Summer reading fun, device-free

We work hard around here to protect our reading time. It isn’t easy–those long summer days are great for swimming, bouncing on the trampoline, and once school ends, there’s the biggest temptation of all:

Device time.

When my son turned eight, he earned himself the right to an iPad mini by being a voracious reader of ebooks. He mastered the on-line dictionary. He installed OverDrive and figured out how to browse for appropriate library books. “This,” I thought, “is a parenting success.”

Two years later, our daughter turned eight and waited eagerly for her birthday, knowing what was coming. We didn’t disappoint…although we too knew what was coming. Sure enough, the next day she woke up early and snuck her iPad into her room to binge watch Shaun the Sheep on Amazon Prime. “This is the reason people say kids shouldn’t own iPads,” I thought.

Now we regulate device time a little more carefully. Inspired by this post from Hands Free Mama on saving summer from the screens, and this linked post from Narrow Back Slacker on how she limited her kids’ screen time by offering unlimited screen time, I immediately posted a list of “No Glowing Screens Until.” Knowing that if I included an unlimited screen time option, my daughter would see that and ONLY that, I retained the right to limit usage to the American Pediatric Society’s recommended two hours a day (which seems reasonable to me). I also told them there would be optional “device free days,” to be instituted at Mama’s Whim. We tried this list for a weekend, with success: Once the kids got started doing something creative, they tended to stick with it. Narrow Back Slacker’s momentum theory worked.

My daughter's "edited" (but unapproved) version of my checklist

My daughter’s “edited” (but unapproved) version of my checklist

I like devices. But I also love the time I spend doing other things…and like so many parents, I want my kids to grow up having real memories, especially of summer vacation. Remembering the smell of fresh cut grass, of sticky sap on their fingers and sweet tangy lemonade on their tongues, of hot sun and cold water and tired, tired bodies after a day outside. When they finally sit down at the end of that day, I want them to reach for a book.

Yesterday, we had a device-free day. We all needed it–the day before, my son had been home sick, and his entertainment of choice is “Smarter Every Day” or “King of Random” videos on YouTube. They’re great, though my parental opinion is they are best in small doses. That is largely based on their not-inconsiderable-potential to turn my son into an evil genius mad scientist. He watched them for four hours straight. That same day I spent converting “Timber Howligan Secret Agent Cat” to ebook–I’d seen plenty of glowing screens. And my daughter, though she spent the day at camp running around in the woods and swimming in the river, still managed to level up on Hay Day.

So yesterday while my daughter was at camp, I took my son–still home recovering from his illness–to the library. We stocked up on books. He came home, plopped on the couch, and finished “Timber Howligan,” laughing out loud in all the right places. I even stuck to the “no screens” rule while my husband and I dragged my son to the lawyer’s office to refinance our mortgage. He played solitaire–with a real deck of cards–in the corner for an hour. And last night, we got out a card game we’ve had since Christmas but never played: “Zombie Run.” It’s ridiculously easy to learn and fun to play. All in all, a great day. I didn’t miss my iPad…much.

This morning, my daughter woke up and immediately asked if she could check on Hay Day. But we will take our successes where we can get them. And have another device-free day SOON.

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