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.

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.