Screen Free Week begins on Monday, April 29th and I couldn’t be more excited. Getting rid of screens for a week opens up our time, our creativity and our ability to bond as a family. In fact, doing a screen detox is one of the strategies we recommend in 52 Small Changes for the Family as a way to reduce screen time and make the time your kids are spending on screens more purposeful.
Screens and technology are inevitable parts of our modern family lives, but the sheer number of devices working in our lives each day is a new phenomenon and one that we are all still adjusting and getting used to. Too much screen time–including TV, video games, and using computers, smartphones and tablets–decreases a child’s attention span, ability to concentrate and executive function while increasing the risk of obesity, aggressive behavior, depression and even loneliness. While many people think of technology as keeping us “connected,” it actually diminishes the quality of our social interactions.
Spending less time in front of screens is a goal for many families, and it’s one that’s worth pursuing. While the tips below are great advice for any time you’re looking to get your kids off their screens, why not go big and start with Screen Free Week? Make it a fun challenge with your children and let them know that many families across the country are joining in.
If kids are tying all their entertainment into a screen, they’re missing out on the joy of live events. Check out your area’s plays, concerts, sporting events, musical performances and more. This doesn’t have to cost a lot: many outdoor community concerts are free in the nice weather; middle and high school students often put on very kid-friendly theater performances and depending on your child’s age, a local college hockey game may be as thrilling as the NHL.
Instead of spending time texting, challenge your kids to get together with family and friends, either through voice call or in person. We’re good at doing this when kids are little–scheduling playdates–but as they grow, we tend to let them manage their social lives and digital communication can become the norm. Creating an opportunity for in-person connection is invaluable.
Check Out Your Library Passes
Many libraries have a plethora of passes for free or discounted admission to local museums, makerspaces, gardens, parks and more. Not only does this save you tons of money, but it acts as a great list of things to do in your area that you perhaps haven’t explored yet. (And while you’re there, check out the library, and one of those books, for screen free downtime!)
Learn a New Skill
A week without screens frees up many hours, and dedicating them to learning a new skill is a great way to make a ton of progress in a short time. Depending on the age of your child, you could work on learning things like musical instruments, sewing or knitting, a new language and more. Learning without screens gives you more focused attention and better results.
Relax and Talk
It’s hard to relax with the ding of a text going off every moment or to have a conversation when someone is always trying to get back to their video game. Take advantage of this time without screens to create space for your family to kick back, relax and just talk.
Create a Scavenger Hunt
Depending on the age of your children, create a simple or more complex scavenger hunt, complete with prizes. For little kids, a sheet with colors where they need to find items to match is a great way to get them involved without reading. Older kids can really be challenged and let loose in the neighborhood by bike or foot for harder-to-find items. It’s a great way to get outside and practice teamwork.
Master a Meal
Everyone, no matter how old, should have their go-to meal that they can cook for themselves–even if it’s a grass-fed hot dogs and beans! Fight the urge to tell the kids to watch TV while you prepare dinner. Work together to master a signature dish and learn basic cooking skills throughout the week.
Create a Family Bucket List
We’ve talked before about the idea of experiences over possessions, and Screen Free Week is a perfect chance to get cracking on your Family Bucket List. Use your screen free time to talk about what family adventures are next. If the kids are loving it, suggest they start keeping their own lists of goals, like books they want to read or recipes they want to learn, to remind them of some ideas that don’t involve their devices in the future.
Do a Puzzle
Puzzles are an awesome alternative to TV time because they can be done piecemeal, whenever you have time, and everyone can contribute. The entire family can work together over the course of the week to complete a particularly challenging puzzle. When you’re done, frame it to remind you of all your hard work (and, hopefully, to power down your device from time to time when you see it).
Earn Some Cash
Kids love to earn money, and it’s never too early to start teaching them about finances .
Let them clean out the basement and put together a yard sale, or spend their day working on a lemonade stand. Use the funds to help them learn about saving and spending, and the profits to buy a small, non-digital treat!
Stargaze & Camp
If you’re a family that chills with a television show at night, you’ll need to fill the time. Spend some time in your yard stargazing. If the weather cooperates, pitch a tent and let the kids (and maybe an adult chaperone) sleep in the “Great Outdoors.” S’mores, anyone?
Write a Book
Eliminating screens gives your kids big chunks of time to get creative. Encourage them to write and illustrate their own short stories. You can do this simply by stapling some paper together in a booklet, or by purchasing blank hardcovers that the kids can fill in. (These are particularly fun because they feel like a real book when finished.)
For more information on how to do a Screen Detox and reduce your family’s screen time, check out 52 Small Changes for the Family, available now.