Summer brings a different routine for many families. Kids are home from school, and strict schedules often give way to more unstructured days and nights. This isn't the time to give up on your commitment to a green routine, though. It's actually a good time to set expectations for a fun and energy-efficient summer.

Oftentimes, the biggest summer struggle with kids is limiting their amount of screen time, whether it's playing video games, watching TV or surfing the Web. Too much screen time has not only been documented to have a negative effect on children's behavior, sleep, health and learning abilities, it also can have an impact on your energy bills. These devices use their own electricity, plus they generate heat that must be combated by turning down the air conditioning thermostat.

Next time your kids want to turn on the television or computer, suggest they try one of these 10 activities instead. They all use very little or no extra energy:

  • Go outside and play ball. Whether you want to practice your soccer, baseball or basketball moves, you don't necessarily need a huge yard or specialized equipment to play ball. You might even try a different kind of ball game – bocce ball, golf or volleyball, for example.
  • Create a treasure hunt. Write and hide clues for your siblings or friends to follow to find a prize. You might pick a theme to make it easier (for example, all clues are hidden inside household appliances) or more challenging (all clues are written in song lyrics).
  • Create an obstacle course. Use whatever you have on hand – a swing set, a low wall, jump rope, hoops – to set a course for weaving, jumping and running. Time yourself and others to see who gets through the fastest. Make it harder as you get faster.
  • Make dinner for your family. Try cold dishes such as sandwiches or salads that don't require heating the house with the stove or oven. Use a familiar recipe or create one of your own and name the dish after yourself!
  • Create frozen fruity treats. Fill ice cube trays with fruit juice and add in a piece of fruit, vegetable or herb. See who can come up with the craziest, yet still delicious, combination.
  • Find a new book series and read every book. This may be in a genre you've never tried before or a series from your grandparents' generation.
  • Write a play or song and perform it. Put together costumes and props for the performance. Don't know where to start? Think of your favorite animal, character or sport for inspiration.
  • Play board games, but make up new rules. Don't be afraid to combine elements from different games to create a new one – just remember to put pieces back in their right boxes.
  • Make gifts or cards for your family members. Incorporate photographs, pictures or objects that truly represent your relative or your relationship.
  • Start a collection. Gather a leaf from each kind of plant in your yard or see how many objects you can find that start with "M" or that are yellow. The possibilities are endless.

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