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Raising children in the modern age often includes screen time on a variety of electronics. Whether it’s finishing up homework on a school furnished laptop, playing with mommy’s phone for a few minutes while standing in line at the grocery store, enjoying a movie in the backseat of the family van via a headrest video player, or racking up points in a favorite game on a tablet, relying upon screens is an increasingly normal reality for many children..

 

The impact of the usage of screen-based electronics upon children is a hot button issue. There are compelling arguments on both sides that can leave good parents feeling conflicted. While I don’t personally believe all screen time is bad, the threats of addiction, exposure to predators, and premature access to adult content are important considerations you must make when it comes to allowing access to screens in your home.

I believe occasional screen time can be beneficial and fun provided there is supervision, the sessions are short, and the child is mature enough to handle it. As a work at home mom, I have taken advantage of my children’s screen time to complete some of the tasks of my to-do list. However, I never want to use a screen to babysit my children nor do I want their childhood memories to consist of watching me glued to a screen even if they know I’m working.

“… the threats of addiction, exposure to predators, and premature access to adult content are important considerations you must make when it comes to allowing access to screens in your home.”

From Bread Baker to Bread Maker

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To that end, we’ve recently put a ban on most screen time for our children. We still do our weekly movie night and they may sit with us when we are doing certain screen-based activities, but we are encouraging them to readapt to their former, nearly screenless lives.

We’ve experienced some pushback, to put it lightly. But children are resilient and creative by nature. It’s been wonderful to see my babies doing more self-directed artwork and playing more games together. The other day, my two year old even asked to do math (he likes to do flashcards with my daughter)!

The following is a list of 50+ alternatives to screen time for young children. You can choose to join in the fun or take advantage of the time to catch up on chores or complete a few small operational tasks in your business.

50+ Alternatives to Screen Time for Young Children

 

Indoor

If you’ve got work to do, set up near the kids while they try these activities. Remember to join in when you can!

Build a fort – Strip the sheets off the beds and let your children play with them before they go in the hamper. Let them use the couch cushions and extra chairs for stability.

Living room picnic – Here in the Seattle area, rainy days are frequent. Indoor picnics are almost as fun as the outdoor ones, minus the ants! Keep it simple — a few finger foods eaten atop small blanket on the floor will give your children a big thrill.

Make some slime or salt dough – Slime is all the rage and salt dough will always be a classic, sensory toy. Save your creations in a food storage container, refrigerate, and enjoy again at a later date.

Finger puppet show – You can buy a pack of adorable finger puppets for just a few dollars, like these animal and family member plush puppets, or you can make your own with the cardboard from toilet paper rolls!

Workout – Give your children a love of fitness by working out together. Simple body weight exercises like push ups, jumping jacks, and squats will help your babies get their wiggles out. The best part? They’ll be more than ready to take a nap!

Dance off – Let your kids take turn playing DJ. Each one can pick a song or two to play on the stereo, then you can all spend some time dancing together. Make it more interesting with a competition or by adding original choreography to a song. If you’re a “bad dancer” don’t sit back and watch while your kids have all the fun! Your children won’t remember your two left feet, but they will remember mama having a blast!

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Take turns reading aloud -Reading aloud is an important skill to learn and it’s also fun! Find a favorite book (my kids love this one) and do your best character voices.

Bath time -This is a three for one: your children will get clean and have fun playing in the water while you catch up on a book.

Piano practice -If you’ve got a child who is musically inclined, add in a little extra practice time to make up for the loss of a screen.

Board games – There are some great child friendly board games around that can be played with or without an adult. For younger children, the opportunity to play with the game pieces while following their own rules can be more fun than trying to stick to the actual rulebook.

Simple card games -Games like Go Fish and Memory are not only lots of fun, they help children to build critical thinking skills.

Car lot -Our local library system has a fun event where families can build toy cars out of cardboard boxes. With a little washi tape, buttons, tissue paper, newspapers, and paper plates, your child can create a car as unique as they are.

Classic toy joy -Pull out the bins with the blocks, the interlinking train tracks, and the stacking cups. Your child will have fun engineering all sorts of structures.

Bowling alley – My good friend bought us a toddler bowling game that my kids can’t get enough of. You can make one like it with some empty soda bottles and a kickball.

Flatten bubble wrap -Save up the bubble wrap that comes in your packages and pull out a few stacks the next time your children want to have some fun. Watch them pop the little bubbles and giggle their hearts out.

Outdoor

Charge up your laptop or grab your latest craft project and head outside with your children. The fresh air will be good for them and you. Try the pomodoro method—work 25 minutes then rest for 5 minutes—and get out of your seat to run around with the kiddos during your break.

