It’s that time again. Summer.

If you haven’t celebrated your last day of school yet, you probably will  soon. Then life starts to look very different. Endless days of unplanned play can lead to difficult decisions, one of which is just how much TV your kids should watch.

For the first two summers my kids were off school, I went ahead and let my kids watch TV when they woke up. It made sense to give me a slower morning and keep them happier in the meantime. But, when the time came to pull them away, things got ugly. They never wanted to turn the television off, which led to confrontation and me playing the role of the strict parent. Following the uprising and the consequential smack down, we all felt grumpy.  Not to mention, half of the day had slipped away. Those two summers ended without a sense of accomplishment or fun. We missed most of our days.

So, despite my “okay-ness” with summer TV time, I had to rethink my strategy. I told my kids, “We need to take back our vacations!” So, the television no longer comes on in the morning. Instead, we set some ground rules for Tube Time.

If it seems like a day we want to spend some time in front of the Tube, we need to meet three requirements before we turn it on:

1. Exercise Our Brains

We stay away from worksheets and flash cards. To work our brains, we go to a place where we can experience something new or learn more about something we already know. We might head out to a museum or a historic site. If we need to run errands, they help write the lists or add up how much the groceries will cost.

2. Exercise Our Bodies

Please do not interpret this as a fitness routine! We find fun and natural ways to move. Most of time this means that we are playing at a park, swimming in a friend’s pool, or jumping waves at the beach. When things get desperate, our exercise is a dance party in the living room!

3. Be Productive

Our definition of “productive” leaves a lot of wiggle room. They can help around the house by cleaning their room, picking up the patio, or folding laundry. They can build a new creation or make a craft. We even consider time with friends as productive. Our objective is to make sure to actually see some sort of progress for our time, anywhere from cleaner houses to closer friends.

One thing about our new requirements surprised me. They worked! Last summer was one of the best our family has experienced. Our mornings stayed relatively calm. We get out more.  Even my kids now agree with the no TV in the morning rule.