Tuesday, June 9, 2015

managing summer quiet time

this post is sponsored by acorn, an influence company. all thoughts and opinions are my own.

summer vacation is officially upon us and i have five kids at home for the next two months. i know i should be gushing here about how thrilled i am and how wonderful all of our together time will be but, honestly, summertime can feel overwhelming to me. trying to entertain or engage five kids who range from a preschooler to a middle schooler can be a challenge. adding to that confusion, my sister just moved to town with her family, which is wonderful, but adds three more boys to the mix. there are eight kids perpetually in and out of my house and any number of neighborhood friends who are constantly running about. it really is fantastic chaos and i'm happy to see my kids engaging in so much play time. still, there are moments when i just need things to slow down.

i'm not a huge advocate of screen time. when my kids have friends nearby, i'm all for them playing outside and enjoying the freedom of summer. still, i can see they have limits and, even on their best days, they get tired...of the heat, of the activity, of the noise, of trying to behave with so many people around. i know that i recharge with quiet alone time and i'm recognizing that my kids need quiet, alone time as well. they are just not very good about expressing that need or even admitting it exists. 

for that reason, most days we have afternoon "quiet" time. my preschooler will still take a nap. my five year old will lay down and take a rest and my other three have to do something to slow and cool down. they all have handheld devices and i'm not ashamed to admit that we build in electronic game time into our summer days. they can each play independently. they don't have to talk (or fight) with one another. they can give their bodies a little break from the heat and the constant activity. they can just enjoy a few minutes of quiet. it has become one of my favorite parts of the day.

there are many apps that can be downloaded onto your phones or other electronic devices but my current vice (yes, i play it too) is seriously best fiends. it is a simple, free mobile app set in a different land where slugs have taken over the world and little insects and critters work together to fight back. the player works to give the critters more power by connecting shapes. it is simple, easy, completely clean and non-violent and can be played by just about anyone. i have to admit, i have spent some quiet summer moments of my own enjoying a bit of mindless playtime. 

there have been some added bonuses to this game in particular for me. first of all, when i downloaded it, my middle schooler recognized it right away. apparently his friends had the game on their devices so he was all too happy to get it on his phone. he tried to give me some tips on playing. seriously...he had more than grunts and shrugs of frustration to send my way. really, any amount of talking from a 12 year old is a good thing but this was nothing short of miraculous. he has since become very impressed at my gaming skills (#mommycred) and has even asked me how he can get to higher levels on his game. who would have thought that a little app could give my son and i something to chat about during the summer months. 

it has also been sweet to watch my little three year old engage in the action. tonight i was cuddling with him while he waited for his five year old brother to fall asleep. i pulled out the game for a few minutes while we snuggled and he "helped" me play a couple of games, cheering and encouraging as we went along. he was precious and was actually able to sit still with me for about ten minutes while we played the game together. 

again, i'm not advocating a ton of screen time nor do i think games should take the place of books and personal interaction or outside play, but having a simple, easy game for my kids to play for a short amount of time each day has been just what we all needed. the game does have in-app purchases (which we have blocked on all of our children's devices) and it does have a limited number of lives before you have to wait to recharge. this built in limit has been a great bonus for us as it helps as a built in timer. when lives run out, so does the screen time for the day. if they somehow manage to keep their lives up for 30 minutes, then the OurPact app we installed on their devices will automatically turn off their devices after "game time" is over. isn't technology amazing?

there is one other piece of greatness with the seriously best fiends app. players are able to donate to "malaria no more" through a link on the game. while my children cannot make any online donations or purchases through their devices, they are still able to see a cause and learn about a cause that opens the door to meaningful conversations within our family. i'd say that is a double win! 

what about you? how do you manage and foster screen time and quiet times within your own families? what games and apps do you find appropriate for your entire family? if you haven't tried it yet, seriously best fiends is a great place to start. 

check out seriously best fiends.

facebook: @bfiends 
twitter: @bestfiends

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