When you need your kids to step away from the screens, you need plenty of fun screen free activities they can do!
Screen time… I both love and hate those little electronic devices of addiction. There are moments when they make life easier as a parent, allowing a few precious minutes to make dinner, catch up on work or even take a nap. Yet those same conveniences are warned against by medical professionals and child care experts alike.
The Research Against Unlimited Screen Time
Victoria L Dunckley M.D. composed a piece featured in Psychology Today which notes even regular screen exposure can lead to sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyperaroused nervous system, a group of symptoms she calls Electronic Screen Syndrome. Never heard of it? You are not alone. I hadn’t either, and it appears that the syndrome is yet unrecognized – though with new research on the horizon, you may start hearing more about it soon. To learn more, either click the highlighted link above, or click here.
Across the pond, The University of Bristol performed a study that found children who spent in excess of 2 hours per day in front of screens suffered increased psychological difficulties. This same study noted that increased physical activity did not necessarily offset the screen saturation.
While a quick Google search will bring up dozens to even hundreds more research articles to back up reduced screen time, there are also those who advocate for moderate, specific or even unlimited (!!!) screen time for children.
The Research For Moderate and Specific Screen Time
New Scientist published a piece in 2014 which points out that not ALL types of screen time is damaging. Certain computer games or motivational tablet games seemed to be non-harmful, and possibly even beneficial, at least according to the sited Longitudinal Study of over 11,000 UK children.
Child Media Expert and head of PBS KIDS Digital, Sara Dewitt, takes it a step further in a TED Talk, breaking down the most common fears about screen time in children and why we shouldn’t worry so much in our modern world. She also wrote a great article featured on PBS Parents that speaks of many of these same things.
So what is a parent to do??
It seems that most experts agree that limited screen time is best, and for the time allotted, those minutes or hours need to be aimed at education or interaction.
Yet reducing screen time can be challenging. It’s a hard ask, especially for single parents, parents with more than one child (or, let’s be honest here – parents with just one child!) and pretty much everyone else.
The experts may agree… yet they give us few ideas on what else to do! Many laws across the nation (or just nosey neighbors) preclude unsupervised playtime outside, while independent play indoors is a dying skill, or simply difficult for some children. With my own girls, my eldest is content to read for hours while my youngest requires constant attention – even though we have tried to foster independent play. It can be exhausting! I love you kid, but Mommy needs a break! Speaking of which, here are a few tricks I employ to carve out that precious ‘Me Time’.
Last year, we went through a 30 Day Screen time Free Challenge. It was difficult at first, but it DID get easier. While I am planning to undertake that challenge as a family again, I wanted to come up with ideas to reduce overall screen time outside that challenge window.
Here are 100 ideas to get my family, and your’s, started. You can find a link to a Free PDF Version below, though the PDF has only 99 ideas. It is missing the Coloring Page Maker App listed at #2 below.
Fun Screen Free Activities – Inside Independent
– may need supervision or set up, depending on age –
- Color with Crayons
- Create Family Member Coloring pages with this free app!
- Read a book
- Practice Letter Formation on reusable, Laminated sheets. Need a Laminator? Read this.
- Listen to the Radio (Dance Party?)
- Puppet Show – here’s a great video on sock puppets.
- Write a Letter to a Loved One
- Play Dress Up
- Pretend to Camp
- Play Cards
- Play Cars
- Matching Nuts & Bolts (caution for younger children)
- Make a Sticker Book
- Put together a puzzle
- Meditate – here’s an article that tells you how to start.
- Take a Nap
- Listen to an Audio Book
- Play Marbles (age appropriate)
- Flash light shadow animals
- Sensory Bin – This post from Happy Hooligans talks about how to make one
- Letter Magnets on Refridgerator or Metal Sheet
- Play with Playdough or Clay
- Play with Cloud Dough – Here’s how to make it, courtesy of Babble Dabble Do!
- Paper Dolls
- Pillow Fort
Fun Screen Free Activities Inside With Parent Help
- Papier-Mache Crafts
- Build a Race Track
- Make a Cardboard Fort
- Build a Fairy Castle
- Make Cleaning a Game – Momtastic has a great article on how to do this.
- Contact Paper on Walls – then stick things to it! – Paths to Literacy talks about this.
- Make a Friendship Bracelet
- Put glow sticks in the bath and turn off the lights
- Fill the tub with shaving cream
- Create an obstacle course inside
- Tell prompt led, lead on stories
- Tea Party
- Toilet Paper Roll Crafts – Here’s a list of 62 of them!
- Home Made Shrinky Dinks – Here’s how to make them.
- Bake a Cake
- Set out old clothes for donation
- Indoor Hopscotch (made with painter’s tape on the floor)
- Indoor Bowling
- Play a Board Game
- Use the laundry basket as a car
- Bake cookies for a neighbor
- Learn to Crochet or Knit (yes, even young kids can learn this) – NattyPat shows you how
- Craft simple jewelry
- Finger Paints in the Tub
- Make a Pop-Up Book – Here’s a great video on how
- Make a Birdhouse
- Hide and Seek
- Study Sign Language
- Learn Cat’s Cradle – Check the WikiHow link here
Fun Screen Free Activities Outside With Parent Help
– or independent per age –
- Take a walk in the neighborhood
- Play Baseball
- Ride bikes or tricycles
- Water bin
- Playdough filled balloons
- Blow Bubbles
- Run a Race
- Play Frisbee
- Go to the park
- Work in the garden
- Climb a tree
- Take a Nature walk
- Collect rocks
- Visit the Library
- Play Dodge ball (nicely!)
- Play Sidewalk Chalk – or make Liquid Sidewalk Chalk!
- Run through the sprinklers
- Water Balloon Fight
- Play Hide and Seek
- Outside Yoga
- Have a Picnic
- Cloud Watch
- Watch the Sunset
- Play Basketball
- Play Tag
- Play Capture the Flag
- Make Mud Pies
- Play with silly string
- Roller Skate
- Have a Water Fight
- Bird Watch
- Hop in Puddles
- Take photos of the neighborhood
- Have an outside playdate
- Visit a friend
- Play with a Hula Hoop
- Jump Rope
- Play Hop Scotch
- Ride Scooters
- Make a Rock Garden
- Plant a Tree
- Plant some flowers
If you want the Free Printable PDF Version of this Fun Screen Free Activities List, please click the picture below.
What are your favorite, fun screen free activities for your kids to do? Leave a comment, I would love to know!