Everyone loves winter break, right? Um, yeah, right. Love it. Definitely. Winner. The most wonderful time of the year.
So you sense some sarcasm? Here’s the thing: My kids are home. It’s cold out (at least where I live) so outdoor activities are difficult. Friends are away so arranging playtime with other kids is difficult. And I need to get at least a minimum of work done each day.
Oh, and we have a strict limit on the amount of screen time they can have each day, and yes, that includes winter break.
As I’m sure you know, enforcing the limits on screen time is really difficult at any time of the year, but at times when there is the triple whammy of no school, no outdoor play time, and no friends around, it becomes a daily struggle. But it is also really important for us to stick to it. And so, with Cricket Media’s award-winning and child-centered content and some help from the folks at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, I hereby present 5 Easy (and fun) Winter Break Activities for your family to try. These are meant to get everyone (including you, parents) away from the screens, so please join in. Remember, kids learn from what you do, not just what you say, so turning off your own screen, even if it is just for a few hours sends a powerful message about being present AND helps everyone concentrate on the activity at hand.
You know all those different types of building blocks and materials you have around your house: Legos, K’Nex, Zoob, Lincoln Logs, Magformers, blocks of various sizes, etc.? Get ‘em out. Yes, all of them. Even the ones your child hasn’t played with in a while and you’ve been meaning to give away. Now create a city using all the different types. Discover how the different types of building materials work together to make new contraptions and buildings types you never considered before. After you’ve had a blast with this one, cleaning up might qualify as another screen-free activity, especially if you take this chance to sort through and get rid of all the types of building materials your child no longer uses.
Have each member of your family make a scavenger hunt list and go on a search for each item. You can do this inside or outside or a combination of the two. Go ahead and be sneaky and add missing items to your list. Haven’t seen your son’s shoe for two days? Add it to his list. Someone left a shovel outside on the deck and it’s been bugging you for a week? Add it to the list. Who says clean up and scavenger hunt can’t be the same thing?
Create your very own board game. My family has done this and it is awesome. Our foray into board game create started because my daughter loved The Ladybug Game, which was created by a kid. She wanted to create her own game and off she went to do it, with just a little help from me. The best part is that this activity involves so many great skills: planning and logic to make sure the rules work, writing directions, designing a game board, etc. And once the game is all done, your whole family will enjoy playing it.
Take a trip. This is an obvious way to spend a few hours as a family screen-free, but if you are going to do it, make sure you keep to the screen-free part. It will make the entire activity more of an adventure. Plus, you’ll get to say stuff like, “when I was a kid we didn’t have GPS or the internet to help us. We had to figure it out for ourselves.” A few months ago, my daughter and I took a trip as part of a screen free activity and I was really strict about it. In fact, I didn’t even bring my cell phone with me. This made for some really interesting moments when we got lost and had to figure out how to get home. But it was actually the most memorable part of the trip. One thing I learned though: my cellphone, like yours probably, is my camera, so without it we couldn’t take any pictures. If possible, grab a disposable camera for this trip so you can still document the fun you had.
Cook, bake, and eat your favorite foods. Imitate Chopped Jr. and give your kids ingredients and see what they can create. Or drag out your old family recipes (written on old-fashioned recipe cards, I’m sure) and make some of your childhood favorites. Most kids love to cook and even those that prefer to eat will like the result of this activity.
For even more screen-free activities, check out screenfree.org. And for some activities perfect for those moments when you don’t have time to really get your hands (or your house) dirty but still want to keep the kids occupied without screens, download the activities below.
Activities to Download