By Susan Ciancio

A friend and I went out to dinner last weekend, and as we sat at an outside table chatting, we noticed a family of four at a table a few feet away. It was a mother, father, a daughter who looked to be about 14, and a son who looked to be about 11. All except the father had their faces buried in their phones. For nearly 15 minutes, he sat there forlornly just looking around. But then he too pulled out his phone.

It made me incredibly sad, for it was a beautiful night and a fun restaurant, and all this family could think about was escaping to social media or texting or whatever they were doing.

As Ecclesiastes 3 teaches, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”

There is a time for enjoying social media. There is a time for texting friends. There is a time for relaxing by surfing the Internet. But we must realize that these times cannot consume us. All too often we see that devices—whether they be phones, computers, TVs, video games, or more—take up too much of our time. They begin to replace people.

As parents, it’s vital that we teach kids that family time is not only necessary but sacred. We know that families are the foundation of society. We know that children need parents. We know that children thrive when both parents nurture, support, and educate them. If we allow too much screen time or allow that time to replace conversations—be they fun, serious, or somewhere in between—we are giving up the raising of our children to robots, peers, and movie stars. This is no way to raise Godly, compassionate children who put others first.

So, as summer draws to a close, we urge you to make the most of these fun days. We urge you to do things as a family. Talk. Play games. Take trips. Play sports. Learn about our faith. Pray together.

To that end, we have 14 great suggestions for ways that you can combine fun, togetherness, and faith with your children this summer. Try one (or all!) of these. You’ll be amazed at how you and your kids won’t even miss those phones!

Visit a new church in your area

It used to be that all churches had a relic under the altar. Today, not all churches have one. But do some research and find one nearby that has a bit of history, a relic, some beautiful stained-glass windows, or something else unique. Then visit and learn something new.

Learn about a saint

The Culture of Life Studies Program has several lessons about saints. From St. Joseph, to St. Damien of Molokai, to St. Teresa of Calcutta, to St. Maximilian Kolbe and more, our lessons are a great way for you and your children to make friends with the saints.

Have a family game night

Turn off those phones and enjoy each other’s company with a night full of games. Make it even more fun by fixing a tasty treat such as cookies, brownies, or ice cream. Be sure to discuss the importance of family time. You can even talk about the Holy Family.

Make cupcakes for others

Baking with family can be a ton of fun! Double your cupcake recipe so you have enough to share with others. Talk about who in your community might need the happiness that your thoughtfulness will bring. You can share them with your parish priest, with a lonely neighbor, or with women at a local shelter for single moms. Decorate them with loving messages.

Learn about the Blessed Mother

There are so many Marian feast days to learn about. Choose one or two from this site and read about the different devotions. Explain how Mary is our spiritual mother and that we can go to her with our sorrows and our joys.

Go hiking

Hiking is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. On hikes, you not only marvel at the beauty of God’s nature, but you can have great conversations, laugh, learn, and get some fresh air and exercise.

Make your own Rosary

Have crafty kids? Making your own Rosary is a great way to teach how to pray it, but it’s also a great way to help your kids become invested in the Rosary. They get to choose the beads, the color, the crucifix, and more. Personalizing it will make it unique and may make them more likely to use and value it.

Check out our Marian lessons

CLSP has two Marian lessons—Our Lady of Guadalupe: Honoring the Patroness of Preborn Children (grades k-2) and Honoring the Blessed Mother. Both lessons teach the beauty of our Blessed Mother. Doing these lessons as a family will engender great conversations.

Ride bikes

Find a bike path through a park or other scenic area and get outside for some exercise. Discuss the importance of taking care of the body that God gave us.

Read the Bible together

Take some time each day to read the Bible as a family. You can either read from a children’s version or the regular version. Conversely, you can start the Bible in a Year podcast with your family.

Go to a zoo

God has created so many amazing animals. Go visit them and talk with your children about the beauty and wonder of a God who cares so much to fill the world with these awesome creatures.

Perform random acts of kindness

Show someone in your family that you value them. Take a week when you focus on doing one random act of kindness each day. Change the recipient of your random kindness each day. You can even do this anonymously and see if they can guess who did each act.

Paint or draw

Get some watercolors, some crayons, or whatever medium you prefer and challenge each member of the family to paint or draw something they are thankful for. Share with the rest of the family.

Pray!

Prayer is something we should do multiple times throughout the day. But it’s much more poignant when we pray as a family. Take some time each evening to pray. Everyone in the family can lead a prayer and designate it for a specific intention.

There is a time for everything, but we must learn to prioritize. God comes first, then family, then other things. Let us always remember—and teach our children to remember—the things that are truly important in life.