Today, children grow up with the glow of screens all around them: they encounter smartphones, tablets, televisions and computers seemingly at every turn. And while these devices do have some educational benefits, overuse has been proven to be detrimental for childhood development. Everything from developing a robust imagination, to their ability to focus or build a large vocabulary can be significantly impeded with hours of screen time.
The trouble for parents is finding alternative activities for your children that are just as engaging as video games and TV shows. We’re here to help! We’ve found 10 fun activities you can do with your children that have nothing to do with a screen.
Take a Walk
The great outdoors are incredibly beneficial to your child’s development. Fresh air, new people to interact with and environments to explore all add to their imagination and emotional development. A simple walk—it can be as easy as walking down your street together, or finding a patch of woods to explore—is all you need for your child to create entire worlds with their imagination. Encourage them by asking questions and showing excitement about their stories. Each outing becomes a bonding moment you can build on every day thereafter.
Read a Book
In the early stages of your child’s development, regular exposure to communication and language are essential. That’s why books are irreplaceable. We know it can be difficult to get your child to choose a book over their screens, so we suggest hunting for less traditional and more engaging books. A favorite example is The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak. It is sure to get a laugh from you and your child.
The many benefits of play are well documented. It’s part of the reason children love video games—fun is universal. Taking time to play with your kids can be as simple as a game of I-Spy or catch. Or you can go big by hanging sheets and blankets off furniture to transform your living room into another world. No matter what you have time for, it is sure to exercise more of their imagination than another rerun of their favorite TV show.
Put Them in Charge of the Kitchen
If your kids are older, encourage them to get involved in the kitchen. That lull at home between school and dinner is often prime screen time, so give them something else to do. Put your kids in charge of coming up with the menu, reading the recipe or making an entire dish. Not only will it encourage math skills and imagination
Make an Art Piece
Classics are classics for a reason. There is nothing better for your child’s imagination than sitting down with a set of markers or finger paints. Younger children can use this time to develop their gross motor skills, while older children can work on their fine motor skills. But children of every age will advance their spatial awareness and imagination.
Finish a Puzzle as a Family
Puzzles encourage critical thinking, problem-solving and hand-eye coordination. Whether your child is a toddler or in middle school, puzzles will always be a great alternative to screen time. Pick a challenging puzzle that you can finish as a family and you can frame it to commemorate your achievements.
Play Quick Brain Games
Often it’s in the middle of a distracted moment that your child will ask to use your smartphone. When you’re waiting in traffic together or roaming around the grocery store, kids want some kind of distraction. Prepare yourself with brain teasers or ask them to come up with a riddle on their own. The trick is to always have another suggestion when they try to default to screen time.
Conduct Your Own Science Experiments
Sure, Fortnite is cool, but what could be better than an actual explosion inside your home? (Obviously we’re talking about a small, controlled, and above all, safe explosion!) Encourage your kids to conduct small science experiments instead of jumping on their favorite devices. A quick Google search offers plenty of homemade experiments or you can buy kits designed specifically for your child’s age (and your tolerance for cleaning up a mess!).
Try a Craft
If you notice your child is less enthusiastic about science experiments, give crafts a try. Many craft projects develop the same cognitive and motor skills as science experiments, but they cater to kids who lean toward arts and engineering. Craft stores like Michael’s offer classes if you want to get out of the house. YouTube also has an unlimited number of instructional videos for any craft you can imagine. Crafts don’t require a huge supply list, either: A box of popsicle sticks and a bottle of glue can lead to hours of building fun, likewise a pile of colored construction paper, scissors and glitter.
Explore Your City
Much like going for a walk, taking time to explore your city or town is a great way to encourage your child’s imagination and make them familiar with where they live. Ask them to create a route for you to drive and stop to check out all the interesting things along the way. Eat at a new restaurant, see an odd attraction or ask them to create a story about how a store came to be. You’ll be surprised how wild your child’s imagination can get over the most ordinary things.