Nothing better to do

It's June!

It’s time to spend every minute we can outside, right? 

But how?

Check out our Outdoors Issue (June 2016) for starters. It's on racks now.

Then please consider my advice for making the most of these summer months ahead: Pull back on screen time. 

I know, I know: I’ve read suggestions like these many times and I’ve said to myself, “No way! I NEED my kid’s screen time. How would I live?” 

But I’m here to tell you: It’s worth a try.

I recently reduced my 8-year-old son’s screen time from almost unlimited to 1 to 2 hours per day. He now does ½ hour in the morning before school, ½ hour after school and 2 hours on weekend days (usually split with 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour saved up for later in the day).

I set my iPhone timer and demand the phone or tablet back when the time’s up. TV counts as screen time, too, with two exceptions — movie nights (with me or friends) and screen time at friends’ houses during play dates.  (I view these things as more acceptable “social screen time.”)  

I went in with real fear. Screen time had become my pacifier. 

But, so far, I’m utterly shocked to say: I love it. Yes, there’s been some whining from my strong-willed son during these first two experimental weeks, but not nearly the constant battle I was expecting. 

And I actually feel like I got my son — and even my real life — back. He hangs around me and helps me with things he wouldn’t have helped with when the allure of screen time was ever-present: We cook. We garden. We clean (with decreased whining). We play outside longer. He plays longer by himself, too. Yay!

Recently, he helped me volunteer at a cold, windy plant sale at school for six hours, staying even to the bloody end with me and one other parent, doing clean up.

Would he have held out that long without protest if he knew unlimited Castle Clash was at home waiting for him?

I don’t think so. 

Have I devoted more time to him under the new rules? Yes.

But I’ve still been able to get a lot done. And I’ve felt more present, balanced and with him, too. And I think he feels more content.

Why? I’ve heard that our kids, most of the time, just want us. 

And when they get us, we’re all happier. 

Maybe it’s because we all know: We have nothing better to do.

Sarah Jackson is the Editor of Minnesota Parent magazine. She lives in Minnetonka. Write her at