If it’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few weeks, it’s that our kids and grandkids spend a lot of time on their screens. Parents have done well to find outdoor activities, especially when many are already stretched as they juggle working from home.
We’re not here to say that screens are bad, but we do know that you might need some help coming up with new screen-free activities to keep your children occupied – especially in the cooler months.
Here are 12 of our favourites to inspire you.
Scavenger hunt bingo
Draw up a grid of 16 squares and fill each one with something for your child to find. They can be as specific (‘a copy of Oliver Twist’) or vague (‘something yellow’) as you like. The beauty of scavenger hunt bingo is they don’t need to necessarily collect it, they can just find it and mark it off. This also works for walks around the neighbourhood and car trips.
Ready, set, go! Turn your living room into a mini ninja course. Walking along a straight line, jump over the cushion, crawl under a chair, and do a somersault to finish! Time your athlete and record personal bests.
Who doesn’t love baking? Older children can bake unassisted but little ones will need more guidance. Encourage them to spend time flicking through a cookbook to pick what to make. Even your littlest littles will enjoy helping to stir and of course lick the spoon.
Hear us out! There’s a novelty for younger children to help with one-off cleaning tasks. Get them to help polish windows, dust and tidy shelves and check ‘use by’ dates of food in the pantry. Turn it into a competition with points and rewards for completing tasks. The results might not be perfect, but there’s lots to occupy them with and you’re teaching them good habits.
These days there are books and colouring sheets for children and adults alike. Set up a colouring station with coloured textas and pencils and let them get stuck in. Colouring in can be quite calming and if the kids see you joining in, they will love it.
Older children in particular will benefit from journaling. Encourage your children to write and draw what they’ve been doing, what they are looking forward to and how they’re feeling. Journaling is therapeutic, improves literacy skills and will result in some very interesting content to read in the future.
Do you have a budding artist in your family? Why not encourage them to draw or paint a fridge-worthy family portrait? Make sure to include any pets too. Perhaps they can even draw portraits of extended family and the people they are missing. Put these pictures on the wall or send them to friends and family to remind them that you’re thinking of them.
Don’t we all miss the simple joy of having someone else prepare and present a meal for us. Encourage your child to play ‘Home Restaurant’. Young children can prepare sandwiches while older children might want to pick out something interesting to cook. Make it feel special by setting the table, help your child design a menu, and let them serve the meals and then clear the table. Mum and dad might even tip the chef/waiter/manager!
Homemade playdough is cheap and easy to make. You can find instructions here. Playdough can be sensorily soothing and encourages imaginative play. Just be careful to keep it away from carpets!
Cubbys and forts
Don’t underestimate the fun children can have creating a special cubby space where they can retreat with a book and a juice popper, away from their pesky parents. The simplest fort is made from putting a large blanket over a table. Put a reading light, some cushions and some snacks inside and you’ve got a child-friendly hidey hole.
Choose 3 toys for charity
Charities aren’t accepting donations right now, but they will open back up in the near future and they’re sure to need quality goods. Ask your children to spend time picking out 3 toys they would like to give to charity to help put a smile on the face of another little boy or girl with less.
We mean it! Sometimes society makes parents feel like we need to keep our kids entertained every waking minute. It’s ok for them to have nothing to do. It’s ok to let their growing mind rest.