I don’t know about you, but it seems like an uphill battle to get the kids away from their devices sometimes. As lockdown has gone on, that battle has become harder and harder. To help I’m sharing some of my favourite screen free activities to do with the kids. Some of these activities are indoors, some are outdoors but all of them are cheap to do.
I don’t know what to call this screen free activity, so I just call it scavenger races. Suggestions of a better name are most welcome! Get five medium sized objects and hide them around the house / garden. On separate pieces of card write down each of the five items. As an alternative, something that works quite well is paint bottles or coloured balls as then you can just get them to find the colour. You want to hide them where they’re fairly easy to find.
To play the game, turn over one card at random and get them to find that object. Once they’ve found it they come back and get the next card. Time how long it takes for your child to find and return all the hidden objects. If you have more than one child then you can either get them to work as a team OR race against each other.
Variation – hide different colour glow sticks and turn out the lights. You’ll need to hide them a bit better than your other objects but they still need to be able to find them!
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be artistic for this screen free activity. In-fact, the sillier the better! Get everyone to make a model of another person and see if you can guess who it’s supposed to be. If there’s only two people playing then open up the options to the wider family! I think you’ll agree, mine is stunning!!
Tin can telephone whispers
It’s a classic, with a twist! Get two old (clean) tin cans and put a hole in the bottom of each. Tie a knot on the end of a long piece of string and thread it through the hole in the first can (knot on the inside of the can). Then thread it through the second can and tie the end. If there’s only two people then just use it like a normal tin can telephone. If you’ve got more than two people playing turn it into a game of whispers. The first person says a message to the second person, who repeats what they think they heard to the third and so on until it goes back to the original person. Then you reveal what was actually said and what made it to the end of the whisper trail.
Build a reading den
This is another screen free children’s activity that can be done inside or outside. Personally, I love building dens outside, but the good old British weather doesn’t always allow for that. Build a den using chairs, the sofa, boxes etc if you’re indoors. You can also drape blankets off the washing line if you’re outdoors and make a REALLY big den. Then just pack it full of cushions, duvets and blankets and snuggle up with a family book.
I thought this would just keep Smallest Child entertained but I needed help from the boys in order to do it. Turns out, they LOVED it as much as she did. All you need is a long piece of fairly sturdy string, something to tie it to (a chair would work), some clothes hangers (we used children’s ones), pegs and teddies. If you have a straight staircase you can do this down the stairs. We did it out the window. If you are doing it this way then PLEASE supervise children near the open window. Simply hang your teddies onto the hanger using pegs and send them down the line. Hours of entertainment and giggles (Apparently!)
Who doesn’t love cake? And, let’s face it, a certain amount of sibling rivalry exists in most families! Why not combine the two and have a family bake-off? You can make it as easy or complicated as you like, depending on the age of your children. Want to turn this into a quick screen free activity for the children? Set up a biscuit decorating station and see who’s is best.
There are a couple of drawing games that we really like in this house. Apparently one of them is known as the Exquisite Corpse, which sounds terrible. We just call it the folded man game. I’m sure you’ve all played it. Fold a piece of A4 paper into five equal sections along the shortest edge. The first person draws a face and folds it so the next person can’t see what they’ve drawn. They then have to draw a torso etc. Once you’ve got to the feet open then up and see what you’ve made together.
The other game is the shapes game. One person draws a mark of some kind. It shouldn’t be anything discernible as a thing, it needs to be random. The next person then needs to turn that thing into an object/animal. It’s amazing what the come up with together some times.
Pass the story / Story stick
This screen free activity can be particularly helpful keeping children’s interest during long car journeys. You can also play it at home, indoors or outdoors. My boys love it! Set the scene by telling them about a character, event or setting. Then pass the story stick / ball / sock / anything onto the next person. They have to tell the next small section of the story before passing it on to another person. You don’t have to go around in circles and if someone has a particularly good idea they can put their hand up to ask for the stick next.
How often do we walk around our local area without really looking? Change that by taking a photography walk. Take a camera out with you and get the kids to photograph anything they think is interesting. You could set a theme nature, cars etc, or you could just let them freestyle. You might be surprised what things they find interesting enough to take a photo of.
Variation – take some toy animals with you. Get the children to put them in places such as in the grass, or up trees, and take close-ups so they look like wildlife photos. Who doesn’t want a photo of a dragon climbing a tree? If they’re feeling particularly creative then, on another day, get the children to use the photos to either inspire a story or use lots to create a storyboard.
Create an obstacle course
Obviously I mean your child should be creating this, not you! Get them to create an obstacle course around the house. Include requirements such as they must go under something, over something and throw something. It’s also a good idea to set a target number of obstacles. When we did this, the course covered pretty much the whole house! It takes a while for them to get things set up, then you can time how fast they can complete the course. Either get multiple people to compete against each other, or get them to try and beat their own time.
Because it has so many elements this can take a fair bit of time, they’ll be doing this for a while. You’re welcome! I’m just glad the kids didn’t expect me to crawl under the chair legs and were happy for me to just be time keeper!
Create your own escape room
OK, this screen free activity takes a LOT more planning but it’s so much fun. If you’ve seen my review of the Harry Potter themed escape room at The Works you’ll know we love stuff like this. It’s completely up to you what you offer as the reward. It could be just for funzies, it could be the wi-fi password, it could be something that you’ve locked in a box. The world is your oyster. I’m going to put together a full post about an escape room once I’ve done it with the boys, but basically get them to solve riddles and puzzles to generate a code to escape. Until I’ve put together our own room check out this one by the Activity Mom.
Make this as easy or as hard as suits your children. Try to use their strengths when coming up with the clues and focus on things that they like. This is the hardest activity on this list in terms of prep and parent participation, but I hope you’ll agree it’s worth it.
Make sure you check out my other screen free kids activities on the website. There’s 21 things to do outdoors with the kids, easy science experiments and how to find quiet family walks in your area. Got younger children? Have a look at my ideas for toddlers as well.
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook