Reigning in Kid's Screen Time

During our well earned summer break from school, we intentionally leave enough time to get bored. Still, I’ve found that a little bit of routine helps the kids learn to manage time and keep their heads in the game... just enough.


I’m so happy to have the kids at home during the summer without the rush and stress of school, homework, and team practices, that I’d love to schedule absolutely nothing. But it doesn’t seem to work for them… or, more accurately, their idea of doing nothing means not being bothered by anyone while they sit in front of a screen for hours. Even they get bored of that, but the fatigue and crabbiness after too much screen time is just not something that I can live with.  

So here’s what we do. On weekdays, before there are any electronics, each of the things below needs to be checked off (when they were little, I printed checklists with cute animals on it so it looked like something fun). I tell them that if they’ve done all these things, then yes, they can have a movie marathon, they can play video games for hours. Truth is, I usually whisk them out of the house when they finish and postpone any screen time until much later...It seems to work.

These have evolved over the years as the kids have grown. Adjust to suit your kids’ ages and family lifestyle, and share your ideas in a comment!


  • 30 minutes study time: very light work in summer workbooks - a page or two of math, a page or two of language arts. Most of the time it doesn’t take 30 minutes

  • 30 minutes of silent reading

  • 30 minutes being creative: drawing, painting, sewing, crafting, science experiments, building legos, writing songs, etc., but nothing that involves electronics...not yet

  • 30 minutes “earning” work: chores - this is a stroke of genius, I have to admit. We’ve yet to assign particular chores for allowance, but ask them to help all the time. This summer, for the first time, we’ve attached “earning” to the work that they do around the house, and they’ve been brilliant at wiping down the kitchen, the bathroom, folding laundry, and when it’s hot, washing the cars. Anything for a buck! And it doesn’t always have to be a full 30 minutes - you take on the bathroom and you earn my gratitude as well as money!

  • 60 minutes physical activity: sometimes this gets folded into activities for the rest of the day, like biking to open swim at the municipal pool, heading to the park for some basketball and tennis, bike to the library or out to lunch, etc. But on the days when we think a movie marathon is in order… first things first, get up and move that body! And yes, yoga DVDs, messing around with yoga and handstands in the park, it’s all fun, and I get in on it too!