Quite often the TV or the tablet are referred to as the modern babysitter as they give parents some time to do their work, finish the household chores or let’s be honest – relax a bit. Technology is not necessarily a bad thing; it can help us discover the world we are living in and keeps us connected with our friends and family even though we are miles away.
Still, too much screen time is not good and healthy both for our kids and for us as adults as well. We shall not be trying to punish our kids for using their digital babysitter but look for alternatives to screen time. If we can come up with interesting activities, our kids will substitute the tablet with them more willingly.
How to promote alternatives to screen time?
Let us not forget that it is important to set a good example and therefore, we shall be the first to “sacrifice” some of our screen time and build better habits. There are several clever tips that can help you limit your kids’ screen time that you can easily apply at home:
- Model healthy electronic use – you need to be a successful role model when it comes to using electronics. Keeping your TV on for background noise or browsing through your Facebook app on the phone in every free minute send a wrong message.
- Establish a technology-free zone – you can select a few places in your house where no smartphones and laptops are allowed. This can be the kitchen while cooking or the dining room, which should be used for eating and playing games. If you have limited space, you can establish time zones that should be technology-free such as dinner time.
- Be technologically-educated – our kids are tech0savvy, in most of the cases they know much more about modern technology than we do. Hence, it is necessary to educate yourself about modern technology and the dangers associated with it in order to protect your kids. You will be easily understood if you speak their language. Show them that you know how to use social media or video game rankings mean and teach them how to have fun safely. That includes using parenting control and having access to your kids’ passwords for social media or other accounts.
- Encourage other activities – the best way to distract kids from their screens is to offer them an appealing alternative. It should be something that they love doing so that it is not accepted as a form of punishment. It will be great if you can think of something that you can do together as a family. Then you will have a double effect that entails bonding with or reconnecting to your kids.
When we are looking for the right activity that can substitute screen time, we need to take into account the season, the weather, the options we have handy (such as toys, games, crafts, etc.) and the interests of our kids. Below are 11 ideas that are good options to use if you want to distract your kids and yourself from the electronic devices.
Go to the park
Spending time outdoors has a series of positive effects on our overall health, body, and mind. When the weather is good and we have a few spare hours, it is a great idea to go to the nearest park. You can walk around, gather some flowers or leaves that you can later use as part of a craft project. You can let the kids run free, play with their siblings or peers and simply enjoy being outside.
Visiting a playground where the kids can enjoy different activities in the open is also a good solution. Many experts recommend spending at least 3 hours outdoors but the truth is that every minute spent in nature and not in front of a screen matters.
If you have some more free time or during the holiday seasons, you can organize a longer trip for the kids than that to the park. Put on some comfy shoes and clothes and go hiking. You can join a local hiking group, if any, or organize the trips yourself. Make sure to select routes that will be easy for your kids and fascinating at the same time.
An alternative can be to ride bikes together, go skiing or kayaking, depending on where you live and the weather you have. You can also include a picknick as part of the outing so that you can eat something tasty and refresh your powers.
Play games in the yard
Simply letting your kids play games in the backyard is also a great alternative to screen time. Teach your children how to actually play football instead of playing it on their tablets. You can play certain sports together like basketball or badminton, for example. Or, you can simply let your kids have fun running around in the rain.
Give your kids some freedom while they are outside and let them enjoy their favorite activities. Soon, you will see how this type of play will prevail over electronic devices.
Organize a family game night
When the weather is not suitable for going out, you need to have some tricks up your sleeve as well. One of the best ways to limit screen time and spend some quality time together is to organize a family game night. You can turn this into a tradition – choose a day of the week that is most suitable for that special night and make a pledge to come up with something creative for each session.
Your kids can come up with suggestions about what kind of game you can play. Our advice is to choose a variety of activities so that it is not boring. Board games, card games, and puzzles are a great idea but you can also go for something not that common. Organize a race between family members with the Speed Pipes Racing Set. It allows you to foster imagination and encourage engineering skills as you can build any track you can dream of. The set allows you to defy gravity as the cars can climb the pipes and walls. You can use other car or train tracks as well or organize a puppet theater with finger hand puppets or other toys you can find around the house.
Make sure that the theme of the family game night corresponds to the age of your kids and includes games and activities that you will all enjoy.
Play with building toys
Toys are important for your kids’ development so do not skip playing with them. Building blocks, in particular, help develop creativity, engineering, and problem-solving skills and are suitable for kids of different ages. You can start with simple wooden blocks or crazy bricks that are suitable for toddlers and then continue with this activity offering more complicated building toys to bigger children.
There are many ways to play with building toys – set a specific task like build your dream house, a bridge or a car factory. You can race who will be the first to complete the task or simply to erect the highest tower. You can turn it into a game by giving points for creative designs or for quick completion of the task. The possibilities are numerous and will keep your kid occupied for a while and not in front of the screen.
Play a board game
Board games are fun for the whole family. You can use the board games to spend some more time together with the kids or if you have two or more children, they are a great way to keep them all occupied while you do your choirs.
An alternative to board games are various puzzles, either jigsaws or sudoku that are both fun and promote logical and creative thinking and can help your kids develop a whole range of skills.
Cooking is a great relaxing activity that many of us love. Why not include your children in it? Even a toddler can participate actively in the process and feel proud afterwards, while bigger kids will learn an essential life skill and will become more responsible towards their food.
This activity is also great if you have a picky eater. You can learn more about what they love eating and by letting them cook it for themselves that will make them less picky. They can see the hard work involved but also enjoy the funny side of cooking.
At a certain point, your tweens and teens may start surprising you with a tasty dinner or a sweet dessert once in a while.
A trick to attract kids to cooking is to use the electronic devices as a prompt – let them find the recipe there or watch a master chef cooking and thus turn the screen into an ally rather than the enemy to fight with.
Reading is a great way to relax. Read together with your little kids and lit the love for reading in them. Encourage older children to read silently and then act out the story. You can ask them to draw illustrations to the book they are reading in order to make it even more interesting.
Well, it is possible to use e-readers or tablets for reading as well, which is not exactly an alternative to screen time but still reading has too many great benefits not to encourage it even with an electronic device.
Have a jam session
Music has many benefits for children of all ages so it is a good idea to encourage musical activities. Learn a few songs or dances together and perform for the rest of the family. Let your kids organize a concert and sell you tickets (the price should be symbolic).
You can use the musical instruments you already have at home to organize a concert. Grab the baby wooden maraca toy, old toy drums or even a few pots and simply have fun.
Pot some flowers or work in the garden
If you love flowers or working in the garden, it is time to teach your kids something about your hobby. Let them plant a flower or ask them to help you in the garden – water the flowers or pick some fruits and vegetables. It may turn out that your little one has green fingers and is great at gardening. This activity is relaxing and educational at the same time so your kids will learn a lot about nature or where food comes from without even realizing it.
Art and crafts
When it comes to arts and crafts, electronic devices can be of help as inspiration. There are numerous ideas online with themed activities that you can use. You can find a favorite DIY activity that can be anything from simply painting your portraits to assembling a solar energy powered toy.
Such activities will help you identify specific talents in your kids and develop them further. Or you can simply have fun doing the things that you love most.
There are many alternatives to screen time that you can offer to your kids. Make sure to have strict rules about when it is appropriate to use mobile devices and when it is forbidden. Use the screens as your ally to find ideas for your family nights or to select the best hiking route but then thank them and leave them alone while you enjoy fun time together as a family.
As toys are some of the best alternatives to screen time, we suggest that you have a look at our offers in the Toys section of our online shop.