Screen Free Week is the first week of May, but you and your family can take a screen sabbatical anytime. We’ve got 50+ screen free activities to encourage creativity, enjoy nature, and even have enough time to relax.
This annual, international screen free initiative was created in 1994 to encourage families, schools, and communities to embrace screen-free entertainment for a week. Hundreds of organizations such as the American Medical Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the YMCA, support the movement.
There is a reason Screen Free Week has grown immensely since its inception in 1994. More and more parents realize the importance of reducing screen time and one week is a reasonable amount of time to attempt it.
Research shows that reduced screen time is indicated in better health and well-being, particularly before the age of 6. It can be eye-opening for kids and parents alike to realize just how much you can accomplish with the spare time that becomes available by going screen-free.
Here are some fun ways to shut off the screens and have a blast — outside or inside — with your family. These ideas are also good to think about as we all begin planning for summer!
50+ Fun Activities for Screen Free Week
It’s time to rediscover everything you’re missing when you’re connected to your screens. Here are some fun ideas on taking part in this annual celebration where families and communities turn off screens (TV, video games, computers, hand-held electronics) and enjoy real life instead.
With most of these screen free activities, you’ll be helping your child get her daily dose of Vitamin N as well.
- Get the imagination going by helping your kids write & illustrate their own book.
- Visit your local library to find new books and see any community resources or upcoming events.
- Go for a family bike ride.
- Make a magnetic story board with a baking sheet.
- Gather some yummy goodies and take the family on a picnic.
- Take your kids to read or sing to patients at nursing homes.
- Visit the local humane society to give love and attention to the animals waiting for new homes. Even if you aren’t able to adopt a pet, by playing and socializing them, you’re helping them to be more adoptable.
- Research and create your family tree.
- Spend an afternoon sorting through old clothes and toys that can be donated to a shelter.
- Play cards, puzzles, or board games.
- Prepare and plant a garden – even if it’s just in pots!
- A flower garden or butterfly garden can also enchant even the most die-hard screen addicts.
- Create a wildlife garden. Research shows one of the most direct routes to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in wild nature activities before the age of 11.
- Go on a nature hike & have your kids journal what they see.
- Learn about your local culture and history.
- Attend a local event, play, or musical performance.
- Spend some time at a local bookstore.
- Dine at a new local restaurant.
- Make a bug jar – for viewing temporarily and releasing back to the spot you found the insect.
- Visit a museum.
- Create costumes out of old clothes and craft scraps.
- Build a blanket fort and tell camp-style stories.
- Play hopscotch or freeze-tag.
- Make a bird feeder from organic nuts and seeds.
- Draw or paint portraits of each other.
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt.
- Play in a creek and discover what lives there.
- Help your child complete random acts of kindness.
- Go tree climbing.
- Visit a “pick your own” farm.
- Visit your local farmers market and get to know the farmers.
- Go bowling.
- Visit a local park in your area that you may not have explored before. Whether you hit a different playground or explore a new hiking trail, the exercise and fresh air will be a welcome change from sitting in front of a screen.
- Write, direct, and star in your own play.
- Help the kids plan a meal they can make by themselves.
- Encourage your child to declutter her room and help her start a toy rotation system.
- Take an art class or create your own at home with friends or neighbors.
- Plan a living room ball and dance the afternoon away.
- Make mud pies.
- Create crafts from upcycled items like toilet paper rolls, milk cartons, etc.
- Go camping.
- Learn how to identify animal tracks.
- Make a keepsake treasure box.
- Blow bubbles.
- Build a sandbox (this one brings hours of fun long after screen free week has ended!)
- Explore local landmarks.
- Spend an afternoon planting or enjoying wildflowers.
- Grab a blanket and watch the clouds – what shapes do you see?
- Get up early, make a cup of tea or coffee, and watch the sun rise.
- Prepare a freezer meal for a neighbor, new mother, or food pantry in your area.
- Jump rope (and teach your kids the classic songs and rhymes).
- Rearrange the furniture.
- Make up tongue twisters.
- Build a town with blocks or Legos.
- Play name that tune by humming the tune yourself.
- Embrace your inner child and roll down a hill.
- Organize a classic neighborhood game like tag, capture the flag, or Red Rover.
- Take a boat ride.
- Go on a nature / critter walk before bedtime with a flash light.
- See a local sporting event. If your kids are used to watching sports on TV with you, take them to see a game in person. It doesn’t have to be a pro game – high school athletics can be an inspiration for them to take up a sport of their own.
- Make flash light shadow puppets.
Beyond Screen Free Week
You can encourage the fun and healthy habits your family developed during Screen Free Week by easing back into your digital use. Limit use during certain hours – especially at meal time and near bed time. “Eliminate screens from the meal table, including when you’re out at a restaurant,” advises Christine Kyriakakos Martin of You’ve Got This Parenting. “While it can be tempting to pack the iPads to have some adult conversation while you’re out to eat, doing this doesn’t teach your children about manners, properly engaging in conversation, or being mindful of other patrons.”
Set a good example. It will be harder for a child to disengage from screens if his or her parents are consistently looking down at their own phones or tablets.
Martin also says, “Your children learn from your example. If they see you spending a lot of time with your face in front of a screen, they’ll want to use technology at the same time.”
“Learning how to use screens, verbally communicate or socially interact will have a positive impact on language skills, relationships and overall health,” Martin says. “Spending time with their parents, learning through play is what young children need and want.”
Here are some practical steps for keeping screen time at bay
1. Share dinner as a family as many nights of the week as possible. This may become difficult when kids have school and activities but the benefits of family meal time outweigh the fact that dinner may need to be a bit earlier, later, or less elaborate than you typically like. The dinner table should always be a technology free zone for everyone in the family — parents included.
2. When your child is bored at home, resist the temptation to plug them in to the TV, video games, or the Internet. It is all screen time and should be considered as a last resort. Whatever happened to picking up a good book, or knitting a sweater, or building a birdhouse, or beading a necklace, or painting a picture or baking a loaf of bread as cures for boredom?
3. Bedrooms should be technology free zones — especially for teenagers after a set time (9 pm for example). Cell phones and laptops should always be docked in a central place in the home and not in children’s bedrooms.