By Guest Blogger Sandy Harper

Screen-Free Week kicks off next week (April 29 – May 5). This is the week where we all pledge to keep our televisions, video game systems, tablets, etc. off, and today’s blog will help you get ready (although any week can be a screen-free week)!

Screen-free week is a great reason to turn off and tune out the television and other digital devices. For most of us the TV is a part of our everyday lives. It comes on first thing for the morning news or cartoons. Evenings are often spent chilling and relaxing with Netflix or Primetime shows. Personally, I am notorious for just having it on in the middle of the day for “background” noise. This is silly when I really think about it, because with three little ones running around there are plenty of noises in our house!

While I do believe there are benefits from watching TV once in a while, we often use it as a crutch or lazy entertainment. I am completely guilty of this! Sometimes it is easier to let the kiddos watch a show while I am trying to write or cook dinner. On the same note, it is easy to fall onto the couch and veg at the end of the day.

That is why I wanted to share this with you today. Below I have listed some easy ideas that you can turn to instead of turning on the television. Even on our most hectic and busy days. Some of these ideas are a little more entailed but none of them take tons of planning or odd supplies. Most of them use items you already have in your home or they are places in your hometown.

When I start the day off with the television on, it is more likely for it to be on the rest of the day. Plus, it is harder to motivate the kids to do something else. That is when I thought up the idea for morning baskets. I started by filling them with items we already own. This worked well because they were things the kids hadn’t seen in a while and were presented in a new way. I swapped out new things weekly, to keep them fresh and interesting. Fill baskets with items that you know your kid would like or even try something new.

Morning basket ideas:

  • Coloring/activity books
  • Puzzles
  • Paper dolls or the magnetic ones
  • Wipe board books
  • Games
  • Legos
  • Water paints
  • Books
  • Blocks
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Magna Doodle or Etch A Sketch

When in doubt, head on out! It is awesome that screen-free week falls at the end of April because by then the weather is typically warm but not too hot. Thus, heading outdoors is more inviting for most people. Not only is being outside great for our physical health, it also has a positive impact on our mental well-being. I won’t bore you with all the facts on this (there are plenty of studies on the positive effects) but it has to do with vitamin D, fresh air and being amongst nature. There are countless things kids and families can do outside.

  • Nature walks
  • Scavenger hunt for nature items
  • Exercise/Sports
  • Free play
  • Gardening
  • Mud/dirt play
  • Play with a dog/pet
  • Picnic
  • Playground

Don’t be afraid to let the kids, and you, get messy. Kids really thrive and create when they aren’t worried about the mess they are making. Now I’m not saying let them go wild but prep the area where they will be playing. When painting, I make sure I put newspaper or an old tablecloth down on the work surface. I also do this when they play with clay or Play Dough. Here are a few ideas for some messy fun.

  • Paint
  • Play Dough
  • Cooking
  • Building with cardboard boxes
  • Build tents in the living room
  • Tea parties (with real food and tea)
  • Water play in the sink or tub (My son loves to see if he can get his Lego creations to float.)
  • Build a model plane or car

By not turning on the television you can discover more fun with your family. Some of my fondest family memories were the ones where we were sitting at the table playing games. A connection with other people is what TV and digital devices truly steal from us. Here are a few fun ways to connect as a family.

  • Play board or card games
  • Create a new game
  • Read aloud or tell stories
  • Cook meals together or new recipes
  • Have a dance party
  • Start a fun family conversation
  • Eat a meal together
  • Spring clean and donate your unneeded items as a family

Why not take a family outing and discover somewhere new near you? Choosing experiences over things has become a new movement that I love. Experiences are great for bonding, learning and creating memories. Outings are great for all ages, making them perfect for the entire family. Try one of these suggestions and let us know if you have others that you and your family love.

There is an official screen-free website with more ideas, events and resources that you can use.  You can also register; essentially pledging that you will be participating in Screen-free week.

It is important to remember that this week’s greatest goal is to instill Play and Quality Family Time back into the lives of our children and ourselves. Something I hope we all continue to implement long after this week is over. Please share with us any additional ideas that you think others would enjoy!

Want to see more blogs like this and get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletters here.