How to Get Kids Off Screens: 12 Brilliant Tips

Kids love being on screens. If you’re searching for ways to get them involved in other activities, I’ve got some help for you! Here are 12 terrific ideas of how to get kids off screens (that they’ll love)!

There’s no denying that screens are addictive. Most adults struggle to strike a balance, so how can we expect kids to resist the allure of the endless entertainment provided by devices? It’s also a fact that screen time doubled during (and since) the pandemic.

As hard as we try to limit screens, kids are drawn to them like the proverbial moth to the flame. We all want our children to be able to think for themselves, but sometimes they need help finding ideas of how to occupy their time.

As a busy parent, you’ve probably got more than enough on your plate without constantly coming up with fresh ways to steer your kids away from their phones.

Don’t worry; we’ve got your back. Keep reading to get a whole bunch of brilliant ideas that are so interesting, the kiddos might even spend the entire day without checking their mobile once (gasp!).

child on tablet

1 Create a Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is fun for all ages. Keep it simple by giving them general directives such as something “animal-shaped” or “round.” Or, challenge the kids by crafting more complex clues in rhyme or riddle. If you’re short on time and/or inspiration, you can download scavenger hunt lists (the kids don’t need to know you used your device to get them).

Potential things to search for include nature items, a rainbow of colors, holiday-themed objects, the alphabet, cloud animals, and even sounds. The sky’s literally the limit. A rainy afternoon is no reason not to hold a search; the house makes an excellent hunting ground. The kids might even rediscover beloved lost toys, making it a double win! 

Check out the scavenger hunts that I have on the site (with more being added!):

2 Get Crafty

Yet another brilliant idea that will keep kids’ minds and hands busy is a craft activity. Like scavenger hunts, the options are virtually limitless. Beads and pearls offer endless fun; keep a container of beads and some string on hand for easy access because your kids will come back to this one again and again. Nature crafts are always a hit too, including pinecone animals, pressed flower bookmarks, and bird seed ornaments.

Holiday decorations are another easy and fabulous go-to, from masking tape mummies and craft stick spider webs for Halloween to heart mosaics and tissue paper flowers for Valentine’s Day. The list of possibilities goes on and on. Again, keep the art supplies within easy reach so you can whip them out faster than the kids can power up their devices!

3 Unleash Their Inner Da Vinci

Continuing with the artistic theme, drawing and painting offers hours of screen-less entertainment. Sidewalk chalk, washable markers, watercolors, acrylics, or simple pencil and paper, there are so many different media kids can try out to flex those creative muscles.

To extend the artistic experience even further, consider having them collect berries (or simply get some out of the fridge or freezer) and make homemade ink with a basic blend of crushed berries and a little vinegar and salt. Have the kids search out feathers to make quills for an authentic old world experience.

With so much to keep them busy, they’ll never miss their phones. Here are some fun options:

4 Channel Their Inner Shakespeare

Have the kiddos put that quill and ink to good use while exercising their mind and their penmanship! Writing ideas include haikus and 100-word stories to full-length plays and novels. They should of course feel free to use a regular pen or pencil for this project. If they’re stumped for ideas, send them to the bookshelf or library for screen-free inspiration.

While they’re at it, why not have them combine their art skills with their writing and illustrate their original story. Illuminated letters à la the Book of Kells is yet another idea. Who knows, this one might spark a whole new interest and up their school grades at the same time.

5 Get Busy With Yarn

Knitting and crochet are a great way to pass the time without having to resort to screens. There are so many different things you can do with yarn: make practical things like scarves and hats, or artsier projects like pompom wreaths or knotted wall hangings. Tweens and teens might like to stretch their creative muscles and try out the Japanese art of amigurumi, aka, adorable crocheted animals.

The repetitive action of knitting and crochet is known to be soothing, great for kids who need to calm down. Even littles can learn to finger-knit fairly easily with chunky yarn. With a bit of practice, they can keep themselves occupied for hours with this meditative and practical art!

6 Break Out the Mixing Bowls

Cooking is yet another lost art that deserves to be revived. This is one where kids can really progress and become helpful over time, not to mention healthier. Now, it can be messy at first, but a little mess is worth it if they’re having fun without a screen and learning something useful. If your kids love healthy food, that’s great news. But if they’re more into sweets, don’t discourage them.

No matter what they want to make, a home-made version is healthier than something pre-packaged from the store. (To get started, check out our delicious homemade pumpkin ice cream.) Indeed, they may be shocked by the amount of sugar that goes into certain recipes, and be willing to try it with less. 

7 Get Down & Dirty In the Garden

Yet another way to while away the hours sans screens is to get the kids busy out of doors. Kids love to be dirty and wet, making the garden the perfect venue to indulge them. Flowers, veggies, berries, or all three are wonderfully satisfying to grow and require care over time, which means the kiddos will have repeated incentive to put down the mobile and pick up the trowel.

Don’t have a garden? Window boxes of herbs or flowers are equally satisfying to grow and nurture.

little girl gardening

8 Fashion a Fairy Garden

While they’re outside, why not suggest they create a fairy garden to go in the flower garden? Finding or crafting the fairy home and all its requisite accessories is a wonderful way to while away the hours. Encourage the kids to redecorate on a regular basis.

9 Break Out the Bikes

More outdoor fun is to be had on the back of a bike. Encourage exploration and healthy exercise in one fell swoop! Tell them to leave the phone at home so it doesn’t get lost or broken.

10 Build a Fort

Yet another activity that’s always a kid-pleaser is building a fort. It could be outside, it could be under the dining room table, but either way, gathering up materials and then getting them to hold a shape will hold their interest and make them forget about devices.

11 Learn a Magic Trick

Or a musical instrument. Or a dance. Or a new language. Or origami. Or whatever. Take the kids to the library and have them check out books on any skill that catches their fancy, then have them follow through and show you their new skill. Their interests may surprise you!

12 Write Letters

Another lost art that definitely deserves to be revived is letter writing. This is not just a sneaky way to get your kids to practice handwriting (although it does happen). The trick is to teach your children to enjoy writing for its own sake. Have them pen a note to relatives or friends, and be sure to post the letters. Receiving a letter in the mail is a real treat for anyone and may well foster an on-going correspondence! If your kids can’t think of anyone to write to, have them write to you. Sometimes it’s easier to write than to say certain things to someone’s face, and you may learn things about your kids you might otherwise never have known.

Whether or not you’re working from home, you can keep the kids occupied without resorting to screens. In a word, the name of the game is creativity. Encourage it in your kids and watch them blossom into interesting and interested people who aren’t slaves to their devices. And who knows? You too may (re)discover a hobby that helps you spend less time on your device. All of you will be happier and healthier for it!

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