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Screen-Free Activities For Families

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We touch our phones 2,617 a day. Crazy, right? A study from the dscout research team revealed this shocking average. Mankind is more connected than ever, and yet, families can grow more distant due to these screens. That’s why we’ve put together our list of seven screen-free activities for families.

After the tech boom that introduced us to cat videos on YouTube, Skyping with grandma, and selfies on Instagram, screens integrated their way into daily life. Like most things, screens are fine in moderation, but too much early on could lead to behavioral issues, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Before you throw all your gadgets into the river, however, try this simple approach recommended by Dr. Jenny Radesky. She challenges parents to become their child’s “media mentor” by monitoring how much time is spent online, and what’s being viewed.

“Media mentors” also designate when it’s time to unplug and come together as a family. That’s us. Now, let’s take a look at some fun ways to do that.

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1. Listen together

We all know that reading expands your mind. Another great option is listening together. Not only will an audiobook or podcast help your kids develop important listening skills, but they’ll study the magical art of sitting still (great for waiting rooms!).

For example, you can swing by your local library and check out a few CDs with picture books for your early learners. My kids love listening to classics like “Clifford the Big Red Dog” or “Curious George” while they follow along in the book. They each have a designated chair for story time (another garage sale find). They also enjoy picture books with singing, like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” illustrated and performed by Iza Trapani.

For older kids, try audio chapter books via MP3 (or reading one of your childhood favorites aloud to the children a little in the evenings).

Want something besides audio books? Check out these 15 podcasts for kids.

2. Kitchen fun.

Kitchens are the perfect hub for making messes and memories. If your kids are anything like mine, the moment I drape their little aprons over their shoulders, they become tiny chefs with a look that would rival any contestant on Cupcake Wars.

For little helpers, designate tasks like adding salt, stirring, or dumping the measured ingredients. Watching packed brown sugar slide out of the measuring cup and land with a plop into the mixing bowl always send my kids into giggles.

For older kids, teach them new skills, like how to mince garlic or create a well-balanced meal.

Here is one of our favorite recipes that’s perfect for any meal, snack or playdate.

Snack Roll-Ups

Ingredients:

  • Whole wheat tortillas

  • Peanut butter (or any nut butter of your choice)

  • Jelly or honey

Directions:

Spread a thin layer of each ingredient on the tortillas, leaving space around the edge. Carefully roll each tortilla fairly tight. Secure the roll with 4 or 5 toothpicks spaced evenly (let the kids do this part!). Slice the roll into slanted wheels (one wheel per toothpick) and serve.

Optional roll-ups: My little ones love picking out different ingredients and helping with the assembly process. It can be anything from swapping a PB&J for a turkey roll-up with a baby dill pickle wedged atop each wheel or bananas and Nutella. Have fun with it, and get ready for some sticky fingers!

3. Fort building

Furniture is so versatile. We love draping an old bed sheet over a card table or our Home Reserve sectional and ottomans to create a bonafide house, fort, or tunnel.

Things like this promote creativity and imagination in kids. It also helps them test their problem-solving skills. So, the next time you’re replicating Fort Knox in your living room, let your kids lead and watch as they figure out the intricacies of their new edifice.

4. DIY crafts

Incorporating some craft time each week will help your kids build up their sensory skills, hand-eye coordination, and quality time with you.

Pinterest is a terrific resource for age-appropriate, cost-effective, or theme-based craft ideas like DIY Christmas ornaments or free DIY crafts made from recycled household items.

For example, my kids recently came home from a play date where they’d made their own playdough. We burn through a lot of $0.99 Play-Doh from the toy aisle. It just doesn’t seem to last long.

When they came home with this particular homemade dough, it was much more pliable for my little 2-year-old’s hands and hasn’t dried up in the slightest.

Want this 10-minute homemade playdough recipe? Check out Living Well Mom’s step-by-step ingredients and tutorial here!

5. Learn something new as a family

Try a weekly “Family Fun” activity. It could be something at home, like a science experiment or a 3D puzzle. Or it could be an event like one of the following:

  • Puppet show at your local library

  • Museum

  • Live outdoor concert

  • Play a game the way children do in other countries. For example, in Bolivia, they play hopscotch by labeling each square with the days of the week instead of numbers (bonus points if you learn how to label them in Spanish!)

Snap pictures on your phone and make some memories, but make sure it’s put away so as not to distract you from this time with your family.

6. Camp out

Ever camp out in your backyard as a kid? Even if you don’t sleep outside the whole night, you can have a screen-free blast with your kids complete with stargazing, campfire, and s’mores.

Don’t forget the flashlight and ghost stories!

7. Get active

One downfall to technology is that it keeps us on our haunches, combatting the health benefits of a more active lifestyle. Childhood obesity is a dangerous reality, and one of the best ways to prevent it is to commit to healthy living as a family.

Some screen-free, healthy activities to do together are:

  • Go for a bike ride.

  • Head to a trampoline park. My family loves donning our zany, orange socks and jumping for an hour at SkyZone. If you don’t have an indoor trampoline park in your area, try other activities like martial arts classes or swimming at the Y.

  • Play some interactive backyard games like “Simon Says” or freeze tag or leap frog.

  • Start a family garden. What a great way to soak up some vitamin D, eat healthier, and pass down a remarkable life skill to your kids! A great place to start is by making or purchasing a raised garden bed with a few beginner-friendly plants like tomatoes, zucchini squash, or lettuce. Not enough yard space? Try a patio planter or standing garden you can manage right on your porch.

Those are some of our favorite screen-free activities for families, but we’ve only just scratched the surface. For more ideas, check out the book “150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids” or visit ScreenFree.org.

Got a favorite screen-free activity you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below!

--Laura Harris


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