By Cynthia Johnson and Andrea Goldbloom Charest

The world needed to slow down. In the blink of an eye, life has become simplified.

I am an in-home educational tutor who works with parents (who are now mostly telecommuting) and their kids (who are now mostly engaged in recreational screen time, even more than before.) Yes, I also Skype. Sigh.

Hit pause on screen time. How can you and your family enjoy some simple pleasures with fewer electronics? Here are some ideas to do as a family:

  1. As a family, put together an hourly schedule for each day of the week. Remember: hope is not a plan. Instead of letting kids be in their rooms for hours at a time—sometimes pretending to do schoolwork, but actually doing recreational screen time—follow the schedule. Include physical education (PE). Make it like a school schedule.
  2. Read to your child, whether they are one year old or seventeen years old. When a kindergarten student began saying that her “friends” were talking with her after endless hours of playing video games, her mother knew recreational screen addiction was a reality. Reading books is so very important. No e-books. Real books. Try non-fiction books; the Who Was or What Was series is incredible. Younger children will love the I Am series. Have your kids read to you from their books? And quiz you!
  3. Work in the yard together. Buy those beautiful spring flowers and plant them. Make it part of their PE class. Teach your children how to use a rake, a shovel, and other garden tools. Make a game of it!
  4. Bake or cook something. Remember grandma’s ginger cookies? Find fun recipes and follow them. It uses math skills! Most younger kids . . . and older ones . . . do not know how to measure liquids or cook using recipes. This is truly experiential learning.
  5. Do craft projects. Buy the fun and fabulous paint-by-numbers acrylic or oil kits for both adults and children. Use your artistic talents!
  6. Write in a daily diary. Get the three-year diary that asks 365 questions for kids or a gratitude journal. There is also one for adults and couples.
  7. Sing some songs together. I still remember every night when my grandmother would sing to me at bedtime . . . “Oh, how happy I feel when I crawl into bed and the rattlesnakes rattle a hole in my head.” Yes, I am still afraid of snakes, but I remember the thrill every night of someone singing to me before I dozed off to dreamland. 
  8. Play, play, play PHYSICAL board games! It is a great way to reconnect and get to know some fun and crazy things about each other. Try out some social skills. Put together all those puzzles that might be still in your closet . . . clean out those closets together also.
  9. Write a real letter, with paper and pen, to grandparents or family members. This is a historic time, and those letters will be kept.
  10. Learn what the schools are putting together online. Use a written planner to record the assignments and follow it daily.
  11. When you do use screen time, use it educationally. Find the link for Museum Virtual Tours and enjoy it as a family.
  12. Together as a family, help others in your neighborhood.
  13. Finally, and most important, tell each person in your family why you love them. This is a time to get to know each other better.

Yes, the world is changing. Make this an opportunity to grow closer as a family.

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