Whether you’re trying to navigate fewer outside the home options because of COVID shutdowns, virtual schooling, or just the average rainy day, having a few screen-free options for kids can be very useful! We live in the technology age.
Children have ready access to cell phones, tablets, computers, laptops, big-screen TVs, and video game consoles. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of allowing electronics to keep the kids occupied, but all of that screen time isn’t good for our kids.
Aside from the obvious risks to vision from exposure to blue light, some studies indicate that brain structure itself can be altered causing cognitive and language development issues. Yikes! We are not a household that never uses screens, but I do limit my kids’ exposure on a daily basis. Most of the time, however, I get little more than a “Mom, I’m bored” for my efforts!
While I believe that being bored is a good thing, I also believe in guiding children with a few ideas when necessary. Boredom pushes kids out of the “passive entertainment” area and into using their imaginations and thinking for themselves. Sometimes they might need a few ideas to get them started. Here are a few of our favorites.
Reading and Audiobooks
Reading is my favorite way to spend free time. There’s nothing more relaxing than curling up with a hot cup of tea, a cozy blanket, and a great book. Encourage your children to read different styles of books until they find something that really sparks their interest. If you have a very reluctant reader (my 9-year-old prefers watching paint dry to reading), then audiobooks can be a great alternative. Your local library should have a selection to choose from, or you can find lots of free audiobooks online at places like Librivox and Loyal Books. We have a long list of favorite places that we find free audiobooks.
I admit, I’m not much of a crafty mom, but my kids are very artsy and creative. They enjoy being able to express their creativity in various forms, so I keep a supply of crafty things on hand for screen-free time. We tend to focus on handicrafts such as woodworking, crocheting, knitting, making soap and candles, and other things of that nature, but there are TONS of other crafty things that you can do without keeping a lot of special supplies on hand. You can make things with playdough or modeling clay, paint with Crayola watercolors, search for printable paper crafts online, or just fill a box with construction paper, glue, google eyes, and glitter (though I discourage the glitter . . . you have been warned!).
Board Games & Card Games
We have a LOT of board games and card games in our house. Whether you enjoy traditional board games like Monopoly and Trouble or more elaborate games like Ticket to Ride, Risk, or Catan, there’s something available for almost any taste. We also enjoy card games. These are typically fast and easy games, which is always a plus in our house! Some of our favorites include Uno Flip, Taco vs Burrito, and Professor Noggin’s Trivia card games.
While it’s perfectly fine to send the kids to the backyard with a “use your imagination,” sometimes it’s helpful to give them a little direction. There’s an endless supply of things to do outside, but here are just a few of our favorites. My kids LOVE to create their own treasure hunts. One of them will “bury” something outside under some leaves or in a hollow tree trunk and then make a treasure map. Other times they’ll create clues and place them around the house and yard for the other one to solve in order to find the treasure. This one keeps them busy for hours. Bird watching is another favorite as is searching for animal tracks, scavenger hunts, and painting rocks.
Do Some Helpful Things
I’ve found that there are a lot of things I consider chores that my kids think are fun, like washing the car, raking leaves, weeding the garden or flower bed, and clearing yard debris. They are doubly interested in doing these things when I am working alongside them! It’s also fun to focus on Random Acts of Kindness as a family or together with siblings, and the added benefit of being kind to others is always a plus!
Thank you to Michelle W @ Life in the Nerddom for writing this guest post.