Boredom Busters: 12 Screen-Free Activities For Kids

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When it comes to kids, television is a double-edged sword. Sure, it can be a great source of entertaining, educational content. But if your kids get too attached, viewership can turn into a vice.

If your children just can’t seem to pry themselves away from the pixels, you’re not alone. According to a recent study, the average 8 to 10-year-old spends eight hours a day in front of a screen (television, computer, tablet, etc.) and the average 2 to 5-year-old spends 32 hours per week in front of the television. That’s more than 4.5 hours a day!

In many cases, viewership even begins long before age two with an increasing amount of educational programming geared toward infants. Though there are several shows designed to impart positive social messages and healthy lifestyle choices to children, the fact is, time spent sitting in front of a screen is time spent sedentary. And it’s precisely that inactive time that has contributed to soaring rates of childhood obesity, not to mention some of the other harmful effects like:

  • Exposure to violence
  • Interfering with children’s creativity, reading and good, old-fashioned playtime which are all important to their development

But fear not, parents! Here are twelve of our favorite kid-friendly ideas for screen-free fun:

  1. Arts and crafts. From coloring, to cutting and pasting, to pipe cleaners and even dioramas, there are countless ways to help children show their creativity – just choose one that’s clean-up friendly!
  2. Scavenger hunts. Writing and stashing messages doesn’t take as much time as you think. We promise. Get your kids hot on the trail, and they’ll be chasing those clues in no time. You can also suggest they design hunts for one another to prolong the fun.
  3. Cooking or baking. Think this one screams “messy”? Think again! There are tons of healthy, heatless and non-labor intensive snacks your kids can make, like ants on a log (peanut butter and raisins on celery sticks) or fruit kebabs.
  4. Reading. Getting your child hooked on a series can help take the persuasion out of the process. Pick a page-turner they’ll like, and watch their excitement – and vocabulary – grow.
  5. Riding bikes. Kids of all ages can benefit from bike riding. If your children are city-dwellers, they may want to try a scooter instead. Scooters also flex those muscles but can be used in smaller spaces or even indoors.
  6. Playing in the park. Find a local park with amenities that your child enjoys. From swing sets to climbing structures to good old-fashioned baseball diamonds, burning off their excess energy will come in handy when bedtime rolls around.
  7. Outdoor games. Whether it’s tag or hide-and-seek, playing with friends never disappoints. And if you’re short on playmates that day, singular activities, like blowing bubbles or jumping rope, are always an option.
  8. Making up dance routines or plays. Flexing those creative muscles at a young age can foster passions for drama or dance later in life. Plus, finding costumes and performing for family and friends is half the fun!
  9. Sports. Soccer, basketball, tennis; you name it, your child may genuinely enjoy it (especially if it involves some lighthearted competition, like playing H-O-R-S-E).
  10. Game night. Board games and card games are a fantastic way to get the family involved rather than sitting around the boob tube. Your household will have a reigning champion in no time.
  11. Taking care of family pets. Animals are a great way to learn responsibility while bonding, too. Taking the dog for a walk, cleaning cages or just teaching a pet a new trick will help kids learn what it means to have a family companion.
  12. Learning a new hobby. Building model planes, setting up train tracks, decorating dollhouses, learning to repair things, taking care of a garden – the hobby possibilities are endless. Ask your child what he or she might enjoy (budget permitting, of course). Then, grab some supplies and get started.

Of course, convincing your child to take a break from all that screen time will be tricky at first. But once kids see how much fun they’re having, it won’t require as much persuasion. The most important things to remember are:

  • Listen to your child. Let his or her interests help guide the activities you choose. Don’t force something that’s not a natural fit; keep trying until you find the activity that clicks.
  • Change it up. What a child enjoys tomorrow might not be the same thing he or she enjoys six months from now, so be open to cycling through a variety of choices. Even fun activities lose freshness over time. And most importantly…
  • Get involved. Any activity that provides quality time with a parent is time well spent and time that your child values. Showing an interest in what they like to do also provides a chance to hear about their day, elevates their level of engagement and forges open communication.

Remember: It only takes a little bit of your time to make a big difference.


For more ideas and activities you can do with your child, learn more about Henry Ford LiveWell’s 5-2-1-0 family wellness program and download our 5-2-1-0 Kids! app — a fun way for kids to learn the importance of healthy habits. Parenting.com calls it “one of the top health apps every parent should know.”

Categories: ParentWell