I’m sharing 5 family activities that don’t involve a screen.
I read somewhere that I’m part of the Oregon Trail generation. Anna Garvey puts it beautifully when she says, “[we] came of age just as the very essence of communication was experiencing a seismic shift, and it’s given us a unique perspective that’s half analog old school and half digital new school.”
It’s a perspective that has gone the way of Donkey Kong + 7th-grade love notes (you know, the handwritten kind).
Which makes me a little sad, because the best moments of my childhood had nothing to do with a screen.
That’s why I prioritize + value screen free personal and family time.
Yes, there’s a time and place for technology and it’s done some wonders for us. But let’s also use it in moderation, right?
Here are 5 screen-free family activities that will cost you less than $5 and will engage everyone.
Screen Free Family Activity #1: Listen to an Audio Book or Kids’ Podcast
Light a fire, bring out some hot beverages (or not if you’ve got weeeee-little ones, like our 17-month old), and tune into a free family-friendly audio book/radio drama. You can also check out a kid podcast for stories and lots of other cool things.
Psst: Since it’s screen free time, make sure you don’t leave your laptop facing everyone (that’s a screen!) and/or turn your smart phone’s screen facing down. You can also just hide the screens behind something to keep the screen-free ambience going.
Screen Free Family Activity #2: Work on a Family Charity Project
There are multiple charity projects your family can sit down to do together at home that will help others in need. Here are a few charity family activities ideas:
- Clip Coupons for Military Families: Ask your family and friends to save their coupon inserts (even their expired ones; military personnel may use coupons expired up to 6 months!), then every few months sit down as a family and clip all the coupons out together. Together, pick out a military base from around the world where you’d like to send them to to benefit military families. Be sure to mail them off in time (bonus: sending mail through a military address costs less than regular international mail).
- Send Strangers Happy Cards: The Post Card Happiness Project is all about writing a cheerful, encouraging post cards to people going through difficult times. Choose someone from the website, print out their info (so that you can go screen-free during the actual letter writing), then send off your drop of happiness.
- Cheer up Sick People: Reach out to ill and lonely people across America by writing them thoughtful cards. Send one, commit to sending monthly, or send in bulk. Print out the directions ahead of time so that, again, you can go screen-free come family time.
Screen Free Family Activity #3: Family Stargazing
Family activities that involve the vast, unexplored sky? I’m in.
You’ll need a few tools to really set up a stargazing experience that’s out of this world.
- Download a Star Wheel for your particular location and print it out (instructions included).
- You could also download and print these free constellation information cards.
- Schedule around a sky event. You can either use PBS.org’s Your Sky Tonight, or the Night Sky Network ahead of time to see what’s cool events are there to see.
- Consider getting some astronaut ice-cream for the occasion.
- Consider adding in an astronaut-read story time for bed (hide the screen though!).
Screen Free Family Activity #4: Play Hilarious Rounds of Mad Libs
I’m in love with Mad Libs! We take them on our road trips, and occasionally break them out at home. What a fun way to raise the gigglarity of any situation, reinforce words and grammar, plus get away from those screens.
If you haven’t heard of Mad Libs? They’re little stories or scenarios with certain words taken out. You then ask another person (or persons) to give you a word that falls in a particular category so that it will make sense (kinda) when you reread the story out loud (like, give me a noun, or a verb).
Some free Mad Libs pages for you to print out ahead of time:
- Several Fall-themed Mad Libs
- Pizza, Pretty Princess, and Summer Trip-themed Mad Libs
- Disney Princess Mad Libs
- School-themed Mad Libs
Screen Free Family Activity #5: Become Citizen Scientists
There are several programs out there that are asking for people to contribute to from home. How exciting that you + your little ones can be part of science data collection that will help people’s initiatives and the future of our earth!
- Citizen Science Soil Collection program: The University of Oklahoma is looking to partner with lots of people to find soil fungi from across the United States that produce drug-like compounds called natural products. Request a free sampling kit, and grab some soil from your backyard together.
- Bumble Bee Watch Citizen Science Project: There’s a dwindling bumble bee population in the United States. By taking photos of bumble bees and starting a virtual bumble bee collection, you help scientists determine status and conservation needs plus help locate rare or endangered species.
- BudBurst Project: This project is all about gathering observations and data about how plants change through the season. After some initial training online, you can print out forms and observe specific plants in your backyard. You’re looking for things like the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting phases of plants. Then you sign back in and record your observations.
- Become Certified NestWatchers: Be part of the reproductive biology of birds’ database. After you get certified, take note of any nests in your backyard. Visit the nest every 3-4 days to observe changes, and be sure to record them.
- Project FeederWatch: Put up a bird feeder (you could make a homemade version as part of your family time!), then monitor and record which birds come around. Enter the data
Wow, I’m ridiculously excited to try these family activities out with my own kiddo (once he gets past the put-eveything-into-his-mouth phase, of course).
Please share your own favorite screen-free family activities in the comments below so we all can benefit.