School’s out…. Now What? This is normally the time of year I dust off the tablets and hand them over. This year I made a decision to limit their screen time after reading a few studies that link increased use of electronic devices to mental health issues in children. Not being able to just leave them to be entertained by the devices presents a bit of a dilemma, as I will now need to find alternate ways to keep them occupied for the next 8-9 weeks and most importantly without breaking the bank. Fortunately, my daughter will be spending the summer in Jamaica; that means plenty of outdoor play with her cousins and trips to the beach. The boys will be in summer school, so that takes care of the weekdays, now I need to plan activities for the weekends. I have put together a list, I hope to use as a guide and I thought I’d share it with you. Here are my five tips for creating gadget free summer fun.
Plan a Road Trip
When you’re a family of five, airline tickets can cost a pretty penny, especially during the summer months. Rather than forego a summer vacation, plan a road trip, even if you need to rent a car, the savings are quite significant. We try to limit our trips to anywhere within a 6-hour drive; beyond that it gets to be a little exhausting for me. If you don’t mind being in car for longer, your options are multiplied. I like road trips because you can cover multiple states in one trip, I especially like stopping at various Points of Interest to check out the sights and get in a quick pic. It is also a great way to take a break from the stress of life in the city to find some summer solace. Check out Travel + Leisure’s Best road Trips” here.
Yup, bring out the board games; I know it sounds a little ancient, but it’s a lot of fun. I mean old school monopoly, scrabble, Uno, my kids also love headbands. Not only does it get them thinking; it’s a great way to interact with each other, something that is rare these days, especially when dealing with teenagers. Besides, when was the last time you made a complete fool of yourself? Getting their buy-in may be a bit of a challenge, so throw in a gift-card of their choice for winning as motivation, after all, who doesn’t need extra cash in the summertime?
Plan a Picnic
“Healthy families spend time together in activities that each family member enjoys, and they do this often”. They play, work, eat and share some outside activities together.” A great way to maximize outdoor fun for everyone is spending time at a local park, pack some lunch and have a picnic. The benefit is two-fold; parents can spend some quality time together as the children play and meet and interact with new friends. Just don’t bring the IPAD, the kids will immediately forget that they were quite happy just playing on the swings and the other parents will hate you for it. One of the benefits of living in NYC is the endless number of year round freebies. NYC Parks are home to some of summer’s most memorable events; free concerts, food and film festivals. Take advantage; after all your paying enough taxes to live here. Cities all over the country offer similar activities throughout the year. A good place to find them is by checking your city’s visitor’s bureau website.
Visit A Museum
While this may not seem to be as exciting as the other options it can be a wonderful learning experience for parents and children alike. You’d be amazed at what you will discover; we visited the USS Constitution Museum in Boston this spring and my kids were able to explore the exhibits and witness first- hand how a warship is restored. They thought it was pretty awesome too. Also, if you’re an immigrant it’s a great way to learn some American History, it will come in quite handy when your kids have questions about their homework or when preparing for the Naturalization test. Fun Fact: NYC and Washington D.C. account for half of Forbes’ Top Ten Museums in America.
A timeless favorite of kids everywhere, it can be a little expensive but there are still places you can visit on a budget. For example, New York Icon Coney Island is home to Nathan’s annual hot dog eating competition and free fireworks on Friday nights in the summer; a great way to unwind after a long week. My son and I visited Sesame Place a week ago, he had an amazing time at the waterpark. Word of advice: the waterpark should be the last place they visit for the day, otherwise, it will be tough to get them to try anything else. I love that the day ends with a parade with all the characters, even as an adult I got the feeling as though I was on Sesame Street.
I’m sure you’ll have fun regardless of whatever you decide to do. I think the most important thing is that you spend time together as a family. Get outside, the weather’s great! Happy Summer!!
Feel free to share your tips by leaving a comment!