Simple screen-free play ideas for kids!
A lot has been said about the negatives of too much screen time for toddlers and young children. While technology and screens can be incredibly useful, the key of course, is balance. The high concentration of stimulus can lead to tantrums, erratic bedtimes and fussy mealtimes. And while all parents know this, children today are exposed to screens everywhere, from home to school. So naturally, it is impossible to stop their use entirely and sometimes, allowing screen time is an easy way to just get a breather.
But if you’re looking to try and reduce the dependancy on screens, a few simple ideas for screen-free play can go a long way. Here are some that we love. Many of them encourage independent play so that kids learn how to entertain themselves. And there is the welcome bonus of a little time for yourself!
Keep the bookshelf stocked
Books over screens, all day every day! We don’t need to tell you how great flipping through a picture book or reading a fun kids book can be for young minds. Set aside story time after school or at bedtime for a good way to unwind. Let your child choose a ‘book of the week’ and get through a little bit each day, whether you’re reading out loud together, or creating a little ‘reading nook’ for your child.
Always have coloured pens, crayons, glitter, paint, glue and craft paper handy. Anytime boredom strikes, set them out and let your child do whatever he or she pleases! You could ask your child to do something specific like draw what happened in school that day or get crafty with old boxes and other household items, finding creative ways to decorate and reuse them. In fact, our #DeclutterWithOribel campaign is all about extending the life of disposable materials, living more sustainably and having some fun along the way!
Whether you have a big, green backyard or a park close to your home, some outdoor time every day is essential. Climbing trees, running around on the grass, playing an impromptu soccer game or even playing hopscotch in the driveway all help expel restless energy that would otherwise be spent watching a screen.
Build a fort
Old blankets, pillows, maybe a couple of chairs and some skilful draping creates a cosy little play area. In here, help your child create his or her own little world. Maybe imagine a whole new planet, maybe just create a hidey-hole, stocked with favourite books, snacks, toys. It can be far more than just a pretend fort which you take down after a few hours, and actually be somewhere your child loves to spend time alone or with friends for a cute play date!
Get kids involved in chores
From toddlers learning to pick up their toys, to older kids helping with daily tasks like cooking, setting aside time for household chores is a good way to reduce time spent in front of the screen. If it becomes part of the daily routine, it becomes a habit, and if your child can choose things like “what to cook tonight”, it doesn’t have to be a tedious task either.
Turn movie night into family night
Many families do a movie night every week, but you can make it screen-free with a more interactive family night. Play board games, start a marathon VertiPlay STEM Marble Run contest, sing songs together, tell stories, draw pictures, bake cookies, toast marshmallows, camp in your backyard! Choose a new activity to do every week and it’ll become something not just your child, but the whole family looks forward to.
Introduce simple gardening activities like plucking weeds, learning to make a bird feeder, doing a little bird watching every day, watching the sunset together, or visiting a duck pond nearby. Learning to appreciate nature and work with the hands, does wonders for the senses and you can even turn it into a daily activity. For example, plant a seed together in your garden, and ask your child to make sure it’s watered every day.
Explore your neighborhood
Do you have a zoo, museum or planetarium nearby? Does your local library have kids events and book readings? Is there a park you haven’t been to very often or a restaurant you haven’t tried yet? Head out with your child once a week and try and find something new in your neighbourhood. It could be as simple as trying a different flavour of ice cream at your favourite store. This can become a new whole kind of play time!
Do you encourage screen-free play for your kids? What do you feel has worked best for them? Leave us a comment with your ideas!