

Every day.

And a little secret: I love it.

I love not having to set my alarm. I love eating dinner in our swimsuits outside by the pool. I love family movie nights where everyone gets to stay up past their bedtimes.

With all of this extra time; however, comes a lot more complaining about boredom and begging for extra screen time.

Out of all of the things I love about summer, I absolutely hate policing screen time allowances.

I also don’t want them to waste the whole summer watching someone else play with toys on YouTube when we have a house full of toys. I wanted to find a happy medium where my kids could be their own policemen.

Enter the summer list.

This is not my original idea. Someone (Probably my mom. Hi Mom!) tagged me in a post on social media with an idea where kids are required to complete a certain set of responsibilities before they can have screen time. And then they can have as much screen time as they’d like after that.

I loved it. I began making custom “Summer Lists” for each of my kids depending on their age and ability level three years ago. I laminate it in my husband’s laminating machine, so the children can use a dry erase marker to mark off the tasks each day. (Yes, my husband’s machine. He loves laminating things. He is an adorable weirdo.)

First things first: they need to eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and get dressed. If we do need to go somewhere later in the day, it is faster to get out of the house if everyone is up and dressed. Impromptu trips to the movies or the library are much easier!

My oldest has summer reading to do for school, and she needs extra help with math, so I am sure to add those in. I put them in for my middle son as well because it can’t hurt. We make sure to hit the library often to have plenty of reading material available. This summer I am trying out a new math website called Prodigy Game. Last summer I used another great and free online program called Zearn. They are fun, customizable to age level, and my kids feel like they get a little screen time by sitting at my computer doing math. (They didn’t pay me to mention them. I just love these websites!)

All the other things like cleaning their room and their simple chore take a few more minutes (since their room is picked up daily, it doesn’t take long, and it is ready for the impromptu visits from the neighbors!).

Then I put things on the summer list that are important to me for their development, such as 30 minutes of playing outside and being creative. I find that once they get outside and playing, 30 minutes stretches into much longer. When my son gets absorbed in his piano or my daughter working on watercolors, they forget to watch the clock. Usually no one finishes their Summer List until after lunch. Some days we stay home and have lazy afternoons where they get all the screen time they’ve earned. Some days we have adventures at a museum or local waterpark, and they have no time to spend with a screen. They might also play in the front with the neighbors or swim in our pool in the afternoons. This list has been a perfect balance for our family.

Long story short: Think about what is important to your family, and make a summer list that reflects what you’d like to see happen. Each family is different.

Also, reserve the right to modify the list if it isn’t working. Last summer I had “Help someone in the family” instead of a specific chore. They’d follow me around asking me what they could do to help me, and then they’d complain when I told them. Instead, this summer one kid is sweeping under the table, and one kid is shining the bathroom counter each day. Easy. They can also choose in what order they’d like to complete their list. 

Here is my tentative list for summer break! Do you do something similar? Share your ideas as well, so I can make mine better!

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