Screen-free activities for children and parents
As you know, this school year we decided to dedicate health-related activities to eye hygiene and mobile device usage.
There is no doubt that mobile devices help us to study, and entertain ourselves. But there is a necessity to limit the screen time and find some activities that would help to switch off your attention from the screen and let your brain and eyes rest.
I prepared a list of screen-free activities depending on the child’s age, and in case you are interested, feel free to apply them in your daily life.
For children under 3 years old
In their first years of life, children’s experiences and relationships stimulate their development, creating millions of connections in their brains. Their brains develop connections faster in the first five years than at any other time in their lives. This is the time when the foundations for learning, health, and behavior throughout life are laid down. Play is fun for your child. It also gives your child opportunities to explore, observe, experiment, and solve problems.
The activities they enjoy are usually all about senses: something they can touch, hear, taste, or see. Try to find a play around that.
Listening to an audiobook can be one of the options.
If you are using Spotify, there might be some interesting fairy tale podcasts for your children.
Granny MacDuff as she reads classic children’s fairy tales in this award-winning podcast.
listening to the sounds of birds and nature before sleep can be also nice.
Toddlers love sensory play and find it soothing, so playing with sensory boxes or bags can be one of the best options for screen-free activity.
Season Sensory Bag:
This is a pretty simple sensory bag idea, just fill your bag with water and some food coloring, then add some fall leaves, flowers, seeds, or dried berries, depending on what type of Season Sensory Bag you are making, and a bit of glitter.
Shaving Cream Sensory Bag: Just place some shaving cream and food coloring into the bag and tape the edges well. Let your child squish and squeeze the bag until the food coloring is all mixed in and the shaving cream is uniform
Magnetic Polka Dots Sensory Bag: A great early science activity for toddlers! Place colorful magnets in the bag and then give your child a magnet wand to move the pieces around! Use a Double bag to avoid the bag breaking with the friction of moving the magnets around. Even still, you might place this bag on a baking sheet, just in case!
Second, be sure to get a magnet wand, don’t give your toddler a small magnet piece to chase the other magnets. This is a safety issue to avoid them swallowing a magnet!
To know more about how a magnetic sensory bag works click here
Children between 3-and 6 years of age
Children at this age are more interested in playing and making friends with others. They might start to play more cooperatively in small groups. Sharing gets easier because they understand the concept of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’. Children are becoming more imaginative during play.
Children learn a lot of new words by listening to their parents and other adults and also by listening to stories. The child also shows more interest in communicating and might like to tell stories and have conversations.
Make an obstacle course in your hall with yarn and tape
This yarn obstacle course for my kids to play in last summer, and I set up another one today so that they could at least have a few minutes of peace. To make the course, all you need is a regular yarn, masking tape, a hallway or other long and narrow location in your house, and an item of “value” (plastic ring, crown, sculpture).
- Let the yarn out as you tape it to the wall at different levels. Move down the hallway (away from the object) to create the obstacle course.
- Keep in mind how your child will crawl through it to keep it at the right level of difficulty for them. Make sure there are some low spots to step over and some high spots to crawl under.
- After the course is set up, invite your child to move through the obstacle course without touching one of the yarn “lasers”, collect the valuable object and then return back through the course.
- Encourage them to “practice” several times before trying it for “real”.
Make a curving line (or something more interesting and complex) of dominoes and knock the first one so they fall down in a row. I recommend this domino enthusiast’s channel. This girl designs, builds, and topples dominoes to make beautifully intricate chain reactions.
Paint seashells or rocks
You will need seashells that you might have collected during vacation at the seaside or you can also purchase them at craft stores and tourist shops if needed.
- Crayola Washable Kid’s Paint
- Paint Brushes
A few projects you might use your painted shells for:
- Glue to a picture frame
- Make a seashell collage
- Use them for counting activities
- Use them to make mermaid jewelry (for girls and for boys as well)
Sticky spider web activity
Make a spiderwebin a doorway with painter’s tape and throw scrunched-up newspaper balls at it to see how many you can catch.
