Dealing with Digital Doings this Summer Break: 5 Tips

The laments have already started coming in - parents frustrated that their kids are enjoying more screen time than sun time in these early days of the summer break.

While it’s tempting to give in to children’s demand for video games, online chatting, constant texting, and other digital doings, it’s hardly healthy or productive. Some parents deal with it by enrolling their kids in camps, courses, and other activities – if the can afford the pricey programs.

For the rest of us, free or low-cost options can seem limited. But they aren’t. Here are a couple of ideas.

1. Hit the local library

Summer reading programs began in the 1890s as a way to encourage school children, particularly those in urban areas and not needed for farm work, to read during their summer vacation, use the library and develop the habit of reading. And the best part is, these programs are free.
Usually, they offer all kinds of coupons and prizes of free meals and outings, for example, once a child has read a certain number of hours per day or week. It’s an excellent way to instill the lifelong habit of reading for pleasure.

2. Apprentice with someone older to learn a new skill

Summer programs that teach kids all kinds of fun skills, whether that is cooking, playing a certain sport or arts and crafts can cost upward of $200 for a six-week session. If you’ve got more than one child, multiply that by each one and you’re looking at a fortune. Ditch the fees by finding someone older who would be willing to teach your child for free in exchange for some service, be it mowing their lawn or running errands. The benefit of choosing someone older, preferably a grandparent or other family member, is that it will cement the family bond, while helping the teacher feel useful and productive – something many of the elderly crave.

3. Speaking of mowing the lawn…..

Engage your kids in chores. A friend of mine recently handed her four-year-old a spray bottle and paper towels with which he cleaned the entire kitchen floor – and he loved every minute of it. While your fourteen-year-old may not be as enthused by the prospect of doing chores instead of chilling in front of the computer screen, make it a requirement of the season to fulfill a certain amount of household duties in exchange for screen time. 

Research backs up the importance of kids being assigned chores around the house. By involving children in tasks, parents teach their children a sense of responsibility, competence, self-reliance, and self-worth that stays with them throughout their lives.

4. Give Digital Points

Make using the phone to text friends or the computer something kids have to earn in exchange for memorizing one verse of the Quran per day or reading X amount of pages of an Islamic studies/Seerah/Islamic  history book. This way, kids will understand that their digital privileges are contingent upon successful completion of learning more about their faith on a regular basis. Make sure to write down their progress on a chart and check that they have actually memorized or read what they say they have. By the end of summer, you may have a budding Hafiz in your midst.

5. Nature Centers and Forest Preserves

Take advantage of the great weather to regularly visit the free nature centers and forest preserves across the country. Not only is this cost-efficient, it’s an excellent way to express appreciation for Allah’s creation. Throw in a picnic, a short talk about the Muslim duty to care for the environment, Salah, and a nature sketching or birdwatching session, and you’ve got enough activities to start your own summer program.

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