6 Screen-Free Ways to Create Lasting Family Summer Memories

Fifteen years ago marked a sea change in the daily use of technology by families. In 2007, Apple launched the first iPhone, Google launched pre-roll ads on its newly acquired YouTube video-sharing website, and Netflix began streaming feature films and TV series to homes.

Today, digital screens are increasingly appearing in our daily lives, from work to shopping to family downtime. Even if one values ​​the convenience factor, a growing body of research on the harms of prolonged screen time summarized by the Mayo Clinic and BabyCenter is worth considering.

As a parent of two children aged one and three, these questions go beyond casual interest. A few takeaways are that too much screen time can contribute to hyperactive behaviors and delay the development of social skills in toddlers. Live interactions are the most effective for teaching children, while screens often take reading away from a child (which has many proven benefits).

In light of these discoveries, Screen Free Week, which just ended this year, urges everyone to rediscover life outside of screens. It has given my family a boost to come out for some experiences we have been postponing so far and to reminisce about adventures from years past that we plan to repeat. Here are six screen-free ways to have fun with loved ones, with a focus on kid-friendly ideas.

1. Feed the animals and pick fresh produce from a local farm

Considering that all other children’s storybooks are set on a farm, naturally children’s excitement skyrockets when they get a chance to see goats, cows and the like in person. In a trend known as agritourism, with city dwellers eager to take a deep breath and enjoy a simpler life, large working farms are increasingly opening their operations to the public.

On a recent Saturday, we made the hour-long drive to Great Country Farms, a 400-acre property that for decades withstood the area’s housing boom. For a few dollars, our kids were able to pet and feed the animals, pick strawberries (currently in season), search for gems in a non-stop lock, see a full tractor-powered wagon tour, and so much more.

While the interactive farms can approach capacity during fall weekends, when pumpkin patch and apple picking are all the rage, families will find plenty to enjoy most of the year. Another nearby farm, Charming Hill, boasts its wide variety of baby animals – rabbits, geese, chicks, and more. – as a sort of therapeutic experience. We thought the same of our time on the farm.

2. Attend an air show

Growing up with eight brothers, almost every summer Dad would load us into the family van and take us to see an air show. From the incredible speed of modern aircraft to the intricate aerobatics of biplanes, the sights and sounds of jet engines and roaring crowds made for a memorable afternoon. (If there’s a baby in your party, definitely bring a pair of earmuffs.)

My wife is an “Air Force brat,” as she calls it, and enjoys these events even more than I do. When you attend shows on Air Force bases, a tour of static aircraft, including former warbirds, is often part of the show. The US Air Force Thunderbirds and US Navy Blue Angels have dozens of public shows scheduled for the coming months.

3. Attend a local arts and crafts festival

The rise of Etsy and similar handmade goods centers has given more visibility to local arts and crafts festivals. Artisan stalls typically include locally themed pop art, hand-carved picture frames, smart t-shirts, high-end artwork, and merchandise you wouldn’t expect.

Today, we have about half a dozen photographs on canvas, oil paintings and more that we acquired at bargain prices at these exhibitions. Often family members joined us as we pushed the little one in a stroller for a few hours, chatting about culture and life. Usually, several festivals are held each season in any major metropolitan area.

4. Visit a neighborhood Splash Pad

For parents of toddlers, this may already be an obvious and frequent visit. While researching options for our two little ones last year, we were surprised to find that some of these splash parks are quite impressive. It’s easier to juggle kids around fountains than pools, especially with plenty of convenient options for them to play and beat the heat.

5. Go see a live theater production

The theaters are back! If that conjures up an image of popcorn-stained multiplexes rather than a performing arts center, that would be a mistake. Stage performers, set builders, orchestra members and thousands of dedicated craftsmen have spent roughly two years locked away without an audience to benefit from their stripping acts of storytelling.

When we saw “Fiddler On the Roof” at the Altria Theater in Richmond, experiencing this timeless story and its moving songs live ended up being a highlight of last spring. Acclaimed shows currently on tour include “Come from Away”, “My Fair Lady”, “Hamilton”, and “Oklahoma!” A live theater performance is usually not an option with young children, so parents will want to consider the cost of tickets and childcare.

6. Enjoy rides at an inexpensive carnival or theme park

While many theme parks only combine overpriced Disney experiences, hundreds of parks from coast to coast are family-friendly in their areas. Some like Dollywood in East Tennessee and Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri are one-of-a-kind, while a few national brands like Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and SeaWorld-Busch Gardens seek to rival Disney with much larger dailies. reasonable. ticket prices.

Before the kids, my wife found Groupon deals so we could plan a thrill ride Saturday. Now, with two toddlers, parks with kiddie rides, a splash pool, and a parade or live performance have the most appeal. As for the cheap carnivals that pop up in mall parking lots, it’s fun to see your neighborhood from the top of a Ferris wheel, though the mileage will vary depending on how well they run.

There’s nothing wrong with lounging indoors to beat the heat, which my family will no doubt be doing a lot this season. But it’s those frequent hikes in the woods, those cannonballs in the pool, and those unstructured moments of play on the soccer field that make summers memorable. Don’t miss it.

Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith and public policy for several outlets, including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service and Providence Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, DC area with their two children.

Christy J. Olson