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25 Screen Alternatives for Kids

Help kids unplug with a variety of engaging alternatives that can develop more than fingertip dexterity.

By Lani Aquino

When summer is in full swing or any other break from school is upon you, the reality of occupying a child's time with something other than video games and screen time can seem pretty daunting. Here is a go-to source of ideas to get the ball rolling. Some may require a little prep, but the resource gathering can be a great lesson in research that you and your child can complete together for building a screen-free activity collection.

  1. Rube Goldberg Machines- For lovers of marble runs and other STEM creations, gathering supplies for creating a Rube Goldberg Machine to complete a simple task could be a source of a lot of learning and entertainment.
  2. House of Cards- Not binging on Netflix, but go old school and create some. This could even be a fun competition between siblings and/or friends.
  3. Make Music- It can be a guitar, kazoo, piano, or even some good old pots and pans that produce the tune. A little creativity with water-filled glasses of different levels could also offer up some fun scientifically-engineered sounds.
  4. Sporting Practice- Encourage kids to stay in shape during an off season or try out fundamentals from a variety of sports. Time spent dribbling, batting, catching, serving, sprinting, etc. is time well spent. A little research beforehand can provide kids with a skills and drills list for just about any sport imaginable.
  5. Playdough- For older kids, molding/modeling clay is a great substitute.
  6. Chores- All kids will be thrilled with this one! Adding a little fun to it with music or a challenge between siblings and/or a parent can make it more entertaining, but it’s a great way to teach responsibility.
  7. Gardening- Plant something or maintain something. Growing flowers and/or food from seeds is an excellent learning experience. These can be transferred outdoors or maintained inside. Keeping up with this project is an ongoing screen-free activity; although sometimes a research-based internet query may be required.
  8. READ!!!- Choose a book, a magazine, a comic, an instruction manual, or any other print source of interest. Hit the library weekly or scour the house for anything and everything to read.
  9. Obstacle Courses- These are great indoor or outdoor creations. Kids can be given a set group of objects to incorporate, or they can be the hunters and gatherers for developing a unique course. Ninja Warrior lovers can even put together a course to be continuously used.
  10. Board Games- Fun and competition doesn’t have to be limited to a screen. There are plenty of fun board games and even single-player card games that can be enjoyed.
  11. Paint- From paint-by-number books to oil pastels, there are lots of painting forms and mediums to be explored. These could be indoor projects or take things outdoors to allow for some unique canvases and techniques.
  12. Top 10 Lists- These are fun to write and can also offer a lot of insight about kids’ favorite things. Top 10 Lists are a perfect way to have kids plan, prioritize, and rationalize choices. Lists can be created for books, shows, activities, foods, vacation spots, and so much more!
  13. Clean-out Collections- Kids are notorious hoarders (many parents too). Extended time off of school is a perfect time to clean out closets, drawers, toy bins, etc. and gather items to donate, sell, and/or use in #9 and #13!
  14. Math Word Problems- Have kids write 2 or 3 math word problems surrounding everyday objects or events in at home. (If my oldest sister spends 18 minutes in the shower, and we only have 33 minutes of hot water, how long do the remaining 4 family members need to average in the shower for all to have hot water?)
  15. Get Cooking- Make a meal or prepare a homemade snack. There are a host of recipes out there for the making, or this is a perfect time to start passing down some family traditions.
  16. Write Cards/Letters- Handmade cards and handwritten letters are becoming a thing of the past. Bring them back by having kids design and/or pen correspondence to friends, relatives, troops, first responders, etc.
  17. Draw- This can be of the crayon variety or a more refined medium. Check out some guided drawing books from the library to allow kids to explore their artistic skills.
  18. Build- Blocks, Legos, Lincoln Logs, loose parts, etc. can be used to plan, build, destroy, and reconstruct a variety of structures.
  19. Get Crafty- Gather supplies from around the house and/or make a trip to a craft or dollar store to ensure there is an ample collection for crafting.
  20. Amateur Photographers- Have kids take photos of nature, indoor objects, family members, etc. A fun twist could be setting up I Spy tableaus to create a mini book or single image.
  21. Dress Up- Remember the clean-out that happened in #13? Some of those items could be relegated to a dress-up bin for some imaginative play.
  22. Get Riding- Ride a bike, a trike, a skateboard, a scooter, or any other non-motorized vehicle with wheels. Burn some energy and always wear a helmet!
  23. Outdoor Games- There are lots of classics like kickball, Kick the Can, Freeze Tag, jump rope, etc. There’s also lots of fun to be had with cornhole, croquet, badminton, and more. Kids can even be tasked with developing new games and/or fashioning new rules for old favorites.
  24. Add Water- Summertime can require a bit of cooling off, and kids can do this with a sprinkler, slip-n-slide, mini-pool, water balloons, etc. A bathing suit and a hose can bring hours of screen-free fun!
  25. Science Experiments- Summer and outdoors are the perfect time for all things oozing and exploding! Science experiments can be simple or elaborate, but regardless of the complexity, they are sure to bring about loads of learning and entertainment!

These 25 alternatives offer ideas for a variety of ages that are likely to make a lack of screen time much more enjoyable. There’s a time and a place for screens, but all the waking hours of summer do not fit the criterion. With a little preparatory legwork and a few supplies, kids can be off and running as they leave those screens in the dust!

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.

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