I can’t tell you how many times I hear in my practice “When I take away the technology, he/she is a different kid.” Studies continue to show that screen time has negative effects on our kids. In fact, a brand new study shows that technology activates the same part of our brain as drug use. But I don’t need studies to tell me this, I see it in my office every day. I understand the pull of screens, they keep our kids (and ourselves) busy when we need time, quiet, a break. I get it. So the purpose of this article isn’t to shame, it’s to provide some easy, quick ideas to engage your kids and make screen-free time fun and rewarding.
There is nothing like good old-fashioned fun. Kids these days may be used to high tech, but they still love the same things we did when we were kids. Here are a few ideas to try.
Build a Fort: Use some sheets, chairs, couches, you know the drill. Create a fort; give them flashlights to read books, or some tinfoil to make space suits for their new “rocket ship.” Give them markers to make signs for their new “clubhouse.” There are a million fun ideas for forts and it gives kids time to build, design, and pretend. All incredibly brain stimulating skills!
Cooking Lessons: This was one of my favorite childhood activities. My mom would buy an 89-cent box of Jiffy muffin mix; my sister and I would climb on the counter and enjoy every second of stirring, pouring, and making a mess! These days, my kids favorite is chocolate zucchini muffins. There’s lots of shredding, stirring, and mashing involved so the kids have a blast and we get some interactive time together.
Crafts: Before you say, “my 10 year old boy isn’t into crafting”, let me tell how many 10-year-old boys craft with me in my office. Regardless of preference, what all kids are into is quality time with their parents. If you aren’t crafty go to Michaels and buy a kit, all the supplies and instructions are included. If you are crafty, go on Pinterest and choose something with your child, go shopping together, and make it! I cannot tell you the sense of accomplishment completing a craft start to finish can give a child!
Dance Party: Turn up the music and let loose. This is fun for everyone, enough said.
Board Games: The same games we played as a child are still fun. I use Connect Four, Kerplunk, and Chutes and Ladders all the time in my practice to work on building patience, mindfulness, turn taking, and being a good winner/loser. Just remember, model the behaviors you want to see out of your child!
Hopefully, this gives you and your children a few good alternatives for your children to bring creativity, imagination, and play back into their lives. And a bonus is that you get a little parent/child interaction time as well. Enjoy!
Abby Withee is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Rolling Hills Estates and Redondo Beach. With a focus on mindful practices, Abby works with children, adolescents, adults, and families to address a variety of diagnoses and presenting issues. For more skill building games resources, check out her blog!