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Screen Time Alternatives

Fun and creative ways to entertain the family that don't require a charger.

Screen Time Alternatives

I’m not going to sugar coat it, my kids watch TV. They don’t watch a lot of it, but I’d say they average two 20 minute shows a day. We are big fans of PBS and shows that teach a lesson or have wholesome messages, but I would be lying if I said they hadn’t dabbled in the YouTube kids app complete with those egg videos (consider yourself lucky if you have no idea what I am talking about.)

But I think we can all agree that these screen times are in no way better than getting our kids outside (when weather is appropriate) or creative play. So, here are some fun ideas and alternatives to screen time.

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When the sun is out the screen is away! Here are some outdoor activities:

Scavenger Hunt. This doesn’t have to be hard! Don’t overthink it. Grab some markers (have your older children help write) and make a list of items to find in the yard or on a walk. Think simple things for the younger kids, rock, flower, etc...or make it harder for the older ones...Red Cardinal, man on a bike, etc…

Hide and seek. There is a reason this is such a classic game! You can play it inside, outside and our favorite variation is to grab a bunch of balls and hide them and then go find them around the yard. You can do that with any item.

Plant a garden. My kids love helping me garden. You can get some smaller pots, seeds, soil and let them go to town (you might have to re-plant after) but it will keep them busy and engaged while you get some of your own gardening done! They love getting dirty, maybe making some mud puddles and then watching their plants grow. If you want to make some garden markers for your garden you can paint some popsicle sticks/paint stirrers and have the kids help decorate.

Go for a walk. Get the kids on bikes, in strollers or just grab a hand and take a walk (even in the rain and snow!) Sometimes just getting some fresh air and not having any destination is the best way to clear everyone's mind. We’ve even been known to bring a pull along toy or pretend baby in a stroller if that helps get the kids excited.

When the weather prevents us from getting outside:

Get crafty. We are big into crafting in our house. We keep a box of craft supplies on hand at all times. It’s not fancy, just a big box of craft paper, markers, paints and tons of random items like pipe cleaners and feathers. The kids get so excited to sit at the table and just glue and draw/paint. Even my youngest (who is now 1) gets into the drawing. She sits in her highchair and draws while the big kids sit at the table and get their hands dirty.

Bake! My son and I got into the habit of baking on Friday mornings when he didn’t have school and our baby took her morning nap. Get creative but don’t do anything that takes too long. We are big fans of getting a really awesome box mix and adding things to it. Think brownie mix + chocolate chips or muffin mix with fresh blueberries, etc...You can do it all together. Kids are obsessed with cracking eggs and washing dishes. You will be surprised at how long this occupies them. Plus, they get a sweet treat when all's said and done!

Have a dance party. Let the kids get dressed up (think princesses, superheros or even just silly outfits) and put on some fun dance music and just dance! The sillier the better! We often save dance parties for after dinner while I am cleaning up. The kids get to jump around and get any leftover bursts of energy out of their system before bedtime routine starts.

Build something. I think whether your kids are younger or a little older, everyone gets into building something. There are so many awesome brands that make building blocks so much fun. Our kids are obsessed with the magnetic ones that allow them to build huge towers. Or think outside the box and let the kids build a fort in the living room! Maybe give them a couple of your bigger bed sheets and let them go crazy.

If and when you do decide screen time is appropriate, below are some ideas for keeping it in check!

  • Think about making it a family “thing” by doing movie nights/times when the entire family sits together and watches (when kids are older and bedtime isn’t so strict).
  • Pick designated times or days when it’s allowed. I try to allocate certain times of the day when I know I will need a few minutes to myself to get something done (sometimes during meal prep/cleanup in the evening).
  • Some families opt to have weekdays be screen free and then weekends be more open.

Whatever you choose for your family, don’t stress about what everyone else does. Each family and child is different and balance is always key. Keep on keepin’ on!

Photography by Belle Savransky.

14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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