Screen-Free Activities for Kids: Play

If you're trying to stay away from screens for a while, check out these ideas and then turn off the device to have some physical fun.

Sheltering in place (while perhaps working from home with kids out of school/daycare) can lead to a lot of screen time. Don't feel guilty about that; these are difficult times and parents need to do what they need to do. Let us help! We're posting suggestions each day this week for how to get away from the screens for a little while.

Do you have any toys or games on hand? Check the garage or back of the closet for...

  • board games
  • puzzles
  • old newspapers with crosswords or comics
  • beach balls or sand toys
  • jacks, Hula Hoop, string for cat's cradle
  • jump rope
  • exercise bands
  • play-dough or clay
  • dice, dominoes, playing cards
  • blocks or LEGO

No interest in toys? Nothing turned up under the bed?

Get creative.

  • Raid the closet for dress-up clothes. Rehearse and perform a song and dance -- it can be as choreographed as you want.
  • If you're willing to use a screen briefly, gather props and make an impromptu photobooth.
  • Retell a favorite story or fairytale. Everyone may need to play different characters -- or maybe a stuffed animal friend can stand in! Puppet shows highly recommended, too.
  • "I'm thinking of a [category] that starts with [letter]..." Optional: guessers can ask yes/no questions to narrow down the answer.
  • If you have a pocketful of loose change, count how many coins you have and how many cents they add up to. Then hide coins around the house for kids to find. You'll know how many are missing and can make an educated guess as to what denominations they are.
  • Make a blanket fort and have an indoor picnic.
  • How many knock-knock jokes can you remember? This may be just the time to introduce the Interrupting Cow. 
  • Pick any object in the house and make up a story about it. Or have Show and Tell at home, where a child explains what an object means to them and what memories they have relating to it.
  • Read a story aloud! Picturebooks are the obvious choice, but a chapter or two of a longer book can be great for a family with a mix of ages. Maybe you have a good book for taking turns -- every reader plays a character like a play. Make sure to "do the voices"!
  • Tell stories -- scary, funny, real or made-up. Tell the story of what you did yesterday. Tell a story from last summer. You can tell a group story where you all take turns saying what comes next. Toss in a "Uh-oh! But THEN..." or "Ta-daaaaaa!" to help younger narrators.

What you decide to do will depend on the age of your child(ren), the supplies you have on hand, and how much time you can spend supervising. But don't stop here -- go with whatever you're inspired to do! If you discover an especially fun game, share it with us in the comments.