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Sustainable Summer Break for Teens and Tweens

As much as I love summer break for my kiddos, it can be challenging to find activities for them to do to stay busy during the summer, especially now that they are in their teens and tweens.

Summer is the best season to expose your budding young adults to new experiences in creation, different ways of caring for neighbors, and spirit-filling moments they might not otherwise have with their Creator.

The freedom of summer schedules allows for lots of creativity and growth that is more challenging to achieve during the regimented hours of the school year, so embrace the wildness of summer! 

Kick ‘em Outside

The easiest thing for me to do in the summer is let my kids stay plugged into whatever gaming device with which they’re currently the most obsessed. 

But easy isn’t everything. 

Studies show that outdoor activity can improve adolescent mental health and wellbeing, and many studies now indicate that extensive time on screens, especially social media, is detrimental to mental health. Of course, that’s true for us adults as well. Perhaps the best way to convince your children to get outdoors is to model an outdoor life for them.

Make a plan to visit a handful of local parks this summer. Take walks or bike rides to local restaurants or ice cream shops to intentionally slow down your pace of life and take in your surroundings. Join a bicycling club in your community. Or simply hang a hammock or grab a blanket and a book to take in that bright blue sky, soft breeze, and birdsong in your backyard.

Limit Screen Time

Image: Christian Joudrey 

When your workday prohibits you from taking the lead on outdoor play, more drastic measures need to be taken. 

The best way I know to limit my kids’ screen time and encourage them to get outdoors is to turn off the wireless access and limit screen time app activity (here’s how to do it on your Apple device). We use eero to limit wifi access by user and device in our house. This is especially great for my night-owl ADHD gamer who loses all sense of time. When the Internet goes out, that’s the cue to go to sleep.

Leave Space for Boredom

Now that they’re unplugged, now what are you supposed to do with them?!

As parents, we feel some heavy weight of obligation to keep our kids occupied every hour of every day… anything to avoid that one whiny phrase, “I’m boooooored.”

But boredom isn’t a bad thing. Actually, it’s a critical tool for our brain’s development. Empty, unstructured time that begins in boredom evolves into creativity and innovation. And out of creativity and innovation, our God-given passions, purpose, and pleasures are realized.

Give your kids ample space to be bored. In that boredom, they’ll begin to discover who they are and how God made them to be.

Sustainable Activities to Nurture Creation Care

The greatest way to encourage caring for creation is kicking your kids out into it to discover a great love and appreciation for all that God has made. We are inclined to take care of the things we love, so if you want them to grow in their care of the planet, foster a love of nature and creation in your kids.

BioLogos recently released this handy flier with many different ideas for how you can encourage your teens and tweens to love and care for creation:

Cultivate a Conservation Lifestyle

Incorporate creation care into your daily activities by starting a compost pile, sorting out and dropping off recyclable products, and incorporating at least one meatless meal into your week. Put your teens in charge of one or more sustainable activities in your home, but don’t neglect to tell them why: God made the Earth and gave us the responsibility of taking care of it and making sure it stays healthy.

It’s always easier to keep up a practice when we know the reason it’s important.

Plant a Native Species Garden

Cut back on grass and grow a native species garden to nurture the area’s pollinators and help out your local biodiversity. Plus, less lawn space means less fuel and more time to play outdoors instead of working outdoors! 

The National Wildlife Federation offers this native plant finder to locate flora that is local to your zip code.

Buy Produce at the Farmer’s Market

Take your teens and tweens to the local farmer’s market each week so they can help you select fresh produce from local farmers, which benefits the local economy and allows you to choose produce that has been locally raised through sustainable agricultural practices.

Or Grow-Your-Own Food

Put your teens in charge of garden planting, maintenance, and harvest to help them understand where their food comes from. Gardening is an empowering activity that fuels their sense of accomplishment and builds confidence in their abilities to care for themselves later down the road.

Participate in a Trash Clean-Up Project

Despite aggressive anti-littering campaigns the last forty years, some people still toss their trash onto the side of the road, where it often ends up in ditches, creeks, rivers, and wildlife natural habitats. Encourage your kids to initiate or locate a trash clean-up project in your community.

Develop a Recycling Program for Your Home (or School, or Church)

Image: Sigmund

If your family doesn’t already recycle, ask your teens to investigate the local recycling programs available. If nothing exists, encourage them to advocate for a recycling program to the local government officials. If there’s a program in place, plan for and dedicate space in your home to sort and collect recyclable products, and put them in charge of it.

Recycling is a small thing we can all do to make a big difference for the environment. This act might inspire a greater desire to be environmentally minded in your teens. Don’t limit them to just your home! Encourage them to look beyond your house, into your local community, for places that could be made better. Write to local parks officials, local government leaders, local pastors, and the local school board to request recycling bins in heavily traveled areas of the community.

These are just a few ways you can encourage your kids to express their love and care for God’s creation. For more ideas like these, download the “Get Your Hands Dirty by Caring for Creation” flier from BioLogos!

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