Fun for a day – with no computer, Wii or TV

Elliot helps Dad bake his first cake

30-plus ideas for a screen-free day indoors

My children’s addiction to screens – computer, Wii and television – is a frequent source of conflict in our house. It’s all they want to do. And although I don’t want them to be screen addicts, I know their addiction is largely my fault as I’ve used screens as babysitters plenty of times; when I want to get on with work, chores or just have a break from the children’s demands, it’s feels like the easiest option.

In my heart of hearts I know it’s not good for them. I want them to experience and enjoy all kinds of ways of relaxing and having fun – and screens suck up the hours and the attention so that they never want to do anything else.

They don’t have all the various gaming devices many children have: just a Wii and the family computer, both of which they are only allowed to play with at weekends. The result? In the week, they want to their friends’ houses. Recently I went to collect my 8-year old from a friend’s house to find him playing Grand Theft Auto.

At weekends, our usual strategy for getting off the screens is to take them out – to football, Tai-Kwondo, ice skating, or a park or museum. However, lots of physical activities are currently curtailed as eldest son has broken his collarbone – ice skating. So last Sunday we tried our first screen-free day in the house. This is how we did it.

The night before I drew up a list of over 40 activities – with a tick box for each child to indicate their choices. It was surprisingly successful. They loved choosing which boxes to tick.

Sunday morning came and instead of immediatly switching on, they read some comics in their room and later came for a snuggle in our bed. Then the activities began. The most popular were:

  1. Learning to play poker – with a pound of pennies each to bet with
  2. Putting on tattoos
  3. Helping Dad bake his first ever cake (including chocolate icing that came out like toffee)
  4. Having a treasure hunt with riddles for clues
  5. Acrobatics on the bed (only for people without broken bones)
  6. Making a model glider

The six-year-old happily admitted half-way through the day: “You’re right mum – you can have fun without screens”. The eight -year-old didn’t say as much but was clearly enjoying having both Mum and Dad’s full-on attention pretty much all day.

Also receiving ticks from both children, but we didn’t get round to were:

  1. Making a “cat palace”
  2. Making a birthday card for a friend
  3. Making a comic
  4. Playing charades
  5. Making a collage
  6. Baking biscuits
  7. Making birthday party invitations
  8. Cooking a whole meal

Also on the list and ticked by at least one of the children were:

  1. Make a necklace
  2. Build the Lego Star Wars we’ve never got round to
  3. Invent a rap
  4. Make model dinosaurs from a kit
  5. Learn to knit
  6. Learn to sew
  7. Put on a show
  8. Play Sorry!, Cleudo, Yahtzee, Monopoly etc
  9. Look at things under the microscope
  10. Practise writing with different parts of our bodies
  11. Make a marble run out of toilet rolls
  12. Clay modelling
  13. Learn a new tune on the piano
  14. Have a toy sale
  15. Bake bread
  16. Plant some seeds
  17. Do a jig-saw
  18. Make a solar system from a kit
  19. Play spies
  20. Learn a poem
  21. Potato printing
  22. Draw around our bodies

We will definitely do this again – perhaps once a month. We all got a lot out of the day itself, and it feels as though we’ve got a few more options of things we could all enjoy doing together. So perhaps, after all, it was me that needed to break a habit.

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