12 (Almost) Screen Free Activities


screen-free activitiesIn the last 13 months, our children have spent a large amount of time utilizing screens. Schooling and working from home has made us use our mobile devices more than ever.

I am, no doubt, in awe of technology! We live in a golden age where when a pandemic hits, we are able to communicate, go to school and (for some) work rather fluidly. 

And yet the screen has made us tired. We were already spending more time than necessary on screens in a pre COVID-19 era. Post COVID-19 we’ve hit our limit!

So what are some creative ways we can ditch the screen? What are some unique activities that we can engage our children in without utilizing a screen?

Since I began unschooling my children in October of 2020 I had to be more intentional about how our family spent our invaluable time. Screens couldn’t be the only answer for learning and fun!

Here are some new endeavors our family has tried over the last thirteen months as well as some we would like to try! 

12 ALMOST Screen-Free Activities

Skate Parks – I started out with a bang here. But hear me out! The skate park is a great place for kids to witness the amazing ways skaters utilize their bodies. (Check out this list of skate parks in Des Moines) The exercise, the trial and error, the repetition, and skill. Even if your child doesn’t want to skate it’s a great place to learn commitment, ambition, and courage. Each of my children has some interest in skating whether it be skateboards, scooters, roller skates, or Heelys all of which are welcomed at the skate park.

Our kids love to visit Legion Park. For beginner skaters, I recommend going to the park early in the morning, but for those interested in witnessing some seasoned skaters visiting late morning or early afternoon is great!

Eat Local – Eating local from restaurants is a great way to support the local community. My family and I eat out once a week. We decided that we want to support local restaurants in order to broaden our family’s ideas on food, culture, and why we eat what we eat. As a family, we also want to put our money where our mouth is!

A few of our favorite local restaurants are Fernando’s Mexican Grill, Lucky Lotus, India Star, and Veggie Thumper. We can’t wait to try Gursha Ethiopian Grill

Plant a Garden – We had never planted a vegetable garden until the summer of 2020. I had no idea what I was doing but was determined to plant some tomatoes. This goal led to planting arugula, peppers, cantaloupe, and kale. I did a little research about how and when to plant. From there I bought some seedlings while my husband built raised beds. We planted our sweet baby seedlings in May and they grew and grew. My children loved watching their growth and harvesting the veggies for dinner. We definitely experienced trial and error. For instance, the cantaloupe was no good and we planted too many tomato plants. With all of that learning, we are ready to start again this Spring. 

Art –  I know this seems rather general. There are many forms of art you could try as a family. I suggest starting with clay. Moldable, colorful clay. If you don’t worry about mess or how your child is using their clay this could be a brilliant and long-lasting activity! Next on the list? Paint! Let your child paint without any direction. Don’t worry about the artistic outcome. There are many more artful concepts to add! Sewing, embroidery, charcoal drawing, watercolor, and collage. Let your child build with glue and recycling bin materials. I promise if you don’t hover or expect a certain outcome your child will be thrilled to create and will work endlessly. 

Clean Out Closets and Rooms. Donate! – During the pandemic we’ve had a lot of time to consider what we want to keep and what we’d like to donate. Staring at rooms with too much stuff has been a real thing! A few months ago I had my children peruse their rooms. Then I showed them how to sort Keep, Donate, and Throw Away piles. I made sure whatever they picked to donate was in good condition. Good condition meant clothes without holes or stains, toys intact and working. The process of purging was a good exercise in gratitude, giving, and want versus need. 

Our family has been donating to the Young Women’s Resource Center as well as The Supply Hive. There are plenty of other great organizations to donate to as well. 

Create a Mini Movie – Ok. This activity involves a screen, but a screen is necessary. Over the holiday season, my kids and their cousin made a slew of mini-movies. They created storylines and characters then gave them life. We used my iPhone video to film scenes then I used the stop motion studio app to edit their movies. Together we spent hours making these cinematic vignettes. It was a blast! I highly recommend doing this with your kids. My children have recently begun learning how to edit movies and animation themselves, and soon they won’t need me for editing. Truth be told I enjoyed the process just as much as they did! 

Baking and Cooking – I’ve recently begun having my children help cook dinner. Not every night but at least once a week. We’ve also established a baking and food prep day. So one day a week my kids are creating delicious food alongside me. This is a great way for them to become confident in the kitchen. My youngest loves to chop mushrooms with a butter knife and my oldest is able to follow a recipe. Cooking has also made them more curious about foods they wouldn’t ordinarily try.

Roam the Earth – Doesn’t that sound more exciting than “go play outside?” For much of my motherhood, I wanted to be an outdoors person. During the pandemic, I became an outdoors person. There is nothing more grounding than the Earth. My family, Monk the dog, and I love to walk or bike the Iowa trails. We love to explore our neighborhood during the varying seasons.

The outdoors takes me out of my busy mind and allows me to breathe. Scientifically, stepping outdoors guarantees happier and healthier humans.

My family and I never regret stepping outdoors for an hour or more. My kids notice the way the air moves, the budding or withering life around them. They are free to run and scream or walk thoughtfully among the trees. The great outdoors is the ultimate luxury, and we all have access to it!

Visit a local bookstore – Nothing is better than going to a local bookstore. My favorite kind of local bookstores include an eccentric bookstore owner, a massive amount of used books, and some kind of pet roaming the shop. There’s something quite magical about used books for a dollar to two a book. My favorite local bookstore in Des Moines is Help A Mind Thrive, Keep a Book. The owner is helpful and personable, there are books aplenty, and there are cats! My kids love to visit this store, and it is very kid-friendly. 

Create a Family Project – This is something our family is working towards. For example, my kids want to help my husband design a treehouse. This will be rather labor-intensive and drawn out, but definitely worth the group effort and learning experience.

Some other ideas we have for family projects are planning a family road trip where everyone gets a say on where we stay and what we do. Or making bedroom backdrops for future mini-movie ideas. The idea is that as a family we set a goal for our project then reverse engineer the steps it will take to get the goal accomplished. 

Research an interest – Of course screens could be used for this, but think outside the box. Utilize the library, museums, local classes, and experts. For instance, my oldest child adores animals. She was able to take a class at the ARL on how to care for pets. She has since created a dog walking business. We give her pet responsibilities at home and allow her to investigate the animals in our neighborhood. There was once a baby fox den near our home, and we allowed our daughter to visit the den. She knew to stay away from the foxes yet look upon them lovingly. She once caught a mouse in our house and let it go outdoors rather than be trapped and killed. Be open to your children’s interests and your own even when it’s uncomfortable! Your kids won’t forget your support.

Set a vibe and chill – Yes! Light candles or incense, play music, gather blankets, books, drawing materials, etc. Spend time with your family in stillness. Set the tone for quiet. Your kids may at first balk, but the more you do this the more your kids will grow to love the stillness. This sort of atmosphere makes for good conversation and cuddles as well. Fight the desire to be productive and instead exist in the moment. This is mindfulness and gratitude in action. 

I hope reading this list created excitement rather than overwhelm. This list is an outline for family choice and less specific than other screen-free lists I’ve read. Rather than be rigid about how you spend your screen-free time I encourage to you gently dip your toes into one or two of these processes. The idea is to be in the moment without expectations, loving yourself and your family at once!

To less screens and more human connecting! More self connecting too.

What are your favorite screen-free activities?


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