Our Screen Free Summer

July 27, 2019

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This post is sponsored by Pottery Barn’s Sustainable Collections

When school got out at the end of May, we decided we were going to do a screen free  summer for the girls. No iPads, TV, stealing our phone to watch a show at a restaurant (even the baby when she got fussy!). To be honest, I didn’t really announce it because I wasn’t sure how it would go.  It seemed to somehow become part of our and their routines. It started with just 30 minutes of screen time a day and then it grew to an hour. And then they’d sneak it before school. We noticed their moods weren’t great, their attention was worse and their creativity was plummeting. There was tension in our home and it was our responsibility to take a step–a leap, really–to change it.

At first we weren’t sure if this was the time to try it. We were moving away from all of their friends and Chris and I were going to be really busy trying to get settled in a new house, but I am SO glad we did and stuck with it. So much so that I’d love to extend an invitation to all kids: FINISH THE SUMMER SCREEN FREE! It took about a week for them to stop asking for shows and devices and their moods improved drastically almost immediately.

Our girls haven’t made many friends yet, but they are playing together now and rediscovering their toys and getting up and running outside. Our personal parenting style is not so much to create fun for our kids. We aren’t in charge of their happiness or boredom or creativity. But we do provide opportunity and tools and support!

Sometimes that looks like a pack of traffic cones that they could set up and create a course for their bikes. Letting them help make meals. Giving them opportunities to earn money (we pay a quarter a chore around here!). Unpacking the craft box before anything else. Teaching them how to play sardines or a fun card game and letting them loose. Lessons for something they’re really interested in (Greta is taking Horse Back riding this summer!). A blow up pool! FREE TIME. Like literally schedule nothing. A library day once a week and a new lounger under the trees to read.


Isn’t it amazing what a piece of furniture in the right location or even a new location will do? (Seriously, go move a chair into a new corner and I bet everyone wants to sit in it!) We got two of these Indio Mesh stacking outdoor chaises last month and put them under one of the trees on our property and it’s like we built our family a clubhouse. They are perfect for lounging, reading, chatting, warming up after the pool. And Chris and I love to relax after work (screen free ourselves!) and just watch the girls play. The chaises are a beautiful part of Pottery Barn’s sustainable outdoor collection.

We can change our homes and the world by making responsible decisions one at a time. Pottery Barn is watching out for their family (and ours!) by consciously choosing to shrink their ecological footprint and protect the health of their customers and factory workers — from sourcing reclaimed and recycled materials to partnering with organizations that restrict the use of harmful chemicals.

The list of environmentally friendly products is constantly growing and Pottery Barn is keeping up, selling sustainable products including organic bedding and bath textiles; recycled PET flooring and rugs; reclaimed-wood furniture; eco upholstered beds and sofas; and lighting made from recycled glass, to name just a few.

Here are a few favorites from their outdoor collection (bonus: most are on super sale now!)

1. Indio Outdoor Sofa $1,004
2. Rectangular Outdoor Umbrella $331
3. Indio Occasional Chair $535
4. Indio Storage Bench no longer available
5. Indio Buffet $561
6. Hampstead Painted Stacking Dining Chair $92
7. Hampstead Painted Extending Dining Table no longer available
8. Ibiza Occasional Chair $286
9. Bamboo Kitchen Compost Bin $39
10. Indio Extending Dining Table $799
11. Indio Porch Bench $374
12. Indio Side Table $224
13. Ibiza Sectional Set $1,457
14. Indio Coffee Table $336
15. Round Outdoor Umbrella $104
16. Hampstead Painted Occasional Armchair $465

We’d love to have you on board for the screen-free kids challenge for the rest of the summer–let me know and we can all support each other. And hey, maybe treat yourself to a new sustainable piece to celebrate with. ;)

What do you think?

  1. Ashley says:

    I love this idea! I am wondering if you would do this in the winter when your outdoor time is more limited? We live right outside Phoenix and most days right now are 110+ and I’m trying to figure out how this would work for us in the summer- when it’s cooler and the kids are able to safely play outside, they naturally use less screens. (With limited money to “entertain” them I always cave with the screens during the summer.) What a blessing this new home is for you all and your girls are going to make so many awesome memories together playing in that backyard!

