With Screen-Free Week 2018 just around the corner, now is a good time to find a healthy balance for your kids between technology and real life. I, like many parents, are guilty of using technology as a sort of babysitting crutch to buy yourself time to get work or household chores done, keep your kids from crying or to simply get a few minutes of downtime while your little ones fry their brains on tablets or smartphones.
Why Limit Your Kid’s Screen Time?
Technology is great, but like anything, it is better in moderation. Nobody really knows what the long-term impact this is having on kids. If you go by the release of the first iPhone in 2007 and assume a 1-year-old started using one then, we will probably have a better idea in the year 2025 to 2030 when those kids get out of high school and start protesting at whatever university they are attending.
Or, you can put the brakes on right now and stop the madness before it’s too late. Once you start letting your kids use technology, it’s a hole that can be very tricky to get out of. Trust me and do yourself and your kids a favor by mixing in real life activities with screen time.
So, the reason why you should limit your kid’s screen time is that it is simply unhealthy. We all know in our gut that overdosing our kids with too much computer time is a form of cheating and being a bad/slacker parent. Sometimes this is not the case as each family is unique. Some families that are short on babysitting help, exhausted from work, sick or simply overwhelmed may be tempted to push the screen more than families in a better situation. So, I will include some ideas for every situation – whether you’re exhausted or whether you simply want to help your kids have real childhood experiences that you grew up with. If you have any screen-free activity ideas you would like to add, simply leave a comment at the end of this article.
Idea #1: What Did You Enjoy Doing as a Kid?
This is the best place to start. Take a few minutes and think back to your childhood. Go back as early as you can remember and start writing down all of the activities you enjoyed. There’s no doubt about it. One of the best things you can pass on to your kids are the things you loved to do. The things that have given you your favorite memories. Interestingly enough, for me, many of my favorite memories are free or didn’t cost that much. My list would include riding bikes around the neighborhood, digging holes in the yard, playing with a garden hose, playing with my cat, collecting various pets, taking pictures (back when there was film), making animated 8mm home movies, Saturday morning cartoons, reading comic books, buying candy at the dime store (I guess I must be old), listening to the radio, going to the creek, shooting my BB gun, trying to find creatures like frogs, lizards, etc., picking wild strawberries, building forts in the woods, building model rockets, flying kites and more. Start writing a list and soon one memory will trigger another and you’ll have a big list of ideas to start with.
Idea #2: Play in the Rain
Boo hoo, it’s a rainy day. Bummer, right? Not if you’re a kid. If the conditions are right and you don’t have to worry about getting struck by lighting, use it as an opportunity to have some fun. Splash in puddles or go out in a raincoat. If there is flowing water nearby it’s a lot of fun to float toy boats kind of like Curious George did in one of his books.
Idea #3: Find Screen-Free Activities on Pinterest
If you’re stumped and need a quick indoor or outdoor idea, do a search on Pinterest for “Screen-Free Activities” and you’ll find countless examples, many with photos. Other searches you can do include kids indoor activities, winter, summer, fall, spring, outdoor, etc. In a few minutes, you can probably come up with enough ideas to fill up the first 10 years of your kid’s life.
Idea #4: YouTube
Ok, I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t this was supposed to be a list of activities that didn’t involve the Internet? Yes, but it’s good to do some research first to build up an idea bank that you can refer to at a moment’s notice. Speaking of that, if you haven’t done so already start a text file on your computer, or perhaps a Google document and start saving your favorite ideas.
Back to YouTube, this is just like Pinterest. Just start searching for the right keywords such as slime tutorial, sensory activities, small worlds, DIY toys, doughs, paints, kids cooking and more. By the way, another important benefit of this is increasing your kid’s creativity and preventing them from becoming mindless robots.
Here’s a random cool one I just found. Make an outdoor giant small world on your patio using washable paint. Add toys, and you’re ready to go.
Idea #5: Screen-Free Week Official Site
Every year, the non-profit organization “Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood” hosts the official Screen-Free Week. On their website at ScreenFree.org, you can find activity ideas, how to organize your own screen free week, find or host
events and more. This is the central location for all things screen free. Also, be sure to check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/screenfreeweek.
Idea #6: Facebook and Twitter Searches
Another obvious place to find ideas is to simply search on Facebook or Twitter. From there you will find a ton of links to articles as well as Facebook groups, videos and more. Ok, that was too easy.
Idea #7: Books on Amazon
A quick search on Amazon will reveal a ton of regular books and ebooks on this subject. Keep an eye on Kindle editions as sometimes they may be temporarily free.
Idea #8: Blogs
If you’re still looking for good ideas you will find hundreds of activities, photos and more on the various blogs out there. You can do an advanced Google search to only return results from blogs which can help filter out some of the junk.
Idea #9: ScreenFreeParenting.com
This is a massive resource for ideas, particularly their page that has 1 Million Screen-Free Activities for Kids! They also have an email newsletter that will send you 5 new activities each week.
Idea #10: Parenting Forums
Parenting forums are a goldmine for finding ideas and connecting with other parents going through the same issue. There are many to choose from, but a great place to start is the Community on BabyCenter.com.
Here is a roundup of blog posts and articles to help you find even more screen-free activities. If you have any other suggestions for this article, please feel free to leave a comment below. 🙂
And since it’s almost Summer and school will be out, here’s one more for you. Good luck out there! 😀