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In a society centred around convenience, it’s no surprise that modern parents rely on TV or iPads to keep their kids entertained. Despite living in a tech-age, my daughter thinks an iPad is only used to call her grandparents who live interstate.
For me, I was concerned about the detrimental effects of excessive screen time on my kids.
After watching kids around me glued to screens, I was worried about:
- Reduced physical activity,
- A reliance on the instant gratification that TV and iPads provide, as well as,
- Issues sleeping and,
- A loss of developmental skills such as imaginative play.
So in my home, Ella rarely watches TV or uses the iPad because it’s considered a special treat in our house.
The benefit of restricted screen time?
The pay off for us is that our little girl has an amazing imagination and is able to entertain herself.
I will often find her having a tea party with her dolls, reading her books in bed, or drawing on her chalkboard.
But what can screen-free activities can you do with kids, once imaginative play has exhausted itself for the day?
Here are some of my favourite things to do with a preschooler that doesn’t involve a TV or iPad. And most of these in itself will inspire your child’s imagination or help them develop skills in self-sufficiency that they can use later.
1. Go to the park and collect leaves, gum nuts or sticks the can use for craft later.
My only rule is, we do the crafts within days of collecting so we don’t end up hoarding in the house.
Ella and I love making collages from native Australia flora (such as eucalyptus leaves, gumnuts and bottle brush flowers).
2. Bake or cook something!
This is a fantastic way to incorporate learning activities into a practical skill with a preschooler. Older kids will learn some finesse in their cooking skills.
I love making healthy pumpkin scones with my daughter. I found the recipe from Be Forever Healthy, and the pumpkin scones are a massive hit in our home because we use our own home-grown pumpkins to make them.
3. Go fruit picking or foraging.
We live close enough to the hills where we can take a day trip to an orchard, pay a small entry fee and walk out hours later with kilos of fruit to take home. You could probably use some of your fruits in baking.
If you don’t live near any orchards for fruit picking, have a look at what is the native flora in your area and take the kids foraging for these wildflowers. Get the kids to identify types of flowers they find and take photos. You could even use those photos for other screen-free activities later on.
4. Do some gardening as a family.
I love, love, love doing this with my daughter.
This helps maintain the home, teach children pride in their home and valuable life skills. There’s also plenty of things in the garden to spark their little imaginations.
Weeding the garden, watering the plants, even add food scraps to the compost heap are all the little tasks help spark excitement in toddlers and preschoolers.
Including them in choosing what to plant and then ensuring they help you water and maintain the plant instills a sense of responsibility in kids.
5. Ask them to tell you or write a story if they are old enough to write.
Give them a writing prompt if they get stuck.
Brainstorm the main character, an event and a problem the main character needs to solve. Not only does writing help your child’s literacy skills, it helps their little imagination.
It doesn’t even need to be a short story.
You guide your child with the following ideas to write:
- A letter to a loved one.
- A poem.
- A list of all the things that make them happy.
- A recipe of what they would like to make (it can be completely imaginative).
- Where they would like to travel in the world and why.
- What they would like to achieve in the year.
6. Make natural body care with your daughter (or son).
Ella and I LOVE making natural personal care to use at home. I think this is one of my favourite screen-free activities to do because you end up with something creative and useful at the end of the process. AND… it can kill hours of time with the kids.
What natural personal care can you SAFELY make at home?
The list is endless. Our personal favourites are:
- Homemade lip balm – I use the recipe from One Crazy Mom.
- Homemade shampoo.
How do we make our own homemade shampoo?
The best resource I have found for homemade shampoo is from Natural Living Ideas because she breaks down what essential oils are best to use for particular needs. Using Castile soap, Aloe Vera Gel, a carrier oil of choice, Vitamin E oil (I have added this even though it’s not in the recipe because Vitamin E acts as a preservative to make the mixture last longer) and essential oils, we made our own shampoo.
At the time Ella was very adverse to having her hair washed (no idea why) so I thought if we made her own special shampoo that smelled how she wanted, we could overcome the issue. And guess what? IT WORKED.
Having a diverse range of quality essential oils (I use the Plant Therapy range) really helps in making personal care toiletries a lot more fun as kids are motivated by scent. Just make sure you research the effects of each oil before using it and DILUTE EACH OIL ADEQUATELY.
Check out iHerb or Amazon for carrier oils and castile soap that you can use in your recipes.
7. Help around the house.
It’s never too early for children to assist in cleaning up after themselves.
From as young as 18 months, we taught Ella to put her toys away after use. Now at the age of three, she collects all her washing and puts it in the hamper, puts her daycare bag away, helps load the dishwasher and helps water the garden.
I have an adorable photo of her trying to help me with the vacuuming.
8. Build a blanket fort.
This is a great rainy day activity. Collect all the chairs, blankets and pillows you can find and set up an elaborate blanket fort. Beware – the kids may want to sleep in their blanket fort rather than their beds!
An alternative to the blanket fort– create a tree-house if you have a tree that is suitable in your yard. This could be an ongoing screen-free activity that helps keeps the kids entertained during summer. Scout some sturdy timber and create a platform in the tree (and create some form of railing for safety).
Start with simple puzzles and then make it a family activity as the kids get older and can help with those mammoth 1000+ piece puzzles you can get.
Right now, Ella loves her spelling and maths puzzles. What I love about this screen-free activity is that it both fun and education AND develops fine-motor skills.
10. Building blocks!
Lego, Duplo, even old-school wooden building blocks!
There are so many weird and wonderful ways for children to stretch their imaginations with building blocks.
You don’t need an abundance of toys to provide kids screen-free activities. Toys and art supplies that encourage imaginative play are the BEST way to help your child develop essential skills and reduce TV and iPads in their life.
What I love about the lack of TV in our routine is that there is a lack of tantrums. That’s not to say we never have tantrums but, they are few and far between compared to when TV was a regular part of our routine (I relied on it WAY too much when I was struck down with hyperemesis gravidarum during my second pregnancy).
What are your favourite screen-free activities to do with your kids?
Leave a comment below or let me know on social media.