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Family Activities

10 Screen-Free Activities To Try Now

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Kendra Smoot, photographed by Maria Del Rio

With winter break in full swing, many parents will be enjoying more kid-centric time than usual. To help moms and dads get creative—instead of instantly turning to screen time—mother and author Shannon Philpott-Sanders has compiled over 400 family-friendly activities in her book Screen-Free Fun. Filled with connection-building ideas that are sure to spark lasting memories, the book is a nice resource to consult when you want to switch up your regular routine. Below, we’ve pulled 10 of our favorite screen-free activities from Philpott-Sanders’ book that will work for a variety of ages.

Dye Eggs
Although most people reserve dyeing eggs for the spring season, why not do it any time of the year? Have an adult put eggs and water in a saucepan and boil on the stove. Once boiling, turn off the stove and let the eggs stand for about ten minutes before putting the eggs in a strainer. Once the eggs are completely cooled, place bowls on a table and add ½ cup boiling water, 1 teaspoon vinegar, and about 10 drops food coloring to each. Dip each egg into the cups of dye for a few minutes and set aside to dry. (If you want to keep the mess isolated, consider using an outdoor area.) [For a guide on how to naturally dye eggs, check out this Mother piece].

Make Some Glittery Slime
You can easily make cool-looking slime that kids of all ages like to play with by mixing together just two inexpensive ingredients. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup glitter glue with 1 tablespoon liquid laundry detergent (any old kind will do). Use a spatula to mix well, adding more detergent as needed until the mixture no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Once the slime is ready, you can begin to stretch it, make shapes, or form glittery stick people. This solution doesn’t stain when it comes in contact with surfaces, so don’t worry about messing up your table or kitchen counter. Keep the slime stored at room tem-perature so you can break this out the next time the kids are bored.

Enjoy Flashlight Ghost Stories
Turn a dull evening into a silly and scary experience with flashlight ghost stories. Break out some flashlights, find a comfy spot to sit, and gather for some spooky storytelling with the lights off. Get your kids’ creative juices going by asking them to think about what makes their skin crawl, such as the sight of a spider or a scary monster hiding in the closet. Then, prompt each person to tell a ghost story while holding a flashlight pointing upward under his or her chin. Topics can include a scene in a dark forest or a ghost living in an old house, haunting all who visit. Add some creativity to the storytelling session by making shadow puppets on the wall while explaining what is happening as the characters travel through adventures. Although this activity is entertaining for older children, it may not be appropriate for little ones who are prone to nightmares.

Draw A Family Tree
Teach your kids about their heritage and family members with this family-friendly activity. All you need is a large piece of paper or poster board, a few markers or crayons, and knowledge of your family history. Begin by sitting down with your children and looking through old family photo albums or scrapbooks. Have your children write down the names of each person they know or can remember meeting. Next, draw a large tree on the poster board or paper and create branches stemming from the base. Start by listing grandparents at the top of the tree with one parent’s grandparents on the right and the other’s on the left. List each child of the grandparents and then include each parent’s name underneath their parents’ names. Have your children write their names at the base of the tree. If you need a little help remembering names, give an older relative a call to verify. Display the final result at your next family gathering.

Top The Popcorn
When your crew is hungry for some popcorn, this activity is the ideal way to make snacktime much more interesting. The goal is to challenge your kids to try new flavors and spices to open their minds to eating new things. Help them pop some popcorn in the microwave and then pour just a little bit of popcorn into several bowls lined up on a table. Next, ask your children to look through the pantry or your spice cabinet to find just the right topping for their bowls. From cinnamon and sugar to garlic salt or chili powder, you may be surprised by the concoctions your children come up with during this activity. When the spices and flavors have been added, each child gets a chance to try a bite out of each bowl.

Create Music Shakers
Do your kids love those egg-shaped music shakers? Help them make their own with items you have lying around the house. All you need is a toilet paper roll, a tiny cardboard box, or a paper towel roll to get started. Simply staple, tape, or glue one end closed and fill with uncooked rice, nuts, or corn kernels. Secure the other end of the cardboard and get shaking. Encourage your kids to personalize their new music shakers by decorating the outside of the cardboard tube. Add swatches of tissue paper or colored construction paper with glue or break out the crayons and markers so your children can write their names on the outside of the shaker. Once all the shakers are complete, let the musical performance begin.

Choreograph A New Dance
Get shaking and moving when boredom sets in on those rainy days. Help your children choreograph a dance that combines legwork and arm movements from their favorite dancers or artists. Have each child come up with a choreographed dance and then have them merge their moves. Or, teach them some of your favorite dance moves in an informal way. Get creative by combining popular dances from different eras—for example, a Charleston step, the lawn mower, the sprinkler, or even jumping jacks. From slow dances to hip-hop movements that will leave the little ones breathless, your kids can do this any season of the year. Once the dance is ready to perform, gather an audience of friends and families to watch the show.

Host A “Just Because” Surprise Party
Most kids love to be surprised, but it can be even more fun for them to plan the surprise. With this activity, you get to show your children how good it feels to make someone else feel special “just because.” Start by brainstorming people in your family or your neighborhood who you want to celebrate and reward. Maybe a grandparent has been especially helpful carting the kids around or a neighbor has been feeling low. Boost that special person’s spirits by hosting a surprise party to honor her, complete with balloons, decorations, and even a cake or cupcakes. Have your kids start by choosing the honoree and then send them off to decorate a room in your home to launch the surprise. They can even help you bake brownies, cookies, or cupcakes for the party. Then, ask each child to make a homemade card to present to the honoree. The only thing left to do is invite the special person over and surprise her with a party in her honor.

Identify The Missing Object
Help your kids improve their observational skills with this activity. With just a few household items or toys, you can launch a competitive game when the kids are bored. The goal of the game is to identify objects that are missing from a series. For example, line up a few household items on the kitchen table, such as a spatula, fork, napkin, and piece of bread. Then, have the first player turn around or close his eyes and ask one of the kids to remove an object. The player must then turn around and identify the object that is missing. Repeat the process with every player. You can also mix up the game by having your children retrieve objects from other rooms, such as small toys, stuffed animals, and board game pieces. A variation of this game is to place several objects on the table that are similar and one that doesn’t fit into the theme. The player must identify which object is unlike the other.

Craft Homemade Clay
Get crafty in the kitchen by helping your kids make their very own Play-Doh–like clay, providing them with material to mold and mush whenever boredom sets in. With just a couple of inexpensive ingredients you can whip up a batch of modeling clay in no time. Start by scooping 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add 3 squirts tempera paint in the color of your choice and begin mixing until you have a thick paste. Continue to knead and mix to achieve the desired consistency. If your modeling clay is too wet, add more cornstarch; if it is too dry, add more paint. Repeat the process with different colors of paint to create modeling clay in every color of the rainbow.

For hundreds more ideas like these, scoop up the brand-new book Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities For the Whole Family. You can also reference Mother’s pieces on 6 Independence-Building Montessori Activities For Toddlers, 25 Cheap & Creative Things To Do With Your Kids, 5 Outdoor Activities To Try, Kids’ Art Projects Using Foraged Materials, and 5 Montessori Activities For School-Aged Kids.

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