Every generation certainly has its challenges, but perhaps none as much as today. In this modern world, parents are tasked with what seems like a neverending battle against the draw of portable electronics, such as smartphones and tablets.
If we are really honest with ourselves, sometimes it isn’t worth the fight to pull the iPad away, especially when it is one of the few items that keeps your child occupied, quiet, and still. But with so much conflicting research on whether screen time can negatively impact childhood development, it’s important to maintain a healthy balance.
If you’re looking for screen free activities for kids, these ideas will keep your little one occupied and entertained while also providing simple and fun ways to spend quality time together as a family.
8 Screen Free Activities for Kids in Preschool
Preschoolers are naturally curious, and practically everything breeds excitement and joy within them. Developmentally, kids from ages two to five should spend no more than an hour daily in front of a screen, whether it’s a phone or a television. These screen free activities for kids aged 2-4 will help them develop important skills while also teaching them about the world around them.
1) Go for a nature walk
One of the easiest screen free activities for kids is to get your little one outdoors and have them help you collect items out in nature. The items to collect will depend on where you live and what season it is. Generally, acorns, leaves, flowers, and sticks are readily accessible and safe for your little one to pick up, and with a little construction paper and glue, you can create artwork together when you return home.
2) Make a sandcastle
This one may take a bit of prep work, but it’s totally worth it. Whether you have a sandbox with buckets you can use to teach your little one how to create sculptures, or a fun inflatable sand tray filled with moon sand, your child will have an absolute blast! Playing with sand is a great sensory activity for little ones, and can be very calming, so this is a great activity to use when your little one is climbing the walls!
3) Create chalk art
Most of us have childhood memories of coloring the sidewalk with chalk. Why not continue the tradition with your own children? Your kids will love doodling on the sidewalk with chalk at any age. Insider’s tip: get a sidewalk chalk set with chalk holders to keep the mess at a minimum.
4) Make a birdfeeder
A birdfeeder offers dual distractions away from the screen. First of all, help your little one paint their own wooden birdfeeder. Secondly, hang the birdfeeder somewhere visible from a window and teach your child the joys of birdwatching.
5) Develop an obstacle course
With young children, making anything into a challenge is so much fun. Layer pillows on the ground for your child to hop on, have them crawl under a side table, or shimmy through an empty box or two. Your child will have a blast—and get a great workout to boot! You can even offer to time them to boost their efforts.
6) Have a dance party
Kids in preschool LOVE to dance, and if you’re looking for easy screen free activities for kids, crank up some silly music and start grooving! You are guaranteed to get in both a great workout and a lot of laughs.
7) Make sensory bins
Sensory play is huge for this age group. Anything that stimulates your child’s senses (sight, smell, taste, etc) will help him or her develop essential sensory skills. Some favorites for this age group include bins of slime they can plunge their hands into, bowls of ice cubes floating in water, or even sand they can squeeze and mold. Your an also try some of these fun sensory science experiments to help squeeze in even more fun learning.
8) Make dinner together
No, your preschooler cannot be trusted to chop veggies or slice meat, lol, but you can still find ways to get them involved in the kitchen so you can spend quality time together! Find small tasks for them to complete, such as adding a pinch of salt or stirring ingredients together. To make the best use of your hands, splurge on a learning tower to help your little one stay engaged and hands-free.
8 Screen Free Activities for Kids in Kindergarten
As your kindergartener grows, he or she will become increasingly curious about the world around them. Try these fun screen free activities for kids aged 5-6 and help them develop their expanding worldview.
1) Learn to ride a bike
Age 5 is about the right time to teach your little one how to ride a bike on their own. Let them choose a cute bike with training wheels along with a fun bike helmet, and find some empty paved spaces to practice in. Before long, the entire family will be able to go on a bike ride together, getting all of you away from your screens!
2) Fly a kite
On the next windy day, peel your child away from his or her iPad and head outdoors to learn how to fly a kite. Your little one will love seeing it sore up in the sky!
3) Visit the library
Your local library is an untapped source of wonder for your child. Check your local library’s website for a list of activities for children: there are often readings and fun things kids can do weekly. Plus, there are hundreds, if not thousands of books there that your kindergarteners will love reading.
4) Watch the clouds
On a nice, clear day, grab a blanket and head outdoors to lay down and watch the clouds. Take turns describing the clouds you see to each other—you’ll be amazed at the creativity your child has!
5) Head to the playground
You’d be hardpressed to find anything more entertaining for your child than an outing to a nearby playground. Swings, slides, and climbing equipment will keep your kid busy while they work out their wiggles.
6) Try picking fruit
Depending on your location and the season, you likely have a nearby farm where you can pick your own fruit. Strawberries, blueberries, apples, or cherries—whatever you have near you, your child will love picking the ripe fruit. You can even make a fun dessert or jam with them afterward and enjoy the fruits of your labor, so to speak.
7) Create a puppet show
Kindergarteners have so much imagination. Help them channel some of it into a puppet show, which is one of the most fun screen free activities for kids. Your child will have a blast creating a script and acting it out with puppets. Let them practice for the afternoon, then gather the family around to watch their show after dinner.
8) Put together a gift basket
Whether it’s for a baby shower, a birthday, or just to help someone have a better day, your child will add a creative touch to any gift basket. Work together to brainstorm a theme, then ask your kindergartener to come up with a shopping list. You can even instruct them to create some original artwork to serve as the card.
8 Screen Free Activities for Kids in Elementary School
Elementary school students are dealing with longer hours at school, and getting their first taste of homework. At the end of the day, your little one can be absolutely exhausted. It can feel so much easier to allow him or her to unwind with a TV show, video games, or time on their tablet, but these screen free activities for kids aged 6-10 will give them a healthier outlet to unwind.
1) Go for a hike
The options for hiking will depend largely on your geographical location. However, even a long walk around your neighborhood will serve the same purpose of getting your child out in nature.
2) Plant a garden
A garden is a great way for your child to learn about the world around them, plus help instill routines and chores into their daily life. Help your elementary-aged child research what they need to create a flower or vegetable garden, then entrust them with the task of planting, watering and pruning their creation.
3) Build a project
Another life skill your child can begin learning at this age is how to follow instructions to put together a project independently. If you’ve recently been to IKEA, enlist them to build a piece of furniture for (or with) you. Likewise, gift your child with a building kit where they can build functioning toys.
4) Play Mad Libs
Want a screen free activity for kids that’s practically guaranteed to produce giggles? Look no further than Mad Libs. This clever game will have everyone laughing while your child learns their parts of speech.
5) Do a scavenger hunt
A scavenger hunt can be set up fairly quickly, thanks to creative, generous people on the internet who provide printables, instructions, and plenty of opportunities for creative hunting. See 29 fun scavenger hunt ideas right here.
6) Bake some treats
Get your little one busy in the kitchen with the promise of dessert after dinner. You can allow them to choose a dessert from a favorite cookbook, or simply hand them a box mix of brownies and let them get to work.
7) Write a book
A collection of short stories or even a novel will keep your child preoccupied while also fine-tuning their writing skills and stretching their imagination. And who knows? They might just discover writing is a new favorite pastime!
8) Play cards or a board game
A game of solitaire can provide hours of strategic fun sans screens, as can family game night. This funny game is a favorite of both elementary school students and their parents.
Whichever of the above screen free activities for kids you choose, remember that encouraging your child to stay off their phone and tablet does little good if you don’t model a healthy balance yourself. Make it a family rule to have screen-free time throughout your week, and enjoy some new activities together.
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