Screen Time Alternatives

Every family is unique, and however you decide to tackle screen time for your children is up to you. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to have activities ready just in case it’s time to put the digital devices down. While screen time can offer some learning benefits, kids benefit from a variety of educational opportunities. Below we outline some great ideas that are easy, inexpensive, and most importantly — fun!


Game On

Sometimes the weather isn’t so great, and staying home is the only option. Break out the games and make a day of it! Games can help support academic learning and help improve social skills.

  • Break out a deck of playing cards for Go Fish, Rummy, or Hearts
  • Introduce old-school games to a new generation — Monopoly and Clue are timeless
  • Start a tournament of dice games to boost math learning and number recognition
  • Use painter’s tape to play tic-tac-toe boards on the carpet with mini bean bags
  • Rearrange the dining room for a fun game of musical chairs
  • Help support reading and vocab learning with a no-rules game of Scrabble


Family Bonding

Take advantage of everyone being together, in the same place at the same time, and do some bonding that can help create memories.

  • Work together to recreate a traditional family recipe or favorite meal
  • Plan a family talent show, complete with costumes and a stage
  • Sing karaoke together or have a dance party
  • Take turns reading from a longer chapter book 
  • Teach kids a hobby that was past down to you from an older relative (like knitting)
  • Tell family stories or teach kids about important family history



Boost your Brain

Playtime can also be educational! Step away from the screen to help sneak in some fun learning, without your kids even knowing it.

  • Break out the Sudoku puzzles, word searches, or printable Mad Lib puzzles
  • Head to the library and check out books your kids have never read before
  • Conduct some easy science experiments, like a baking soda-vinegar volcano
  • Put together LEGO cars and race them against each other on different DIY tracks
  • Get everyone together to work on a puzzle
  • Have the kids “guesstimate” the size of household objects before measuring


In-home Road Trip

Even if you can’t head over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, you can still replicate road trip activities in your living room.

  • Turn on the radio and see how quickly the kids can guess the tunes
  • Play a game of around-the-house I Spy to describe objects for other players to guess
  • Try out the Alphabet Game naming animals or food from A to Z
  • Take a look at a map together and mark off everywhere you’ve visited & share memories
  • Bring out the photo albums from past vacations
  • Name the capitals of every state (without Googling!) and what each state is known for


Use your Imagination!

Start from scratch and look around the house for ideas that boost imagination, a critical child development skill that helps build creative thinking and problem-solving. Try some of these ideas:

  • Make paper airplanes out of scrap or construction paper
  • Use newspapers to create paper dolls and accessories
  • Create dollhouses (or kid-sized houses!) out of cardboard boxes
  • Build entire cities out of wooden blocks or plastic building bricks
  • Write and perform a short play and dress up to stay in character
  • Grab an instrument and write and perform a song — or a concert



Go Outside

Depending on the weather, head outdoors to get important exercise and fresh air. Spending time outside helps boost Vitamin D levels in children and can even promote vision development.

  • Take the dog (or the neighbors) for a walk & clean up litter
  • Create a scavenger hunt and collect different leaves or wildflowers
  • In the winter, create snow angels or snowman families
  • In the summer, splash in the sprinklers or a baby pool
  • Draw chalk art on the driveway or sidewalk, or play tic-tac-toe
  • Have a parade with the neighbors and show off those cool bikes and scooters


Get Going

Have you been inside for a while? Is it time to shake off your cabin fever? There’s plenty you can do outside of the house that doesn’t involve a tablet or smartphone.

  • Go bowling — it’s a great activity that can be adapted for all ages & skill levels
  • Find a local pool (indoors or outside) and play Marco Polo
  • Head to a local park for a hike on a new trail or hit up a new playground
  • Visit the local animal shelter to volunteer and bring supplies to donate
  • Try a new hobby together, like rock climbing or family karate classes
  • Go shopping at a local farmer’s market and buy something you’ve never eaten before