The dog days of summer conjure images of sand castles and ice cream cones, long days by the pool and long nights at the baseball stadium. Sadly, the summer months can also mean long stretches of unsupervised time for children, an over-reliance on television viewing and social media and “summer brain drain.”
“It’s important for kids to be tapped into technology, but equally vital for them to learn the importance of putting down their phone or tablet or leaving the TV off,” said Wheaton Griffin, executive director, New York YMCA Camp. “During the summer months, when children might have an awful lot of unsupervised time, it’s especially important to teach kids the value of unplugging, getting outside and making connections to nature, their family and their peers.”
As the end of school grows near, the YMCA of Greater New York offers parents and guardians the following helpful tips to help teach their kids to unplug and enjoy a most productive summer:
- Establish regular playtime: Designating specific times each day for playtime, creative activities and outdoor doings is a good way to pull kids out of the virtual world and into the real one.
- Keep the toys organized: Studies have shown that children play more and are more actively engaged in playtime—and less likely to watch TV or reach for the gadget—when their toys are well-organized and not in overwhelming abundance. Consider donating toys your kids no longer play with to charity and investing in some inexpensive organizers.
- Get out of here! Make sure your kids get outside each and every day during the summer.
- Digital devices and water don’t mix: Institute a no-digital devices by the pool or beach policy.
- Create daily and weekly schedules: Kids are more likely to feel a sense of purpose about their time and activities—and less likely to fill dead hours vegging out in front of the TV or surfing the Web—if they have a hand in the creation of daily and weekly family schedules.
- create tech-free zones around the house: Establish “no-tech-zones” where parents and children are not allowed to use digital phones, tablets or other mobile devices. These areas might include the kitchen table during meal-time and bedrooms at night. Consider instituting small penalties, such as taking on additional household chores, for multiple infractions!
- Take a tech “time out”: Set aside a day each week, or an entire block of the summer, as an official “tech-free” stretch.
- Go on family field trips: Get everyone involved in planning family field trips to local parks, museums, free shows and concerts, overnight camping trips and more.
- Earn your minutes: Rather than allowing your kids unlimited time watching television and playing with digital devices, set parameters around TV watching and digital device usage. Incentivize them by having them “earn” minutes by taking on more household chores, doing more volunteer work and engaging in more physical play.
- Enroll in Y day camp and sleepaway camp! YMCA summer camps—accredited by the American Camping Association—provide children with positive and fun experiences that build confidence, new friendships, lifelong memories and a feeling of community that will last beyond the summer. Learn more at www.ymcanyc.org.
“Summertime is the best time to connect by unplugging,” said Griffin. “Summer is growing season at New York YMCA Camp. It’s a special time and place where kids grow as much on the inside as they’re growing on the outside.”
To learn more about enrolling in YMCA Day Camp and YMCA Summer Camp, visit www.ymcanyc.org.