As a kid, my brothers and sisters and I had more than the necessary imagination to invent games to play without electronics. We would find a stick and towel and it would become a flag we would raise in defeating the enemies of Corinth.
Now that I have been a mother for over 28 years, electronic devices have become a blessing and a curse.
A blessing, because now I don’t have to wait around for football practice to end, my kids can just call when they are running over.
A curse? I have concluded that it is pointless to ask if they took out the garbage when their faces are in their phones. It is as if that blue light puts them in a trance so powerful that not even smoke detectors chirping furiously throughout the house will break it.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average school-age child in the US spends over 7 hours each and every day in front of a digital device. As a parent, you want your kids to be connected, to have access to technology, to be at their friend’s beck and call in case said friend needs more than just an “I am hear for you”. Who knows, that child may some day find a cure for the flu.
However, you also want your kids to lead a balanced life of recreation, helping around the house, and developing those skills needed to someday write that master’s thesis in biochem.
Encouraging the moderate use of social media and video games will give your children opportunities for more intentional interactions with peers and less mind-numbing gaming that will more than likely slow healthy development.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of disconnecting, how to develop activities to do offline, as well as brainstorm creative games to play without electronics.
The Benefits of Electronic Free Activities:
1 Get in shape. Too much time sitting in front of the tv increases your chances of obesity. A study done by James Levine, a physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, US, found the obese people sit for about 2.5 hours longer per day than the lean people. Making exercise a part of your family’s daily routine will teach your children to live an active life.
If you have tiny kids, run around the back yard playing tag. If your kids are older, go on regular bike rides. When going on a bike ride, having a destination is much more fun, like a splash pad or park.
2. Get some sleep. Light from smart phones and tv screens interfere with quality rest and sleep. The mental stimulation of looking at cat memes your sister posted on social media isn’t helping get that much needed sleep either.
Consider setting a curfew for all of the electronic devices in your home before bedtime. We suggest 2 hours. It sometimes takes that long for your brain to wind down. A docking station is a great way to make sure everyone’s phones and digital devices are put away in one place.
Family meetings are a great time to bring up these issues and possible solutions. For information on how to have successful family meetings, check out this post. Benefits of Family Meetings
3. Get in some learning. Digital devices can offer super cool educational content, like the Space X Dragon launch. but a steady diet of empty entertainment like watching youtube videos of dripping faucets or texting the neighbor about the latest cat meme can be a distraction for your kids and school work.
Encourage your kids to earn screen time with these SCREEN Time Countdown FREE Printables.
4. Get on top of behavior issues. This is when your experience with positive parenting will come in handy. Set rules on the use of screen time the whole family agrees on as well as the appropriate consequences for not following those rules. Decide on those together as a family. Then follow through.
If the family decides that a consequence for not putting electronic devises on the docking station by 8:00 p.m is that you are grounded from electronics for 2 days, stick to it. Kids need to learn responsibility and that there are consequences for their actions.
5. Get money in your pocket. Maybe these challenging times have tightened up the budget on buying the latest electronic devices.
Teaching inexpensive activities and free games to play without electronics will show your kids how to be more creative in using their imaginations and value relationships with their siblings, families and even friends.
Games to Play Without Electronics
Electronic Free Indoor Activities:
1. Get the music started. Your kids probably know how to stream music, but when was the last time you had a dance party in the kitchen? Maybe the family can learn a song on an inexpensive instrument like a recorder.
Talent shows are a big hit with our family. Get creative in finding a talent that your kids can develop – like whistling with your fingers or twirling a pen.
2. Get your crafts on. Collect household items like buttons to make a cute picture frame. Visit an art supply or craft store and find art projects to make as a family. You can also buy inexpensive Art Kits that you use to let your creative crafty juices flow.
Spend an evening with your favorite games instead of watching a movie.
4. Get out your acting skills. Create a puppet show You can turn a table top or large cardboard box into a puppet theater.
Try reading a play out loud with each family member taking a different part. Use different accents for the characters. Maybe even try singing the play. That is sure to get the giggles out of everyone.
5. Get out the baking pans. Prepare a dessert or a meal together with the family. Make extra to share with a neighbor or friend. Making meals are so much more fun when you can share them. Try different foods like tacos with bananas or spaghetti on pizza dough.
Ideas for Electronic Free Outdoor Activities:
1 Throw a Frisbee. Frisbees are so fun to throw around, especially when the dog is participating. Outdoor games are a creative way to blow off some steam, use your creativity, and keep you entertained for hours and hours.
2 Go for a walk. Consider making this an after-dinner tradition. Walking is a great form of exercise that even tiny kids can do. No special equipment is required.
Look at your neighborhood in a new way. Pay attention to the flowers in the beds, and bugs on the sidewalk.
3. Grow a garden. Grow your own vegetables, flowers, and fruit trees. Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus says in each episode that it is ok to “get messy” Planting seeds and pulling weeds are a super fun way to get messy.
4. Go to the library. As a member of the library board, I know that libraries provide tons of programs for their patrons. There reading programs, Lego building programs and tons more. Libraries aren’t just for checking out books anymore. Most libraries even have games like croquet that your family can rent
5. Get wet. Take a trip to the neighborhood splash pad. If there isn’t one, fill up some water balloons and play a game of capture the flag. Your neighbors will be so curious about all of the fun you are having, they will want to join you.
6. Dust off that tent. We lived in our city for several years before we found out there was a campground right smack in the middle. Check out the places to camp in your area and go consider roughing it for a day. Roast marshmallows, and make Smores or cook some hot dogs.
If there isn’t a campground close by, try it in your own backyard.
When your kids are surrounded by computers, smart phones, televisions, and tablets, it is difficult to pull them away for a few hours every day and find creative things to do and games to play without electronics. But it is possible. You got this!
Comment below on ways you have minimized screen time at your house. We would love to hear it.
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