Keeping the kids busy, entertained, and happy during the summer can be a challenge. I’m big on reminding my kids that it’s not my job to be their playmate or entertain them. However, I also want them to have a good time and not sit around all summer staring at the wall, you know? One thing that we’ve found really helps them to be a little more engaged and busy on those long summer days is to have a summer screen time checklist!

I get a lot of questions about what’s on our list and how we manage it, so today I’m breaking it down for you.

What is a Screen Time Checklist?

Basically, our summer screen time checklist is a list of things my kids need to do if they want to have screens. Of course, the most obvious purpose is just to make sure that they don’t rot their brains in front of video games all summer long. But, it serves a lot of other purposes for us as well:

  • It ensures they get some exercise and sunshine daily
  • It keeps them in a routine, which is good for all of us
  • It keeps them busy for several hours, which allows me to get some work done
  • And, of course, it reminds them that there’s a lot more to do in our house than sit in front of the television!

We’ve done this for as long as I can remember and, while the kids might complain about it when they’re talking to their friends, they really do like having the structure and routine that comes with it.

Our 2023 Summer Screen Time Checklist

The items on our checklist stay largely the same from year to year, but I do change it up a bit each year to make sure it fits our needs.

Here’s a look at their lists for 2023:

I’m using these cute little reusable task boards for it and so far it’s the best method we’ve tried yet! I’ve done printable lists, I’ve laminated them…I’ve tried it all. But having a little slider that they can check off and then reset each day has been SO MUCH easier to keep up with!

My boys are 9 and 4 (almost 5), and their lists are mostly the same except for one chore. Here’s what’s on the list this year:

  • Brush teeth
  • Pick up room
  • Move your body for 30 minutes
  • Read a book for 20 minutes
  • Play outside for 30 minutes
  • Draw, plah doh, or crafts for 30 minutes
  • Brain Quest workbook
  • Chore (my older son has to empty the dishwasher, my younger son feeds the dogs)
  • Water the outside plants (they do this together)
  • Pick up toys downstairs

At a minimum, this takes them two hours a day. Once you factor in them getting distracted, playing, or pausing to have snacks or play together, they almost never finish the entire list before noon or so.

How Does It Work?

My kids know that they have to finish their list before they have any screens. And, they’re both pretty highly motivated by screens. So, they generally get started on the list right when they wake up. It works out nicely for us because I like to spend my morning getting some computer work done and really focusing.

So, they usually start right away and are busy working on their lists together until at least 10:30 or 11:00 each morning. I have a flexible work schedule, so I usually take a break around then and we run errands, go to the pool, or do another activity together. Then, after lunch, they get a couple of hours of screens while I get some more work done!

One kiddo working on his Brain Quest book while brother does some drawing!

Is it a perfect system? Of course not. Some days things fall apart and they whine or argue or I have to spend the whole day helping them manage the list. But most of the time, it’s a really great system that works perfectly for our little routine-oriented family.

Do You Ever Just…Have Fun?

Listen, I think when we talk about summer checklists it’s also important to remember that some days are just FUN! Summer is all about being flexible and throwing out the schedule every once in a while, so we absolutely do have fun. There are days where we go see a movie midday (regardless of what’s on the checklist). Some days we spend most of the day out adventuring, and when we get home I throw the list out. Some days, I just can’t and I declare a pajama and movie day. It happens!

But, because we have the structure and routine in place most of the time, those days feel extra special! My kids both thrive on structure and I would argue that most kids do. Plus, as a household with two working parents, having this level of structure and schedule in place is vital to ensure we actually get a little bit of work done!

Printable Screen Time Checklist

Looking for something to use for your own family this summer? Here’s a simple printable version of our checklist! It’s a great way to test the waters out before you purchase something like our reusable to do lists. Just print it out and stick it on the fridge, and give it a shot for a week or so.

You may just be surprised at how much you love it!


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