10 screen free activities your kids will love
The weather may be getting warmer, but many kids would prefer to stay indoors behind a screen. Here are 10 play ideas from parenting expert Liat Hughes Joshi for activities to get your children away from the gadgets.
It’s a hot topic for pretty much all parents these days: how to ensure our children aren’t overloading on screen time.
We’re not suggesting banning those gadgets altogether but as I say in my book, How to Unplug Your Child, “Screens are part of life but shouldn’t become life itself” – this is about balance.
There are lots of strategies for getting this right; firm ‘screen rules’, not getting little ones their own smartphones before they actually need them and more, but it’s also highly effective to ensure they have lots of lovely non-tech activities to remind them there’s more to life.
Here we look at ten great offline activities – no gadgets needed!
1. BALLOON SPORTS
It’s throwing it down and the kids are stuck in the house needing some exercise - allow them to let off steam with ‘sports’ volleyball and tennis. Make ‘racquets’ out of paper/ plastic plates and lollipop sticks, hang a piece of string or wool up and hey presto, you’ve got a net. Encourage them to keep their rally going as long as possible (good for counting skills too).
2. A DEN IN THE GARDEN (OR LIVING ROOM)
You can’t beat a good old-fashioned den building session. Use pillows and cushions, small tables and/ or chairs and cover it all with blankets. In the garden you could try long willow sticks and a sheet to make a teepee. Afterwards, send the little ones into their fabulous new hang-out with games/ books/ snacks.
3. BATH TIME (WHEN IT’S NOT)
Run them a bath purely for fun (rather than cleanliness) at completely the wrong time of day. Add bath crayons, new bath toys or even just a pile of containers for pouring and emptying, such as measuring jugs and Tupperware. Having a bath at completely the wrong time of day, with no rush to get to bed keeps small children content for a spell when they’ve already watched quite enough telly.
4. PEN PALS
We live in an age of instant electronic messages but children still love getting post of their own through the letterbox – in fact because it’s such a novelty now, many like it more than ever. Whether it’s sending postcards, coded messages or full letters to friends or relatives, they’ll be practicing their writing skills too.
Obviously this is one for older offspring but even preschoolers could select a postcard to send to the grandparents and draw a little picture.
5. BUILD A DOMINO RUN
How big a run can you create? There are all sorts of features you can add in too – spirals, ‘staircases’, even spelling out words. To minimise frustration though, it’s prudent to leave a few gaps now and then in the run and fill these in at the end so only a small part can tumble accidentally before you’re ready to go.
6. PAPER AEROPLANE RACING
Put up a hula hoop or a target somewhere and see if your child can get their plane through it, or you could stage a plane relay race if you’ve got several children to entertain. They can also look at varying plane-making folds and decorations for ‘livery’.
7. WHAT’S GONE MISSING??
For this memory game, gather together ten or more small items from around the house on a tray. Remove an item when the other players aren’t looking – they then have to work out what has disappeared each time. Finding the objects to use is as time consuming as the actual game – you could make this into a treasure hunt or challenge in itself e.g. ‘find 10 red objects around the house’ or ‘5 each beginning with the initials of your names’.
8. GARDEN CAMPING
Love all that fresh air and the fun of camping but not so keen on the shared showers and loos? Make your garden (or perhaps the grandparents’ if they have one and you don’t) into your very own campsite.
Toast marshmallows on a camping stove or barbecue, share stories by torchlight and definitely leave those gadgets indoors.
9. SAND SCULPTURES
Visits to the beach (or sand pit) can go beyond the classic sandcastle. For a change how about making sculptures – they could be letters, vehicles, animals, anything their imaginations can come up with. To sculpt well, mix in plenty of water with the sand, so it’s nice and muddy.
10. CLOUD SPOTTING
There’s something quite hypnotic and relaxing about lying on the grass watching clouds sail past on a breezy day. Make a game out of who can spot what in the shapes. Does that one look a bit like a sea horse? Another resembles their Uncle Jeremy? You could teach them about different cloud formations too.
Find out more
The book How to Unplug Your Child: 101 Ways to Help Your Kids Turn Off Their Gadgets and Enjoy Real Life by Liat Hughes Joshi is published by Vie, RRP £5.99 and available now here on Amazon
You'll find more help with managing your children's screen time at the Time Tokens website.