It’s a little bit too easy to fall into the trap of using screens to entertain the kids. It’s the swear of modern parenting because we hear the warnings about what screens are doing to our kids’ childhoods (and brains!) but it feels like once they’ve had a taste of a game or a TV show, nothing else around will make them happy.
Luckily, that’s simply just not true. What’s often missing when we turn the television off and look to engage the kids is… us. Kids are surely happiest when the family is engaged in play together. From playing classic board games, reading aloud together or being outside playing a fun game together, there’s lots of TV-free activities that are kid-friendly, mum-approved and way more fun than anything a screen has to offer.
So, switch off the TV, lock up the devices, pick one of these ideas and see where the game takes you.
Get crafty. Gather up the paper, glue, scissors, paint and crayons, and let the kids go to town! You don’t need fancy supplies; recycled items like shoe boxes, baby food jars and wrapping paper are just as much fun as store-bought goodies. My kids love creating masks from white paper plates. They use these to create their own impromptu stage shows. Encourage your kids to be creative and you’ll be amazed with the masterpieces they can produce.
Bring out the board games. Whether it’s a game of Trouble or Cluedo, classic board games can provide lots of family fun and a natural way to strengthen family bonds. Ask my kids who the reigning checkers champion is. They’ll be sure to tell you it’s me! And remember, younger children can be paired up with parents for more challenging games to ensure everyone can enjoy the fun.
This list will help: 27 Board Games Suitable for Littles, Big Kids and Bigger Kids
Stage a puppet show. With a little creativity and imagination, a large box can be magically transformed into a children’s puppet theatre. Recently while having a sleepover at my mum’s, the kids created an elaborate theatre from a TV box my mum picked up at her local Good Guys. It had shutters that opened and everything! You can also hang a café rod across a door opening and drape a light blanket or sheet to create a puppet theatre in a cinch. Make your own paper plate or sock puppets and use your smartphone to record the performance to show the puppeteers later.
Tutorial: DIY Fold-Up Cardboard Puppet Theatre
Bake something sweet. Who can resist the taste and smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies? Not my kids. Get everyone involved with the measuring and mixing for lots of family fun. Opt for cut out sugar biscuits for this project to double as a craft and give the kids icing and sprinkles to create their own edible masterpieces. Pancakes are also loads of fun to make together.
Try this: 1-Cup Apple Pancakes Recipe
Head outdoors. Whether you play outside or head on a nature walk, take time to enjoy the great outdoors. Draw a hopscotch game in your driveway, play a game of touch footy in the backyard or head to your local playground for outside fun for everyone. We live near the beach so once the warm weather hits, we’re outside all day, every day.
Plenty of inspiration here: 21 Kid-Friendly Games for the Backyard
Go on a scavenger hunt. Make a list of items that can be found in the house or around the backyard and send the kids out with a small bag to collect them. For younger kids, consider drawing pictures instead of writing words and for older kids, consider providing clues rather than a list of items. My kids are dinosaur-mad, so we play a modified version called hide the bones. I hide a bunch of small plastic bones from the party store around the yard and they race to see who can collect the most first.
Work on a puzzle. Gather around the table and tackle a good, old-fashioned jigsaw puzzle. If you’ve always dreamed of taking a family trip? Pick a puzzle that features a landmark of your location and when you’re done, glue it together, frame and hang it to serve as a reminder to what you’re looking forward to. With our kids, smaller, character-themed puzzles are a big hit. They gasp in delight whenever their favourite character comes together.
Do something for someone else. Have an elderly neighbour with a home maintenance need? Our neighbour next door does. My kids love when it’s time to check on her after a storm and ensure her garden has survived the deluge. Head over and help pick up leaves, remove fallen branches or pull weeds. Notice a single mum in your street who looks like she can use a hand? Prepare a meal together and have the kids bring it over.
More screen-free ideas for young kids:
Image: Getty/Natalie Faye