My kids are home all. the. time. except when I send them off to camp in the summer. Because I work full-time from home, not for myself but for a large company, I need peace and quiet most of the day.
This means no coming into my home office proclaiming, "I'm bored, Mom!"
This means no sitting in my home office whining.
This also means no fighting and general noise.
In short, it means that my kids need to be occupied in relatively quiet, self-directed activities for all or nearly all of the work day.
I'm willing to bet that you want the same thing, am I right? Kids, happily and quietly occupied for most of the day. It's every mom's dream.
The problem is, the surest way to keep them occupied and quiet is to hand them a tablet that's connected to WiFi. My kids will both happily watch YouTube all day long, one learning science experiments and how to take care of orphaned kittens and the other watching people who use bad language playing Minecraft.
On a funny note, we were recently watching a movie when she blurted out, "Sh--! Sh--, sh--, sh--, sh--!" I looked at Joe quizzically, and he looked back at me with an eyebrow raised.
"What did you say?" I asked her.
She looked up sheepishly. "Nothing," she replied.
"Did you learn that fancy language on YouTube?" I asked.
"NO MOM!" she mumbled, clearly desperate to change the subject, but I knew it was a lie. Neither Joe nor I swear normally, so it had to have come from YouTube.
I chuckled quietly are her naiveté, but I also resolved to cut back on the YouTube time she gets and to monitor more closely what she's watching. I know she's going to hear those words at some point in her life, but it doesn't need to happen at home.
Even though some YouTube videos are worthwhile, especially the ones her sister watches, I just can't in good conscience let my kids watch YouTube all day long. It rubs against something in my spirit that just won't go away.
Do you feel that way? A day spent idly on a screen rots their brains or something. I just can't let it happen.
So then, what is a mom supposed to do? You can't entertain them every minute, and you don't want to let them use a screen all day. What else is there?
I couldn't find an answer, so I made one up.
It is what it says - over 150 activities designed for kids through teens to have fun without screens. I've previously published big Bored Lists, and those are still great, but my own kids find them overwhelming and have a hard time coming up with something to do from them. There are just too many options, and the overwhelm leaves me to be in charge yet again as I have to pick something for them to do and run through a litany of things as they reject idea after idea.
The Ultimate List of 150 Screen-Free Activities for Kids & Teens is made up of 43 cards, each showing 3-5 activity suggestions. Having a small number of activities per card reduces the overwhelm and allows children, especially younger ones, to choose from a short, focused list.
The cards are sized for kid hands, and they can be printed on cardstock, cut out, and made into a deck with a simple binder ring. That's exactly what I did, as you can see in the photos above and below.
Screen-Free Activity Categories
The cards are divided into several categories to allow you to hand over a subset or the whole deck. The categories are:
- For being outside
- For staying inside
- For eating
- For stretching your brain
- For competing
- For laughing
- For sharing kindness
- For getting creative
Each category includes on two to ten cards. You can hand over one card, a whole category, or the whole deck, depending on your goal and the length of time you want your kids to fill.
The best thing about The Ultimate List of 150 Screen-Free Activities
The very best thing about this deck of cards is that it empowers kids to entertain themselves. There's no need for you to play cruise director or camp counselor.
As long as you have prepared a bit ahead of time and have the materials needed on hand, you can give your kids the whole deck or a subset category and tell them to have at it.
"Choose what you want to do, and I'll be here to help if you need it," is all you need to say, and they can be responsible and autonomous to choose what they want to do without intervention from you.
Imagine, a whole afternoon of peace and quiet to read a book or go for a walk or clean. Doesn't that sound like heaven?
What about the prep work?
A few of the items require a little prep work or, at the least, a gathering of supplies. Many of the items are linked to posts here on my blog that give the background, instructions, and a list of materials.
If you want to allow them limited screen time, you could make the kids responsible for finding out what to do and how to do it. If you want to banish the screens altogether, you could easily read about the activities yourself and give them instruction after they choose what to do. Either way will work.
The bottom line
The Ultimate List of 150 Screen-Free Activities for Kids & Teens is going to give you peace of mind in knowing that your kids are occupied in fun but worthwhile activities. They'll be having fun like we used to have when we were kids, going on walks and playing card games and having dance parties. They'll be having so much fun, you might decide to join in.