Dig in the dirt – Find some sticks and let your children dig around in the earth.

Weed the garden – Break out the gardening gloves and teach your children how to pull weeds. Working side by side in the garden is a great opportunity to have conversations about the environment, where food comes from, and bugs!

Throw a frisbee – Your children can throw to each other or you can throw it out for them to catch.
Race-Set some boundaries and let the kids race in the yard.

Watch the clouds – Put a blanket on the grass and throw on some shades. Look at the clouds and make up stories about the shapes you see.

Blow bubbles – Get a pack of bubbles from the discount store or splurge on a bubble machine.

Draw pictures – Hand out pieces of sidewalk chalk to your children. After they’re done creating masterpieces, draw a hopscotch pattern and show them how it’s done!

Bird watching – A pair of binoculars and a bird watching guide can occupy your children for awhile depending on where you live.

Take a walk – The most powerful tool in your business is your mind. Figure out your next step and get in a good workout by taking a nice long walk with the kids. Dictate any good ideas into your cell phone.

Go to the beach – Pack up your notebook, a few pens, and your beach gear. Work on your screen free business tasks while your kiddos build sandcastles. If there isn’t a beach near you, the park is a good option.

Pretend Play

Pretend play is an important part of your child’s development. Here are some ideas for scenarios your children can explore.

Toy Surgeon – Create medical bags with physician equipment or purchase one here. Encourage your children to give a checkup to all their toys.

Hair salon – Give the kids some soft brushes and let them take turns styling each other’s hair.

Parent duty – Show your kids how to babywear and diaper their dolls.

Superhero Costume designer – Help your children find props for their own superhero costumes, then watch them roleplay.

Tea party – Set up your kids and their favorite dolls with thumbprint cookies, iced tea, or sparkling juice for afternoon tea.

Mama’s Helper

Your children love to help and imitate you as you do grown up tasks. Why not involve them? It may take a little longer to get things done, but you’ll both enjoy the time spent bonding as they learn new skills.

Dry dishes – Shatterproof dishes can be safely dried by little hands.

Wash walls – A little bucket with warm soapy water and a wash cloth can give your child experience with cleaning up messes.

Set/clear the table – Give non-shatterproof items to your children to place on the table. Ensure that they are walking a short distance and never give them anything with food in it.

Fold the laundry – Let your children try to fold towels or hang up their clothing. Thank them for their help and if you have to re-do the task, don’t be critical about it and wait until they’re out of sight.

Water the plants – Fill up a watering can or spray bottle so your children can care for your potted plants.

Prep fruits and veggies for dinner – We invested in a child friendly kitchen prep set so our children can safely learn knife skills. My children are too young to use these independently, but an older child who likes to cook can use these tools to practice their sous chef skills with no fear of an injury.

Sweep the kitchen – After the meals have been consumed, the kitchen must be cleaned! A dustpan and a little brush are perfect for little ones who enjoy cleaning.Your child can take care of the kitchen floor while you take care of the countertops.

Educational

Learning is play and play is learning!

Puzzles – Give your children a few easy educational puzzles or work together on a more challenging puzzle.

Cooking lesson – Help your child prepare a simple snack or bake a treat together.

Abacus and math problems – My children can’t get enough of math. They love to use their abacus and manipulatives to solve simple addition and subtraction problems.

Laminated workbooks – Introduce your children to formal education with skill building reusable workbooks! Keep it fun and remember that these skills are not only the result of practice, but of brain development. In other words, don’t panic if your child can’t do the work perfectly. They may not be ready for it.

Writing prompt – Keep a shared journal with each child. You can write freely or give them a writing prompt. Be sure to read and reply in a timely manner!

Lab time – Kids love basic kitchen science activities! Get out the goggles, gloves, and lab coat so your child can play mad scientist with common ingredients like baking soda and vinegar. Remember to supervise carefully!


Letter to grandparent – Do your parents lament how little time they spend with your children? A letter from your little ones is the next best thing! If your child can write a little, help them to compose a short message. Otherwise, encourage them to draw a picture and include a little note explaining the intent.

Flashcard fun – Practice skills and engage in a little friendly competition with flash card drills. There are cards for shapes, colors, the Alphabet, foreign languages, careers, and just about anything else you could imagine. Have fun reviewing a few sets and be amazed by how much your children pick up over time.

Foreign language challenge – Are you a bi- or trilingual family? If so, set a timer and challenge your children to speak in the language of your choosing for 3 minutes.

I hope this list will help you to reduce the screen time in your home. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it must always be a complement to our lives, not the focus of it.

How do you keep your children busy without screen time? Let me know in the comments!

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