10 Ideas for Limiting Summer Screen Time

Even though it’s a summer of transition for us (hello, 5th baby!), I’ve been working hard to do lots of screen free activities so the older kids don’t end up glued to their shows for 90% of the day in the name of survival.

I won’t lie— it isn’t a screen FREE summer. Aaron is working 80 hour weeks, and I’m on my own with all five kiddos M-F. So, they are allowed some show. BUT, I’ve also been making a conscious effort to do LOTS of fun stuff to keep us away from screens as much as possible and use show/movies a bit more strategically as necessary for my schedule.

It can be challenging to keep a 7 year old all the way down to a 3 year old interested in the same activity, so I have assembled a list of what has been working for us! (on the off chance one of these ideas might help someone else out too.)

Disclaimer, some of these links are affiliate links that support this site at no extra cost to you, BUT everything I list is stuff we were doing long before I hunted down the link to share.

So here ya go, my summer tool box:

1. Kiwi Crate (use code Share30 for 30% off)

(you can also get 60% off your first month with code BEJULY)

Basically, Kiwi Crate is a subscription service for STEM learning activities to do with your kiddos. You pick the age range and type of activity, and they send you a box full of a different activity within that category every month. We have LOVED this. It’s been the perfect thing to break up a long summer day with learning fun. And it’s stuff that I wouldn’t come up with on my own. My boys are extremely good in the “explore, build, science” department. I am not. I love that this helps me push them in this area.

Every box sends something different. Our last box the boys built this claw grabber thing. And then these yarn ball thingys to “grab” with the claw. And then there’s a book of additional activities and games on the side of that. They got super into it. Carter read the instructions and everyone had their small job to do as the step-by-step took them from a pile of random items to a fully functioning claw. The next box I’m saving to do with the grandparents next week during their visit.

2. Slip n Slide

This is a summer staple here.

We coat the slide with Johnson’s baby soap for faster sliding. Plus it doubles as bathtime. Can’t even tell you how many afternoons/evenings have been spent sliding. So much laughter. So much running and sliding and shouting with glee.

I used to just use just basic dish soap, but got lots of complaints when they got the soap in their eyes. We upgraded this year to tear free soap (-; We also ditched the Amazon slip n slide in favor of a large roll of plastic from Lowes. It’s not as fancy and it lasts about the same amount of time (one season). It’s just slightly bigger which has been helpful as the kids grow physically bigger.

3. Readers Collection (use this link for 20% off)

(also available on Amazon)

I ordered this book set last fall to teach Eli how to read before Kindergarten. I’ve decided to share it now because I have been extremely impressed with it and we still do it now still six months later. It does a FANTASTIC job building in repeated sight words with story comprehension and tools for sounding out new words. I haven’t used the lesson manual a ton, but the CD is fun to listen to in the van while around town, and the book set is GOLD. Addison is still reading the blue level as it helps her reading AND her comprehension of the story (bonus…she doesn’t try to eat them!), Eli is halfway through the red level, Carter is well past the hardest level, but will still sit down and read some yellow or green when he runs out of his other books, and Morgan uses the books to practice her colors and pretend read to me (I will start her on reading them in the fall when the others go to school). It’s pricey, but worth it. This set comes with a TON of books and has been a BIG part of our summer. Sitting on the couch with kiddos on every side of me waiting to read their book….these will always be some of my favorite memories.

4. Local Pool Pass

I like the pass because just as we reach that down spot in the afternoon where all they want to do is sit and watch show, I can easily shake things up by grabbing swim suits, snacks, and towels and taking them all to the pool for just an hour before dinner. Because we have the pass, I don’t care that we only stay one hour. There’s zero pressure to “get our money’s worth” with each visit, and really just lets me read the kiddos as to what they need. (With multiple small kiddos, don’t forget your puddle jumpers!) Also, at this point in life I do pool vs lake because I like the assurance of life guards on all sides.

The baby goes right into her shaded stroller and naps while I keep counting to 4. At one point we went to the pool every afternoon for almost 3 weeks straight! Just for an hour or two, but hey…no screens!

5. Coloring/Spelling Time

I discovered that Carter’s school doesn’t hit hard enough (for him) on spelling words, so I’ve been using the summer time to work through daily spelling lists with him. To make this fun and inclusive for all the kiddos, I have a big tupperware full of crayons, colored pencils, and markers (pick your poison!), big stacks of construction paper, and coloring books. We all sit at the table and just dedicate time to practicing writing letters (Eli and Addison!), coloring within the lines (Morgan!), and repetition with these daily spelling lists and then official quizzes (Carter. Although the others pitch in to help him too).

6. Dance Party/Pickup Time

If it comes down to where show is a necessary part of the day, I make them earn it first—by picking up their playroom, their rooms, the clothes off the floor in the bathroom, lining up the shoes in the entryway, picking up the new room, etc etc etc. They each have their jobs they are capable of doing, and we turn on loud music and get.it.done. Once I’m satisfied with the level of pickup, THEN they’re allowed to watch show #motivation.

7. Adventures in Odyssey or audio books.

I have been known to load everyone up in the van and just drive around town with stories playing in the CD player. It gives me some space and some peace and quiet while the kids get involved in a cool story. (p.s. McDonald’s iced coffee can be obtained through the drive through during such a story hour.)

This one is a recent favorite…where Penny and Wooten go on their honeymoon but Penny gets lost and Wooten loses his memory as he was drugged and Penny was now in DANGER and they have to FIND HER by tracking the honeymoon adventure backwards with Wooten who can’t remember a thing. It’s a good little tale. We have listened to it 1,000 times so far. (-;

Also love this Road Trip one.

I love the Christian themes and the way they make the kiddos think about deeper issues within the context of a fun story.

8. Attend an extra VBS

Our church has a VBS week that we of course participate in, but I’ve also found it extremely helpful to attend the VBS of another local church too! It’s another fantastic church (that the grandparents go to!), and having that second week of VBS learning has been HUGE in keeping the kids learning and OFF the screens. Plus, I consider it like two weeks of camp where my kiddos learn more about Jesus. This is a total win/win. The more VBS mornings the better!

9. Park mornings.

Just.get.out.of.the.house. Take a coffee. Go to the nearest park. Sit on a bench with the baby. Dress the older kids in bright clothes so it’s easy to sit and feed the baby and COUNT to 4 over and over again as they play and make friends. (I ask Carter to help me keep an eye on Addison).

Some days I’ll load up some bikes and we’ll go to the park with the bike area and it’s such great practice for when Daddy loads everyone up for his 14 mile family bike rides!

10. Do A Big Family Adventure Day

In our case, this was…convince Daddy to take off work and visit Parc Safari in Montreal


I will never forget the sounds of my kids screaming with glee as a camel stuck his head INSIDE OUR VAN.

We don’t have any sort of a local zoo, so this sort of adventure was a first for our kiddos, and they absolutely loved it.

The animals, the road trip adventure, the family time, the stop at Chick fil a on the way home (we don’t have one in Vermont), the ferry ride…I will always remember this day.

I’m learning that when given the chance, always take the adventure. Even when it seems like a LOT..it will be worth it, every single time.

Of course, we have also done our fair share of puzzles and games and just “go entertain yourself with your toys!” and play OUTSIDE. I’m convinced there is power in being bored! (I just make sure the Fiber One Bars are locked up first) But with where we are at in life right now, I find a plan and one or two general activities per day can really help keep the screen time away.

So there ya go! My list of 10 things that have been helping us limit our screen time this summer. What would be on your list????


Deanna Smith