Make a spider web, using painter’s tape on the top half of the doorway. You would get something like the one in the picture below.
Separate the newspapers, old journals, any type of paper you are not using and scrunch each one into a ball. Encourage your kids to throw the newspaper balls into the spider web to see if it would catch them (just like a real one would catch a fly!)
Children from 6 to 9 years of age
At this age, children often play out ideas they’ve come across at school from their friends or on social media. They are better at controlling their own behavior and emotions, which makes it easier for them to cope with games that involve rules, as well as with winning, losing, and playing fair.
Children have a much better understanding of the relationship between cause and effect and are also very curious about the world around them. They tend to do some experiments to understand how things work, follow more complex directions, and test their physical limits. So the activities which do not involve screens should be all around those development features.
Start from having a screen-free marathon, when the phone or computer or tablet is not used at all. Not playing their favorite game for a week might be very hard for them, I suggest starting by having one screen-free day per week.
Then you can move on not using screens longer, and make it for a week or less. Propose your child a deal, count every day how many hours they spend without using screens.
When the week is over, congratulate your child by passing them a sort of “no-screen” certificate and maybe some kind of prize.
The more hours they spend without their phones, or tablets, the higher prize they get. Positive encouragement works well in that matter.
To track your child’s screen activity you can use this type of chart. Don’t worry, you will not have to control your kid all the time. You are just helping them to manage their screen time on their own.
Make a diorama scene in a cardboard box of the ocean, or a jungle
- Take any box that you have on your property.
- Paint the inside and outside of the box with your chosen colors using acrylic paint. Leave to dry and then apply a second coat of paint.
- With scissors cut out colored paper trees, different shaped leaves, and a pond. Glue in place starting from the back to the front to create a sense of depth.
- Create jungle animals
- Add wood offcuts etc and glue in place to finish.
Draw a picture of a desert island with all the things you would want on it
Write down ten things you love about each person in your family to surprise them
Children are now more often active in using language to explore their thoughts and feelings and express them. Encouraging them to express their feelings would help to communicate with them in the future. This type of activity might be one the helpful tools in that.
Plant some seeds -this could be as a part of our project on food waste and gardening
Growing up on a farm made me keen on gardening. I like making flower beds, and growing herbs on the balcony of my apartment.
When I started working at the school, I decided to teach little ones about food and its journey to our table. Our upcoming project is to grow reddish, spinach, dill, and green onions in boxes with soil that our school has recently obtained.
You can try this activity as well, with your children. Just a couple of recommendations to follow.
- Choose plants or vegetables with larger seeds that are easy for a young child to handle, such as sunflowers, sweet peas, and salad leaves. Have them be “in charge” of planting by dropping them into the soil for you.
- Ask your child to help you when it’s time to harvest the veggies you’ve grown, or when you want to pick some flowers from your garden.
- Provide your child with their own kid-sized watering can, and let them help you water the plants according to their schedule.
- If you don’t have room for an outdoor garden or just want to give your child a gardening project of their own, you can repurpose an egg carton, filling it with potting soil and putting a seed in each cup. You can cover the carton with plastic wrap to provide a greenhouse effect as well.
You can teach kids new words through observation of the surroundings; like class, their room, the garden in front of their house, the park where they often go for a walk, or the canteen where they have their lunch. “ I spy” is a very popular game, when a kid describes something that is in the room, and others have to guess what is he talking about.
I Spy — Describe something in the house so the other players can guess what it is
Another way of teaching words is through the alphabet and words in the Alphabet Game.
Alphabet Game — Name animals, foods, or athletes starting with the letter A, then B, and so on
To balance your child’s “screen-no screen” activity, I suggest offering them to play some interactive games on their tablet or phone. Like those games that teach about healthy food and nutrition. For example, a Healthy food game that promotes healthy eating for children + and families. Or Amazing food detective, the game that offers junior food detectives to get secret training on how to eat right and exercise.
Obviously, this is just a small part of what we can do to keep children away from the screen as long as possible and keep them busy. However, I think, that could be a good start .