Give everyone in your family a break from screens during the school year with a few fun activities they can all look forward to.
Let’s be real. As parents, we’re just as guilty of overindulging in screen time. Most of us use computers and phones for our jobs all day. And then, when we shut those down for the night after the kids are in bed, what do we do? A little mindless scrolling and turn on the TV for entertainment. That’s a lot of screen time in one day!
During the school year, our kids are also using screens for their school work during the day, especially if their school system is relying on distance and online learning. Many of them are on their phones throughout the day too. Then when it’s time to veg-out at home, they fall back on video games, TV, or their phones for entertainment.
This school year, there’s never been a better time to break bad screen time habits, practice what we preach, and set aside some family time that has nothing to do with screens, starting with these five engaging family-centric activities.
1. Host Game Night
Go big. Don’t let this be any typical “game night.” Set a night each week that everyone in the family can agree on and get excited about. Then, pick a host for each week out of a hat. The host gets to pick the game and select a theme for the night—think 80s, flapper, or The Price is Right. The host also gets to explain the rules of the game to everyone. If they want, they can even make up their own game! Let creativity flow. Designate one person for handling the snacks to go along with the host’s theme of choice. The more you can get everyone involved, the better!
2. Have a Picnic
What better way is there to spend a nice afternoon than outside having a picnic? Pack a simple lunch (maybe sandwiches, raw veggies, and fruit), find a big blanket, load up a basket, and pick a destination. Is there a park nearby? Maybe there’s a scenic area you’ve all driven by a million times and thought about stopping but just never had a reason. Or, if you don’t want to worry about location, just step outside into the backyard and set up there. Too cold for a picnic outside? Try out an indoor location away from the kitchen like the basement or living room floor. To keep conversation going, have everyone in the family think of their favorite vacation and share memories from that trip. At least we can reminisce if we can’t travel...
3. Start a Garden
This might sound intimidating at first, but many veggies are actually pretty simple to grow. The Almanac has some great tips on what’s best to plant in each state for each season. If there’s four people in your family, have each one select the vegetable they’d like to grow and be responsible for taking care of it. Once you’ve laid beds and planted seeds together, the upkeep is a consistent activity to keep you all connected and engaged with the outdoors rather than screens. If the idea is tempting but sounds like too much, you can always choose something a little more low maintenance like an herb garden, which can even be set up indoors.
4. Be Crafty Together
Whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall, there’s always an opportunity for some festive, crafty fun.
In the fall, embrace the idea of making a big mess by having a family pumpkin-carving contest outside in the driveway. Every family member can vote for their favorite, and the winner gets to pick the next family activity.
If you’re reading this in the winter, build the ultimate “fort night" together to stay cozy indoors. If you have young kids, the fort can act as the new haven for bedtime stories. Older kids will enjoy the seclusion to do some solo reading in the evenings instead of watching TV.
And in the spring, go on a flower-spotting scavenger hunt together. Look up the most common flowers blooming in your region, and see who can find the most.
The summer months are a great time to stay inside and cool off with some ice cream. Each family member can make their own unique flavor of ice cream from this easy ice-cream-in-a-bag recipe. Just substitute the vanilla with whatever you like!
5. Do a Day Trip Adventure
No matter where you live, there’s always a way to get out of your regular routine and visit some place new. Hop online (just for a few minutes), and search for good hiking within an hour of your house. Maybe there’s even an area with a waterfall! Get the whole fam to commit to one morning or afternoon of the coming weekend, and only use the phone for GPS and directions to get there. The hiking destination should be a “no-phone-zone.” Of course, it’s ok for everyone to cheat a little to snap a few pics to document that they were, in fact, outside. Who can blame them, it’s a beautiful world out there!
If hiking is a bit too adventurous for your crew, pick something more your speed. For instance, a trip to the local zoo to check out some exotic animals. Or, check if there’s a science or art museum nearby that’s allowing visitors.
Family Memories are Priceless
It’s impossible to focus on each other with screens in hand or in front of you on a TV all of the time. With a little extra effort, you and your family can start to develop new ways to spend time together that will keep you connected, active, and inspired.
You can’t put a price tag on memories together, no matter what they are. Even if you start small—maybe it’s just a family dinner—start now. It will be worth it.