We Fought Off Summer Brain Mush

I think as parents, we can all agree that kids spend too much time in front of screens, and it’s hard to curb them because it’s often what saves our sanity – am I right? Well, I decided to change things up this past summer. I made an executive decision many months ago that when summer break started, The Girl would have to earn all of her screen time. The big questions were how she’d earn minutes, and how I’d enforce implementation. I came up with a starting list (which, of course, may be altered at my discretion). I also gave her a heads up on this idea about a month before school ended, and then reminded her on the last day that come the following Monday, it would go into effect. So, she got one last weekend to veg out like the screen staring zombie she’d become.

On day one, at 4:40pm, although she had earned 45 minutes of screen time, other than using an iPhone for a timer and some music, she’s not looked at a single screen. She is saving her remaining 42 minutes for when she sleeps over at her friend’s house tonight. How’s that for success?!
Ha. Not that it’s all been smooth sailing. She definitely had a difficult time transitioning from her school schedule to free time of summer. What did that look like? Oh, you know, screeching, screaming tantrums, complete with door slamming. That got her grounded from all screen time, no matter what items she could check off from the list. Plus, she lost her bedroom and closet doors for a while. But, the goal of not having her spend her summer in front of a screen was met with flying colors. Not only that, she finally started to understand that chores come before fun.

I was thrilled that this project, in conjunction with her summer book club (thanks to her ah-MAZE-ing 3rd grade teacher, Roxanne McGinn), helped her learn to embrace big kid chapter books, reading them bit by bit (in the past, she was overwhelmed by them because she felt compelled to finish every book in one sitting, like shorter books and graphic novels).

Here is the menu of options she had for earning up to an hour and a half of screen time each day (rollover minutes are not allowed, family screen time was excluded from the earning requirements):

  • Work out with Mom in the morning (15 minutes)
  • Do a creative project (5-10 min)
  • Act of random kindness (10 min)
  • *Kindness journal (10 min)
  • Do laundry (10 min)
  • Other extra chores (i.e. clean the kitchen floor, unload the dishwasher) (10 min)
  • Fold, sort, and put away laundry (15 min)
  • *Read a chapter in a non-graphic novel (10 min)
  • Play with kids in the neighborhood (15 min)

By the end of the summer, earning screen time in this way became the norm for all of us (Hubs even cooperated!). This made the total cutoff from electronics easy for her when she went to Try Chi – 3 nights at sleep-away camp (Camp Chi). Not only did she not miss her devices, she had a fantastic time, made new friends, gained a boatload of self-confidence, and can’t wait to go back next year. As a bonus – I didn’t have to explain Charlottesville to her, because she was gone when all that shiz went down.

Here are some photos, courtesy of the Camp Chi photogs (click to embiggen):

No sooner than she got home was it time to gear up for school the next Monday! This is 4th grade:

But, would you believe that sending her off for the first day of school wasn’t the most exciting part of the day?  Stay tuned for more!

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