  2. Kristen Eff says:

    Screens are such a loaded topic. I have a 4 year old and when I tell people we “don’t do screens” they look at me blankly, then get defensive about their own choices. *I strongly feel that each family should do what’s right for them at that time.*

    For my family, being screen free right now works. We give her an option of 15 minutes a day of educational apps but she usually wants to do something else, and we wait for her to ask instead of offering it. However, I feel like I’m the last parent on the earth(!) that isn’t allowing screens and feel self-conscious when I talk about it. My reasons for not using screens are that when we’re passively being entertained, it’s more about what we’re not doing: interacting with humans, using our bodies, problem solving, exploring, etc. Also, ALL the research shows the effects on mood and development are negative. She can stare at screens the rest of her life, but I feel it’s important for her developing brain to avoid the effects of screen time during these years.

    Regarding using screens so we can “get things done,” sometimes I put my 4 year old in the Ergo because she’s clingy. Sometimes it takes twice as long to cook dinner because of interruptions. It’s a trade off. But let’s face it: the chores will never end, but teaching my kid to entertain herself while I bust out a meal will last her entire life.

  3. Annie says:

    That’s great this is working for your family! Of course this wouldn’t be attainable for all families (but like… what would? nothing’s a one size fits all… so I totally encourage parents to share their ideas and successes!), but I think even implementing little bits can be really helpful. Also, LOVED this – “We aren’t in charge of their happiness or boredom or creativity. But we do provide opportunity and tools and support!”

  4. Carrie says:

    I’d love to hear how people do this with one child. Mine can be self-directed for a time, but I have some mom guilt about her playing by herself ALL the time (secondary infertility does not help my mom guilt), and my stay at home husband also can’t be the “entertainer” a big chunk of the day. I feel like having siblings makes this a bit easier. I totally agree on the mood improvement with less screen time, but it’s a struggle to work it out. Anyone have experience to share? Thanks!

    • Natalee says:

      I’d like to know as well. We also live in a condo so sending my little one outside is something I can’t really do ????

    • MelissaB says:

      I suggest researching the Montessorri method in regards to self directed play/independent play.

      Let go of that mom guilt; it’s been researched and it is really good for their confidence, focus, gives them some calm, allows them to self soothe and cultivate a sense of self, teaches them how to have fun independently, grows their imagination among many other benefits! These are all skills you’d be giving your child that last a lifetime and contribute to their becoming a better person, no guilt necessary.

  5. Tarynkay says:

    What a great idea to use a move as a reset!

    For those thinking going screen free is impossible as your child’s sole caregiver, I’d like to offer the encouragement that going screen free might actually make life easier. This has been my experience as a SAHM to two very energetic little boys. When screens are available, they want more endlessly. Which makes sense bc very smart people design these things to work just that way. When screens aren’t available, they find ways to entertain themselves all day long. They do occasionally complain of being bored. I then follow my dad’s tried and true technique of listing of chores they can do. As he would say, “If you’re going to be bored, you might as well be useful at the same time!”

  6. I always thought I would be a screen free parent right off the bat, but I gave in a few months back. I had high hopes from my childhood as I didn’t even watch TV until I was in the middle of elementary school and only if I read my parents a book first, or did some sort of learning activity. This re-motivated me to give it another go!

    Stephanie | A Learning Story

  7. Kate says:

    We strongly limit screen time here because we have also noticed a mood change after they watch a show or have an iPad. How do you handle being on your phone in front of your kids? While some of the email and social media checking is work based, do you scroll Instagram in front of them? Not judging just curious and thinking about how I can better implement no screens for us.

    • Julia says:

      I have designated work hours from 8:30 to 3:30 and then Chris takes over if I’m not quite done yet. But once I’m out of my office I try to limit my time on my phone (don’t check texts or instagram or email) until after the girls go to bed. It’s hard and I’m not perfect but I think it’s all about trying and trying to be present.

  8. Elsie says:

    This is such a great idea! My husband and I have five kids and no tv or personal media device and our kids do not play or watch movies on our cell phones. I am a stay at home Mom and love watching my kids play and interact with each other. We do set up our laptop and watch a movie as a family every so often while eating popcorn.

  9. Love it! Such a great spot to read too! I have a couple chaise lounges under my magnolia tree and they always get claimed first! Have you and Chris been lounging on them constantly?

  10. Celice says:

    Even as a SAHM who’s with her kids 40+ hrs, I’ve found our days to be much more pleasant once we are in a screen free routine. You’re right- it takes less than a week for them to stop asking for it and the creativity and the moods skyrocket! Also AMEN to the FREE TIME! Glad you’re putting out this message :)

  11. Kati says:

    I completely agree, screen free is totally the way to be! Screens really wind up my kids & their mood shifts! But, what really annoys me, is that it’s really pretty impossible for stay at home mothers to be screen free! I’m with both my kids 24/7 when they’re not at school! Screen time allows me to make dinner & also get little things done. My friend brags and brags that her kids are screen free, ummmm… yea you have 2 nannies! Duh! It’s much easier, kids take direction from others & follow rules better when it’s not their parents! I do feel guilty, but bragging that “my kids are screen free”, is kinda crappy if you have help. If I had help, then yeah the 4 or 5 hours I’m with them in the evening I’m not gonna put On Wild Kratts!

