You’ve gotta work. Is it possible to get your kids to play…screen-free?
Why yes it is. I got you, mama. I’ve reached out to some of my working mom/blogging friends for their best screen-free play ideas. Whether you’ve got toddlers attached to you ankles or 10-year-olds with video game controllers attached to their hands, there is an idea for your family.
And just to be clear…my kids play on screens. We have tablets. And we have Netflix et al. We even have a Nintendo Switch. But I definitely look for ideas to break up their screen time with some screen-free fun.
One quick suggestion before we dive into the screen-free play ideas you might use…spend some quality time with your kiddos before you need them to play independently. It may be reading a book or having a tea party. Or sitting with them at breakfast without a phone or laptop. It doesn’t have to be hours. Sometimes just 15-30 minutes before your start your “work hours”. Engaging with kids before you need them to play independently will help you start your work knowing you’ve given them some undivided attention. Good for your family. Great for your mom guilt. 😉
For more on teaching your kids independent play skills, you can check out my “Independence Skills for Independent Kids” course. But now, let’s jump into the fun stuff…
Screen-Free Play Ideas from My House
I’ll start with a list of favorites from my house. My boys are 7 and 9 but I’ll include some of their favorites from their younger years. 😭
- Kinetic Sand (preferred over Play-Doh)
- Hot Wheels Cars (be sure to check out the super cool track idea from Emily below)
- Figure Play with Dinosaurs and Transformers
- Large Floor Puzzles featuring Dinosaurs and Space
- Duplos/Legos/Kid K’nex (my boys have played with this set for 6+ years)
We keep a fairly minimal household when it comes to toys so don’t think you need more to occupy your kids. One thing that helped me was to look for open ended play like the figures or the cars. That way they weren’t running to me after 10 minutes when the puzzle was finished or the game was done. Open ended play allows them to create a story with no end (well, hopefully.)
Schedule Your Screen-Free Play Times
My good friend Rose Lounsbury is a keynote speaker and minimalism and simplicity coach. She is also mom to 11 year old triplets. #handsfull She says they stick with the tried-and-true old faithfuls like sidewalk chalk, Legos, simple art supplies that make kids do most of the work (aka markers and plain paper), craft kits that kids can do on their own, books, trampoline in the backyard, bikes and scooters.
At 11, Rose’s triplets are able to do more independent play than younger kids but she’s found that the key is creating a SCHEDULE they can stick to and come to rely on. They brainstorm the schedule TOGETHER so they have ownership and honestly, her kids just follow this every day. Sometimes she will remind them if they start to slack on it but they’re so used to following a schedule that it’s second nature now. Check out an example of her schedule below. And you can connect with Rose on Instagram and Facebook.
Screen-Free Play Ideas for Toddlers
Next, we jump to Kristen Holland who blogs at Gracefully Busy. One of her favorite ideas was to set up an indoor obstacle course. She encourages her 2-year-old son through the course a few times and cheers him on. Once he’s burned out some energy on the obstacle course, he will spend time playing with it on his own. Check out her obstacle course below.
Kristen has lots of other great ideas for screen-free and independent play ideas for your toddlers in her post “9 Activities to Keep Your Toddler Busy at Home.”
Screen-Free Play Ideas for All Ages
My friend Emily from Happy Organized Life is no stranger to keeping kids occupied. Along with writing a successful blog and homeschooling, Emily is mom to 7 (well, nearly 7…#7 is due this fall but close enough 🤣) I love Emily’s round-up of ideas for pool noodle fun. Especially with summer winding down and what could potentially be a long fall and winter, she features great ideas to repurpose your stockpile of pool noodles for outdoor and indoor fun. As a mom of Hot Wheels loving boys, I especially love the idea of the Hot Wheels tracks pictured below.
You can check out Emily’s full round-up of pool noodle ideas on her post “Fun Pool Noodle Activities”. She also featured a slew of electronics-free play ideas in her post “How to Have Fun Indoors Without Electronics”. One of my favorites is this Mission: Impossible-style laser maze made from streamers. What a great way to use up the ends of the streamer roll from your last birthday celebration!
What are your favorite screen-free, electronics-free play ideas for your kids? I’m always looking for new ideas…share yours below!
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