We live in a screen obsessed world. From time binging tv shows on Netflix to hours spent playing video games. It’s hard to go anywhere without noticing someone checking their social media. Even right now, you’re most likely reading this blog on your phone. 

While excessive screen time isn’t good for anyone, it is particularly damaging for young people. OSF healthcare recommends less than two hours a day for adolescents ages 5-17, and no screen time for those under 2. Reason being, a few studies have highlighted potentially damaging connections to screen time. One study by Twenge and Campbell in 2018 showed that 4-7 hours of screentime is linked to poor emotional wellbeing in the forms of anxiety and depression in adolescents. 

Yet, when parents are exhausted from a long day of work, cooking, and cleaning, handing their kids an iPad or video game controller is such an easy way to achieve temporary peace and quiet. Believe us, we get it. It’s easy. It’s accessible. It keeps your kids entertained. It can be hard to come up with replacement activities. 

We struggled with the same thing, until we sat down and created a list of activities to replace screen time with. Even if we all reduce our kids’ digital consumption for an hour, we’ll be creating better habits, and give their minds a rest. Turn no further than this list the next time the ringing chorus of “I’m bored” arrives. These boredom busters are sure to entertain, educate, and build great memories. 

  1. Cooking

Not only is cooking with children a great way to develop fine motor skills while learning about math (measuring, anyone?), but it’s a fun and tasty activity for all. The biggest downside of this activity is the mess. Yes, there will probably be flour everywhere, and yes, you may have to scoop a few eggshells out of the batter, but the final product will be worth it: a warm plate of cookies and a smile on your kids’ faces. To help make the process better, do a little research on how to cook with kids. The best advice: start with a simple recipe, prep ahead of time, and make something everyone will enjoy eating. 

Need help getting started? Try one of these 14 kid-friendly recipes from Delish!

  1. Reading

Encouraging your kids to read young will profoundly impact them as they continue to grow. Not only is reading helping teach them important things such as sentence structure and vocabulary, but it also builds empathy. While reading on their own is excellent, start by reading together. This will create a moment of family bonding, while also modeling the behavior to your children to help them feel ready to read independently when the time comes. 

For an added dose of fun, plan a family trip to the library. Providing your children the chance to pick their own books will give them a sense of ownership, while also allowing them to develop their personal taste. Plus, it’s a great way to get out of the house without having to spend a penny. 

  1. Game Night

When reducing screen time, you may notice your child’s fingers twitching from video game withdrawal. A great solution is to entice them with the original form of gaming: board games. Bring out the classics, such as Monopoly, Clue, and The Game of Life, or dabble in the many new offerings available. Not only will these games provide the competitive nature kids enjoy during video games, but many have an educational component, while also paving the way for healthy interpersonal connection. 

  1. Get Outside

Depending on where you live, including daily outdoors activity is a great way to reduce screen time and develop healthy life habits. This can be challenging, however, in a rainy climate or amidst a midwestern winter. However, on sunny days or mildly cool days, taking a hike, playing basketball, or going for a walk around the neighborhood is a great way to explore nature, get exercise, and spend time together as a family. If you are looking for a long term diversion, visit the local playground and let your children’s imagination bloom. If you’re already an outdoorsy person, consider introducing your children to camping. 

  1. Let Them Be Messy

Part of the joy of being a kid is getting messy. Whether that means jumping in puddles, rolling in the grass, or digging in the sand. Finding controlled ways to allow children to be messy might just be the activity they need. Some suggestions include playing with playdoh, doing a science experiment, and building a fort. Each of these activities will help unlock your child’s unlimited creativity. Plus, it will encourage them to problem solve when the fort keeps falling in one location, or the oobleck is too liquidy. Play it right and you might win a “Parent of the Year” award. 

  1. Arts and Crafts

When your dried up for creative ideas, let your children take the lead by encouraging a time of arts and crafts! TO make it easy, you can plan seasonally themed crafts and buy the supplies ahead of time so it is ready to go. For example, painting ornaments during the holiday season, or making elaborate Valentine’s with lace, glitter, and gemstones will give your child creative freedom, while also allowing them to fine-tune their motor skills. Plus, you never know what amazing keepsakes your family will build. 

  1. Encourage Imaginative Play

Oftentimes, children have toys they barely look at, especially when they favor their screens. When you limit screen time, encourage them to rediscover the things they once loved, whether it’s Hot Wheels and dolls. Take their imagination further by planning enchanting tea-parties, or allowing for a time of dress-up.

  1. Write
    Excessive screen time often leads to numbing the mind. Children unplug from having to identify their feelings, thinking about others, or reflecting on the day. To help combat that, encouraging children to journal will reignite their ability to identify and analyze their feelings. At Happy Spots, we love Big life Journals for this reason. Not only do they help kids explore their feelings, but it provides prompts to help even the most unlikely of all writers to participate. Even without a Big Life journal, giving kids to sort through their feelings in a private space gives them independence, and skills to help monitor their emotions.

Regardless of the way you decide to reduce screen time, remember, even the small steps make a difference, especially for children struggling with anxiety and depression. If their anxiety feels unmanageable, or you’re looking for ways to help them better regulate their emotions, consider trying the Happy Spots At Home program. Not only does it remove the participants from excessive screen time, but it helps children find confidence and build other healthy habits. 

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