  12. Liz says:

    We went screen free with our three kids 4 years ago. It’s been the biggest game changer for our family! Love that you did this.

  13. SMH says:

    Yes, but how many hours a week are you their sole provider versus working and employing a sitter/nanny? For those who are with their kids 40+ hours a week it is not as easy to go screen free, I bet.

    • Julia says:

      We do have a nanny (my mom) during our designated work hours 8:30-3:30, but it is at our home and we’re still very hands on. I don’t disagree that isnt hard though.

  14. Barbara Tilton says:

    “We can change our homes and the world by making responsible decisions one at a time.”

    I really hope you reconsider accepting money and ads from Juul on your website. The impact their nicotine products is having on children in this country is heartbreaking.

  15. DD says:

    I recommend a great book on… books! The Enchanted Hour highlights the importance of spending TIME reading with children and adults to bond, to share, to enlighten. There’s a great series of lists for all categories of books. I’m expecting my first grandchild, a girl, in November, and I already have 40 board books to read to her! Brava you for going screen-free this summer!

  16. Jen says:

    I love the screen free idea and encourage you to extend it and limit screen time as much as sensible especially as it relates to cell phones. We’ve limited our own daughter to not having a cell phone until she was 15 or as she calls it “last person in the world to get a phone”. Once she got the phone, we had strict rules with the biggest ones being 1) the phone is stored in a kitchen drawer (she doesn’t carry it around when home), 2) not allowed in your bedroom, 3) no social media, 4) no downloading any apps, 5) must regularly call grandparents. No Fortnite, no endlessly watching youtube, it’s wonderful. Not having Snapchat seems to be our daughters biggest gripe. She has told us that we are making it difficult for her to be included by her friends because she’s not on Snap. I’m sure she is missing out on many needless snaps and we are soooooo okay with it.

    Countless people have commented on her ability to hold f2f conversations, her politeness, her curiosity, her maturity and we always think that her limited phone use is a big factor towards improving her social skills.

    She reads endlessly and I know that it wouldn’t be the case if her face was buried in the phone.

    In terms of TV time, she’s limited as well. Mostly, we watch shows and movies together. Perhaps a couple times a month she’ll watch something on her own. Part of that is because she’s busy enough with other things that she doesn’t have the time to camp out in front of the TV.

    I like your explanation of your parenting style–not in charge of happiness, boredom, or creativity. It reminded me of something my husbands 95 yr old grandmother would say…”only boring people get bored!”. Our daughter has learned to find things to do, to be creative, to think outside of the box/device!

    • Meredith says:

      Jen– as I was reading this, I felt like I was reading something that I HAD WRITTEN because this is exactly how we run things in our home too! We now have two teen daughters (16 and 14) and these are our same rules for them. I do think storing the phones in a kitchen drawer when they are at home is a GAME CHANGER. We even told our girls that when their friends come over, their phones go in the drawer as well. We need to teach our kids that phones are NOT a fifth appendage, but a tool to be used only at certain times, not when you are bored or sad, or want to avoid interacting with others! Technology can be wonderful, but the key is to use it with intention and self-control. A movie/show watched together as a family can be a bonding experience that can encourage conversation and possibly spark discussion on values/standards when characters in the movie or show may not make choices that we agree with. When our kids binge watch shows or movies alone, it can lead to isolation, lack of sleep, and there is no one there to discuss issues that may come up in the show, which can lead to an eventual feeling of normalcy with continued exposure to values that conflict with ours.

      I have told my kids that they will not be on social media while they are living at home. My girls have seen enough drama from friends because of social media that they don’t even fight it! They don’t even need internet on their phones, so we have disabled that and the ability to download apps. This helps the phone to truly be a tool– it only contains apps they need for school!

      Don’t give up, parents. BE the parent and set boundaries. We all need them!

  17. Keely says:

    I LOVE this idea, and we have tried it before! However it worked great for my daughter (she engaged in independent play, was more creative, etc. My son, not so much! He did okay, but we as the parents didn’t! At 11, his friends are online gaming, and he felt totally cut off. So as beneficial as cutting back on screen time is, we found that eliminating it caused more stress on us. Just another perspective!

  18. Pascale says:

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been noticing the same behavior in my daughter and have drastically cut down screen time but your experience encourages me to make our summer totally screen free. If you got this, I do too!

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We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

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