25 Ways Your Family can Spend Time Away from a Screen this holiday
For many parents, screen time is a complicated topic. On the one hand it’s strongly discouraged by medical associations such as The Canadian Paediatric Society and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
For children under 2 years old, screen time is not recommended.
For children 2 to 5 years old, limit routine or regular screen time to less than 1 hour per day.
For children over 5 years old, limit screen time to less than 2 hours per pay.
Canadian Paediatric Society Poster for screen time reference https://www.cps.ca/uploads/about/ScreenTimePoster-EN.pdf
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
American Academy of Pediatrics https://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
On the other hand, working from home, a trying year of lockdowns, weather, boredom and a litany of other reasons or stressors, can mean your child is getting a lot more screen time than you ever said you would give them.
Of course we know face-to-face interaction, imaginative play, creativity, engaging in games and activities with siblings and parents, or just enjoying interacting with the family is best, coming up with creative play and activities can be just as taxing in the moment and quite time consuming if there is prep involved, tickets to buy, etc. Not to mention the level of drama caused by disrupting the kid’s online world in order to get them to engage in the real one.
That’s why this list has a mix of suggestions with easy prep, or ideas to tack onto the day.
Read below for 25 Ideas for Family
I have kids and taking away their screens will lead to WW3, I don’t have that energy
Before launching into the list of screen-free activities, it may be easier to create obstacles, boundaries or parameters that can help kids who are used to their screen-filled days to adjust to other activities.
Cutting back screen time dramatically overnight can end up creating battles and resentment that you just don’t want to deal with, especially when these activities are meant to be fun for everyone.
Methods parents can use to help their reduce screen time
Parental controls. Set up controls on their devices so that when a daily screen limit has been reached then the device locks their child out, forcing them to put it down.
No device zones. Keeping screens out of bedrooms can be something to implement as it prevents children from wanting to use the device at night, and creates a more open space in which to use your devices
Delete or log out of social apps. These apps are too easy to spend minutes or hours on, so try deleted them off your phones or logging out so it’s more inconvenient to log back in. It’s amazing what a feeling of relief you’ll have.
Turn off notifications. ANother great way to break the habit of constantly checking your phone. The random buzzes, drop downs, or pop ups are like treats for a dog, whenever they come up we jump to see what they are. So you don’t answer a text or email immediately, this also allows you to finish other projects, put boundaries on our times and keep you from diving into a conversation that will still be there later.
Set up times during the day where absolutely no screens are allowed. Dinner is likely one of those times during the day when no screens should be on. During this chunk of time encourage your child is free to play with their toys, their friends, you, or just have some quiet time.
No screens 1 hour before bed. Turning off the blue light of the screen and dopamine distractors will help your kid go to sleep quicker and be more rested overall.
Plan together. Encourage children to choose the activities they want to do and engage with them in help in the planning, gathering of supplies, and prep work for the activity. They will feel useful, and a great sense of accomplishment when they “own” something that they can then tell everyone about afterwards.
Remember adults are “Bored” of the world in ways kids are not. As adults we may feel like we’ve done it all, seen it all, and made our own opinions about what we think is fun and boring. Playing cards may feel boring, going for walks may feel like ugh, pouring water into different cups (why would we do that?), these are all new experiences for children. Most of things you can suggest to a child they haven’t even heard of or thought of before. Put your own spin on the adventure walk around the neighborhood, add oil to the water play to see what happens, teach card tricks. Challenge your child to come up with something for YOU to try. They’ll love that. +
The most important one – model the behavior you want to see. Kids watch and learn, sometimes you think they aren’t watching, but they are, they’re sneaky like that. They also love to emulate moms and dads and if you aren’t on your screen it’s a lot easier to tell them they can’t be on theirs either. Turn off TVs and other screens when they are not being used and don’t leave them on in the background or at family times like dinner. Make that time when you can do an activity together, perhaps you both spend time reading in the same room or they are made to feel helpful when working on chores or cooking together.
Overall, children want to feel loved and to feel safe. These “limits” actually enhance these feelings because they get to spend quality time with you, making eye contact, touching, talking to and feeling in control because the environment they are in has boundaries, expectations, and predictability. Yes, they may resist these limits at first because they think they need their devices to feel good, but they will feel amazing and empowered and happier without being on their screens .
