A Thrifty Parent’s Guide to Electronic-Free Activities for Kids

The average school-age child in the US spends 7 and a half hours a day in front of a digital device, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. As a parent, you want your kids to have access to the technology they need to succeed in school and prepare for successful careers.

However, you also want them to lead balanced lives and appreciate the value of inexpensive and enriching offline activities.

Encouraging the moderate use of media gives your children more opportunities for interactions and experiences that are essential for healthy development. Take a look at the benefits of disconnecting, and ideas for what to do when you’re offline.

Benefits of Electronic-Free Activities:

1. Shape up. Too much time sitting in front of screens increases the risk of obesity. Give your children a head start on making exercise a regular part of their routine.

2. Sleep well. Bright screens and mental stimulation interfere with good quality rest and sleep. Set a curfew so electronic devices are turned off at least 2 hours before bedtime.

3. Promote learning. Digital devices can deliver excellent educational content, but a steady diet of empty entertainment or texting can distract from studying. Help your child keep their mind on their schoolwork.

4. Manage behavior issues. Using media wisely helps prevent aggression, substance abuse, and other risky activities. It also promotes the development of important social and communication skills.

5. Save money. Maybe you have trouble affording the latest devices. Inexpensive activities teach kids how to value relationships and creativity rather than material possessions.

Ideas for Electronic-Free Indoor Activities:

1. Make music. Your kids probably know how to stream music, but can they play an instrument or sing? Introduce them to the joys of expressing themselves through music.

2. Do crafts. Collect household items or visit an art supply store so you have supplies on hand to do arts and crafts anytime. Practice making origami animals or holiday ornaments.

3. Play board games. Pull out your old favorites or shop for new versions. Spend an evening with Monopoly instead of watching a movie.

4. Put on a play. Create your own productions. Turn a large cardboard box into a puppet theatre. Read a play out loud with each family member taking a different role.

5. Cook dinner. Prepare meals together. Even small children can rinse fruit or tear up salad greens.

Ideas for Electronic-Free Outdoor Activities:

1. Go for a walk. Make it a habit to take a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. Walking is a gentle form of exercise your children will be able to do anywhere with no special equipment needed.

2. Toss a Frisbee. A Frisbee makes it fun to move around, and even your dog can master the rules. For more variety, stock up on other simple toys like hula hoops and jump ropes.

3. Plant a garden. Grow your own vegetables and flowers. Gardening teaches your kids where food comes from and how to work with others.

4. Take a dip. Having an in-ground pool isn’t the only way to enjoy the water. Let your kids ride their bikes while you spray a hose around them.

5. Visit the library. Libraries are a community gathering place. In addition to bringing home books, check out the calendar for special events.

6. Camp out. Pick a campground that suits your idea of roughing it or just sleep in your backyard. Toast marshmallows and tell ghost stories.

In a digital age, your kids are bound to be surrounded by computers, smart phones, and televisions. Show them that it’s possible to have fun without any screens involved, and carve out boundaries to keep the overuse of technology from interfering with healthy development.