By Alyssa Abel
Whether your kids have endured excessive online learning time during the pandemic or just find most of their enjoyment on devices, you might worry about how all that screen time affects them.
What you need is an arsenal full of creative screen-free activities for kids. You'll need to make them entertaining, too — after all, you have some stiff virtual competition. The following 11 ideas are kid-tested and parent-approved:
Write to a pen pal
Email is so impersonal. Bring back the old-fashioned joy of opening your mailbox with a smile when your child gets a postcard from their pal in Paris or Tokyo.
You can find offline pen pal organisations dedicated to writing letters to overseas troops or merely collect as many different postcards as possible. Time-generous children can perform acts of kindness by brightening the day of an older adult in a nursing home. Because correspondence takes place on pen and paper, you can check for inappropriate content with ease.
Paint their emotions
Sometimes, even adults struggle to explain what they feel. However, expressing emotions through art is highly therapeutic for both kids and adults, and watercolours won’t permanently stain your dining room table. The best aspect of this screen-free activity for kids is that it doesn’t require a lick of artistic talent, and those of all ages can indulge.
Hold a dance-off
Does your child’s taste in music drive you crazy? Try getting into the beat by challenging them to a dance-off! You can boogie down to Baby Shark with your 4-year-old or let your teen show you the latest Tik Tok dance. All you need is a set of speakers — your noisy little one should have no trouble cranking up the volume.
Dig in the garden
Do you have a sizable plot in your backyard? Even if you don’t have much green space to work with, you can provide your kids a 3x3 area or a few containers on your windowsill. Gardening introduces your child to the plant life cycle, but you don’t have to spill the beans about the hidden biology lesson.
Cook a meal
You might not be able to convince your local schools to reinstate home economics classes, but you can get your little one in the kitchen. Bond with your kids over making breakfast with healthy secret ingredients, or do some dinner meal-prep together.
Build a jigsaw puzzle
If your child found your old-school game of Tetris fascinating, maybe they’d love the challenge of completing a jigsaw puzzle. Even little hands can get in on the action with board puzzles featuring cutouts with handles. Older children might relish the challenge of a masterpiece that takes several days or weeks to complete.
Go on an educational scavenger hunt
You can make a nature scavenger hunt and include items like an oak tree leaf or a picture of a bird’s nest. If your kids are more the literary sort, you can do a reading version where they must locate other books by the same author or featuring similar characters.
Catch the sun
If your children are old enough to cut or tear tissue paper, they can make suncatchers that cast a vivid glow around your home. Head to your nearest dollar store to score the supplies you need. You might even recreate stained glass with crayons worn down to the nubbins.
Put on a puppet show
Your littles can make puppets out of anything from toilet paper rolls to socks — assembling them is part of this creative screen-free activity. Then, they can write a script or practise their improvisational skills. Be sure they have a supportive audience for their big debut.
Fly a kite
When was the last time you spent a windy day making a plastic raptor fly? You can find inexpensive kites in discount stores. Then, all you need to do is wait for cooperative weather. Pack a picnic lunch and make it a family outing.
Read a story
If your kids’ only exposure to reading consists of assignments at school, they might never develop a love of it as a hobby. However, when they can choose their own material, they might discover how much they love getting lost in stories. Reading improves cognitive skills, helps develop the imagination and offers your kids a healthy screen-free activity that will never get boring.
Alyssa Abel is an education writer with a special interest in student life, mental health and early education. Read more of her work on her blog, Syllabusy.