How to Be Active During Screen-Free Week

Screen-free week is April 29-May5. Here are some fun ideas for keeping kids happily occupied when the tube’s off, the computer is “sleeping” and hands are kept away from hand-held screens.

For some of us, turning on the television or checking the computer first thing in the morning is a habit—not something we even think about doing. Sadly, it’s not just adults who fall into this “constant contact” way of life. It’s estimated that preschoolers spend 32 hours a week in front a screen of some sort—and as children get older, even more time is spent with screens of all types. Taking time to turn off the TV, computer and gaming devices can be amazingly refreshing for a family. And you might be very surprised at just how much time suddenly appears in one’s schedule when screens and electronics are set aside!

Hopscotch / Jenny Downing / CC BY 2.0

What is Screen-Free Week?

Formerly called TV-Turnoff, Screen-Free Week is a chance to unplug and reconnect with your children and family members.  Anyone can participate, and in fact, it can be really fun to form teams or band together in a group to take part in it with others. Lots of folks who think their kids are going to be miserable without their screen time actually find the opposite—that their young ones rediscover the joys of playing outside more, exercising with siblings or as a family, doing creative projects, playing games, going on family outings and even just having downtime that isn’t accompanied by the visual and auditory stimulation of a screened device. Keep in mind though, that going screen-free at home isn’t just for the kids—the adults in the household need to participate, too.

What to do instead…

If you’re thinking of taking part in Screen-Free Week this year, but are wondering how you might fill the time so that your family gets the most out of the screen-free experience, here are some suggestions below. For even more ideas, check out the many ideas compiled by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

Cook with your kids!

Of course I’m going to suggest this, because it’s fun and the rewards of learning to cook good food are numerous…and yes, because I’m a dietitian. See our ideas for five kitchen jobs that younger kids can help with (link to Alli’s post) You could even hold a small “cooking class” situation and invite other adults and their children to participate.

Create some active games for your kids or your whole neighborhood.

Activities such as a scavenger hunt (could be outside or indoors on a rainy afternoon) or an obstacle course in your yard using sports gear and household items (here are some good ideas!)

Make a driveway “sports complex” using inexpensive, colored sidewalk chalk.

A four-square “court,” a large hopscotch and markings for shooting hoops or doing a beanbag toss can be tailored to kids of all ages.

Plan for a little downtime during the week—set up a book swap.

Everybody needs a little time to relax and read, right? A book swap held at the beginning of the week will ensure that kids have some new reading material for the Screen-Free Week head! It needn’t be a formal affair, you could just invite children (and parents) to bring a few books and then they can take away an equal number of books.