Screens can be hard to get away from, especially when they offer entertaining content. But for young children, screen-free time is incredibly important. Between the computer, TV, tablets, and more, there are many different things competing for your child’s attention. How can you encourage screen-free activities that are actually fun and interesting…and won’t break the bank? Here are seven ideas you can try.
7 Screen-Free Ideas for Kids
- Cook and experiment in the kitchen. Today, so many recipes come from Google searches or Pinterest, but instead of relying on your computer or your phone, introduce your child to cookbooks. You might have some lying around the house, but if you don’t, head to the library. (And, even if you do have some at home, the library probably has kid-friendly options that are more photo-heavy.) Pick a recipe together and go through the fridge and pantry to see what you have and what you need to buy. Then, go to the grocery store and ask your child to help you find the ingredients you’re missing. Once you’re home, set everything out and whip up something delicious.
- Look into “free days.” Local museums, aquariums, and other institutions likely host a day each month when visitors can get in for free (even parents!). Plus, some offer free admission for children year-round. What is your child most interested in right now? If it’s painting, try the art museum. If it’s penguins, go to the aquarium. You might also have a “children’s” or “discovery”-type museum nearby, which can be a great hands-on experience and provide hours of entertainment.
- Make lunch or dinner into a picnic. Are you stuck in the same old lunch or dinnertime rut? Do you eat in front of the TV every now and then? Switch things up with a picnic and a change of scenery. During the warmer months, make sandwiches and cut up fruits and vegetables, and take everything with you to the park — or right to your own backyard. But don’t feel like you have to save picnics for the spring or summer — during the fall and winter, set food up on a blanket in front of the fireplace.
- Go for an adventure. Walks don’t have to be boring. Turn it into a scavenger hunt for your child by making a list of things to look for along the way. If you have a toy baby stroller at home, encourage your child to bring it. Or, once you’re back home from your walk, work with your child to draw a map of the route you walked or things you saw along the way.
- Create costumes and play dress-up. Look through materials you have around the house, including old clothes, fabric, cardboard, and ribbon. Ask your child what type of costumes you should make together — you can look through your child’s favorite books and toys for inspiration — and get started. When you’re done and ready to play dress-up, you can even create a stage and act out one of your child’s favorite stories.
- Go to a local sporting event. Does your child like to watch football or soccer with you on TV? Go to the local high school games instead. The cost to get in should be minimal, and the real-life experience will be eye-opening and exciting.
- Spend time at the library. A lot of today’s reading is done on tablets and e-readers, but print still matters, too! Go to your town library and encourage your child to pick out different books of interest. Ask the librarian for a calendar of events, too — they probably host storytime, clubs, museum visits, crafts, family nights, and more.
The next time “there’s nothing to do” or you need an activity to fill the afternoon, go screen-free. Whether you choose to go to a museum, have a picnic, or go see a football game, your child will get to experience something new and different firsthand.