Turning it off - having fun without the TV!

Too much screen time a problem? Try these activities and games to keep your kids amused without relying on the TV.

Get unplugged for family fun!

Over half of British homes have three or more TV sets and the hours we spend glued to them adds up to two months a year. So it’s not surprising that once you work up the nerve to switch it off you might find you have no idea what to do. Try these activities and games instead..

1. Talk to your kids!

While the average family spends up to five hours a week watching TV together, it spends a paltry 35 minutes actually talking to each other! TV Turn-off Week is a great excuse to put that right so chat about anything and everything: what you did that day, your hopes and dreams, things that might be going on in your kids’ life or at school. Who knows, you might even find out why his behaviour has been so bad lately…!

2. Get into Game Night

Family games are great bonding activities, help kids learn concentration skills and also teach about sharing and teamwork. Traditional board games such as Jenga, Scrabble or Monopoly are ideal for older tweens and teens; younger kids will love Connect 4 or Buckaroo. If your preschooler has a blackboard easel, Hangman is good fun; while Charades never gets old and is hugely enjoyable if you have friends over.

3. Be crafty

Get your kids using their minds and hands to entertain and create! Any parent with a toddler or preschooler needs a box of ‘stuff’ that can be cut, pasted or dressed up with. If you plan to take the TV Turnoff habit beyond one week, stop throwing things away. Those empty cereal boxes and toilet roll tubes are component parts for space rockets; scraps of yarn stuck to sheets of sandpaper are artwork that can be rearranged into different patterns again and again; and magazines are the basics of a brightly coloured themed collage.

Get your pre-schooler to flick through magazines looking for pictures of animals to make a pet or wildlife collage or of fashion shots they can cut and paste into different outfit combinations. Got paper plates left over from that birthday party? Use a pile of fabric cutoffs, craft feathers and pompoms to paste up a textile pizza!

4. Get down on it

Play tweens a pop song and get them to choreograph a dance routine to it or have a music appreciation session: play a piece of classical music and encourage your child to open up about how it makes her feel, what she thinks the music is trying to say, maybe even identify the different instruments played.

5. Launch your own book club

Choose a traditional children's or family book – think along the lines of Charlotte’s Web or Alice in Wonderland – and read a chapter each. Even kids who are good readers benefit hugely from reading aloud and being read to.

6. Have a treasure hunt

Send the kids off, indoor or out, to find themed treasures: five leaves that are each a different colour; five things that you could use to build a rocket; five things that  prove a wild creature visited the garden the night before… the possibilities are endless!

7. Solve a problem

Get teens thinking by setting them up with a big issue, such as global warming, or something that might be causing waves locally, and challenging them to come up with a plan to solve it.

8. Play ‘What if…’

This is great for kids of all ages – you can change the scenario depending on their age. So for preschoolers, ask “What if squirrels could swim?”; for young children you might ask, “What if cars could fly?”; for tweens, try something like, “What if a child became Prime Minister?”.

The Supernanny Team’s top tip

Be patient. At first your children will probably whine but if you can just put up with it for 20 minutes or so younger kids will get totally engrossed in whatever else you’ve set up for them and teens will learn a valuable lesson in keeping themselves amused without gazing mindlessly at the box!

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