25 Activity Suggestions for Kids and Teens that Don’t Involve Phones
- Build a fort
- Play hide and seek – honestly such a fun game, just lay down some ground rules like having a safe word to indicate the game is over and you need the child to come out of hiding, and over limit hiding places, safety above all else.
- Play Statues or otherwise known as Red Light/ Green Light or Grandmother’s Footsteps or Un, deux trois, soleil – fun modifications can be made to play inside for example if the parent is busy and the child can sneak up on the parents who suddenly turn around a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statues_(game)
- Coloring. Get a new box of crayons or Crayolas and enter a coloring contest, or color pictures for loved ones as part of their holiday gifts, or neighbors (people love receiving a child’s coloring – it’s very touching)
- Write a letter to someone on your Christmas card list. Sending a letter to Santa is probably an easy idea, but writing letters to loved ones, friends, teachers, neighbors, can be a great way to practice hand-eye coordination, improve vocabulary, spelling, and build empathy. Plus there is the adding time filling out an envelope, applying stamps and then taking a little field trip to the postbox. If kids are lucky they’ll receive a letter back in the mail. And that’s how snail mail lives on.
- Card games. Inexpensive, fun and lots of variety for any age. Go fish, Crazy Eights, Uno, Old Maid, Slapjack.
- Card tricks. Learning card tricks, how to shuffle etc. can be fun things to know young and old. If you have a child who loves to focus, they may enjoy
- Board games – there so many options for all ages and interests.
- Play hockey or go ice skating. Many places have ice rinks with public skating and skate rentals, so do parks or town squares, or neighborhood rinks. It’s a quintessential holiday activity that is great fun and great exercise.
- Activity buckets. These can be anything! Fill buckets with water, shaving foam, bubbles, slime, toys like dinosaurs, cars, dolls, animals, blocks, use food like beans, rice, noodles, or oats.
- Advent calendar. If you want to create a long term gift have your child come up with gifts for an advent calendar. Consider buying things from the dollar store, making their own gifts, regifting and wrapping up the little trinkets for each day of the advent calendar. They could make this for siblings, parents, or friends to enjoy.
- Candle making. Definitely requires adult supervision. There are a number of fun, kid centered candle making kits available on Amazon or toy stores.
- Flag football, shinny hockey game, basketball game, curling match. Gather up some friends, cousins, another family rent a gym or court or go to your local community ice rink Friends of ours play road hockey each holiday on in front of their house and it’s a really fun tradition where they keep track each year and even have trophies and awards for different achievements, especially as they’ve gotten older.
- Build a Gingerbread House. This is a lovely, messy, fun activity that allows kids to be creative and use their imagination. Make it yourself or purchase any number of elaborate kits. Divide into teams and make it a fun contest with a big reveal, the winner picks the next activity.
- Build a model. Ships, cars, cities, bridges, sneakers, faces, the world of models is vast and you can pick up easy kits to do in an afternoon or ones that require multiple hours of intense concentration that can be built together or solo.
- Clean. You might not put your kid to work on scrubbing the shower but having your child assist with cleaning and chores is a great help you in your holiday prep, gives them a sense of pride for where they live and their things, and they can spend time with you and tell everyone what an awesome job they did washing a floor, or wiping down baseboards, or …
- Go swimming. In cold weather a nice swim can be a great way to burn some energy and warm up in a hot tub
- Volunteer and Give Back. It goes without saying the holidays are not a happy time for everyone and so many organizations and charities need help during the season to account for an influx in demand, and low staff. Take your kids to get food for the food bank, volunteer at a shelter, help
- Change the scenery. Take a drive to another town to look at lights, or attend an event there.
- Go snowshoeing / sledding
- Visit the library, a museum or aquarium. Chances are there is something fun and cool offered just for kids during the holidays.
- Make a wreath together for each child’s bedroom door
- Go mini-golfing
- Paint your nails, try a new mask, experiment with a fun makeup look, create a mini spa day at home for everyone to enjoy
- Build a puzzle. Much like models, a puzzle can be extremely challenging with many thousands of pieces that the whole family can work on throughout the holidays, or quick and easy that individual kids can do and then hang up in their rooms afterwards.