Summer vacation has officially begun, and students all over the island are looking forward to unwinding and relaxing for the next couple of months. While some kids will be attending summer camp, summer school, or other supervised activities, others will have endless free time. To fill the hours and keep kids entertained and out of trouble, it may be very tempting for parents to allow them to spend hours each day in front of the TV, phone, or computer screen. However, research has shown that watching TV or playing games on a computer or phone for more than two hours each day may lead to antisocial behavior, lowered verbal IQ, and altered brain structure in children.

For the next few months, instead of being in front of a screen, you and your family have the opportunity to read, explore, enjoy nature, spend more time with each other, get some things done around the house, and do some of the things you have been thinking about doing.

Below are 25 suggestions that you and your family can do instead of watching the screen:

1. Visit the library. Take an evening as a family to go to the local library. During your visit, get or renew your library card and find some great books to read together as a family or as individuals.

2. Make dinner together as a family. This is a great way to spend time with your children, and teach them how to cook at the same time.

3. Start a family night. Many families are finding that setting aside one night each week to be together as a family has really helped their family unity. Go to the mall, rent a movie, or go out for dinner together.

4. Play board games. There are many great board games you can play as a family - Monopoly, Clue, Chutes and Ladders, or Charades just to name a few.

5. Take a nature hike. There are hikes of various difficulty levels that take place every weekend.

6. Observe the night sky. Get a book about the different constellations from the library, and see if you can identify them. You can also observe the moon.  

7. Organize your photos in real albums or in albums on the computer.

8. Send “Hello” cards or email to friends or relatives you have not been in touch with, in a while.

9. Volunteer for a community organization or charity.

10. Learn to cook a new dish or a copycat recipe.

11. Go camping even if it is in your front or backyard.

12. Learn to say simple phrases in a few different languages.

13. Go for a long walk with a friend or your family.

14. Declutter and organize a junk drawer or a closet.

15. Organize your family recipes into a family cookbook.

16. Declutter and organize toys with your children.

17. Get small do-it-yourself projects done around the house.

18. Spend an evening at the bowling alley with your family.

19. Have a picnic.

20. Prepare a family emergency preparedness kit.

21. Go to a local museum or art gallery.

22. Go for a drive around the island.

23. Visit the island’s historical sites.

24. Put a brochure together of a place you have always wanted to visit.

25. Do something you have never done before.

Turning on the screens for only a couple of hours a day is a difficult thing to do for many families. If it is absolutely impossible for your children to stay tuned in that little, then just try turning the screens off for as much as possible. You will be surprised how many more things you can do as a family when your children are not tied to them.

Elizabeth Hamilton, M.E., MA, is a teacher with 31 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner@yahoo.com with your questions or comments.

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