If you can’t spend a lot of time outside due to cold winter weather, but want your children off their tablets, phones or computers, check out these 25 screen-free activities.
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We are not a screen-free family. In fact, we allow our children a pretty liberal amount of time on their iPads.
This is our own choice as parents, and we are doing our best to give our children a fun, educational, and semi-independent childhood. Our goal is to teach them how to manage their time independently.
This means regulating their own screen-time as well as other activities. It’s not an overnight process and it requires a lot of encouragement and direction.
Both of our girls got their first tablet around 1.5 years old. I know some of you are cringing right now. And I understand why that sounds terrible.
Still, we have rules in place that reduce the amount of time the girls spend on their iPads and encourage learning and creativity with other screen-free activities.
In the summertime, it’s much easier as the girls often head outside to jump on the trampoline, ride bikes, play with chalk, or run through the sprinklers.
But, living in Montana has put the pressure on to come up with winter screen-free activities. If you live in an area where the weather prevents a lot of outdoor time in the winter, this list will be right up your alley.
Our girls are three and seven years old, and this list can be used for both ages and all those in between.
25 Screen-Free Activities for Winter
1). Read a book: First graders and up can read independently. Check out this post for a list of books first-graders can read independently. For toddlers, either read with them or give them nursery rhyme or songbooks that you have read before. Kids are quick to pick up nursery rhymes and may be able to flip through the book on their own while remembering a good portion of the words.
2). Coloring: Coloring helps children develop fine motor skills. You can get free printable coloring pages from Crayola. We have a slew of coloring supplies from Crayola. All of their products are non-toxic, and most are washable. My girls like to use the Crayola Supertips markers because they don’t require a lot of force for a saturated color.
3). Build a Lego House: Legos are another great way to improve fine motor skills in toddlers and young children. Work with your children to build a Lego house. Talk about the different colors you are using and ask about your child’s dream house. This allows them to use their imagination and think deeply about what they like in their home. I bet you will be surprised by what they say.
4). Do a Science Experiment: All children love a fun science experiment. And it’s a great teaching opportunity. You can do something like this Easy Glow in the Dark Lava Lamp that only requires five household ingredients. The post also explains the science behind why it works so you can relay that information to your child.
5). Cook a New Ethnic Cuisine: This screen-free activity may be better suited for elementary-aged children, but little ones can help as well. With this activity, you can teach your children about other cultures, making them more open to differences. It also gives your child an opportunity to expand their palette. Because they get to help in the creation, they are more likely to want to try the meal.
6). Go on a Color Scavenger Hunt: Make a list of colors and decide on a specific number of items for each color. Give the list to your child and have them walk around the house looking for objects that fit within the colors you specified. You can take it a step further with older children and provide specific patterns or textures.
7). Name Tracing: You’ll need a piece of paper, a pencil, a marker, some glue, and glitter for this activity. Start by writing your child’s name in large print with a pencil. From here, have your child trace their name with a marker first. Then have them go over it with a bottle of glue. Finally, have them sprinkle glitter over the glue and help them get rid of the rest of the glitter.
8). Word Puzzles: My mom bought this word puzzle set for my girls a couple of Christmases ago. Since then, they have been a huge hit with screen-free time. These are great for both toddlers and early-elementary-aged children. Toddlers will look to put the images together, while older children can spell and read the words below the image.
9). Candy Pattern: What gets kids more excited than some candy? For this activity, you can use either M&Ms or Skittles. Have your child put together different color patterns. This simple activity can help younger children learn their colors and can help them gain an understanding of patterns. It also helps them focus and be detail-oriented.
10). Counting Everday Objects: Like the color scavenger hunt above, this activity will send kids on a math scavenger hunt. Use images or write out everyday objects and have your child go around the house and count how many they can find. Some good starter items include: toothbrushes, house plants, their pants, Curious George (or other specific) book titles, and pictures on the walls.
Active Screen-Free Activities
11). Obstacle Course: Help your child set up an obstacle course by moving furniture, using pillows, and blankets. Remember to keep it safe, but have fun. Have them jump from the couch to a blanket and then stone-hop over some pillows to a chair. You can change it up whenever you do this activity and kids of all ages will enjoy it.
12). Twister: Who doesn’t like the classic game, Twister? This game will keep your kids on their feet… most of the time. And it will encourage taking turns, listening to directions, and learning colors.
13). Indoor Hopscotch: Use masking tape to set up a hopscotch area in a larger open area of your house. This activity is fun and it will help your child gain gross and fine motor skills. They will have to jump, land on one foot, and toss a marker.
14). Animal Mimicking: One of my fondest memories is playing animal mimicking with my girls. We all took turns naming an animal and the others had to try to walk/move down the hallway in a way that mimicked the animal. This calls on your child’s knowledge of animals and gets them to use a variety of muscles and control their bodies in different positions.
15). Tape Laser Maze: Here’s another active screen-free activity that all kids enjoy. Take some masking tape and run long strips of it between both sides of a hallway. Place some parallel to the floor, some diagonal, some higher, and some lower. Yes, this requires a lot of tape. Then take turns crouching beneath and stepping over the tape to reach the end of the hallway.
16). Balloon Volleyball: The concept is easy and the activity will keep kids entertained for an extended amount of time. Blow up a balloon, or a couple, and bop them around, keeping the balloon from hitting the ground.
17). Dance Party: It requires no real setup and very little instruction. Turn on some music and let your kids dance out their energy. This helps keep them active and it also builds confidence. We have an Alexa and the most basic package for Amazon Prime Music which allows us to pick specific songs and playlists. You can try it free and get free 2-day shipping with Amazon, here.
18). Indoor Bowling: Have some empty water bottles laying around? Fill them up with water and seal them tightly. Then arrange them at the end of a hallway or at the opposite end of the room. Use a larger bouncy ball, volleyball, or soccer ball to try and knock down the water bottles.
19). Freeze Dance: Put on a song and then pause it and give your child a specific pose to hold until the music comes back on. You can also give broad descriptions and allow your child to be creative with their postures. For example, say “put one hand on the floor” or “create a letter A with your body.”
Craft Activities for Young Children
20). Make Your Own Bath Paints: I love this idea from Kojo Designs. The recipe only requires four kid-safe ingredients. And it’s double the fun because they will enjoy creating it and using it in the bath later on.
21). Make Silly Socks: Grab a pair of tube socks, some hot glue, googley-eyes, and felt. Cut different shapes out of the felt and glue different pieces on your socks to create a silly pair of socks that your child can wear and stomp around in.
23). Melted Crayon Wall Art: This one requires a lot of adult input for safety reasons, but the end result will be something both you and your child are proud of. For full instructions, read this post from The Spruce Crafts.
24). Make Your Own Pencil Erasers: We made these and it was a huge hit with both the three-year-old and seven-year-old. The kids can create a variety of pencil erasers and then you put them in the oven for 30 minutes to cure them.
25). Beading bracelets: This is an awesome craft to do with kids because it encourages fine motor skills and focus. It’s also an opportunity for your child to make a handmade gift for someone they care about. This teaches appreciation, gratitude, and kindness. We use pony beads and elastic cord.
Why Screen-Free Time is Important
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we are not a screen-free family. Both the kids have iPads and I feel we are fairly generous with the amount of time they are allowed on their devices.
I believe that with where society is headed, tablets and technology does offer some benefits. It can build fine motor skills. And honestly, there are some good apps and videos that can assist in teaching children skills.
But, we actively encourage screen-free activities and partake in family crafts, games, etc. Ever since my husband and I had our first daughter, my main goal was to have a strong relationship and bond with my kids. I love doing things as a family and spending quality time with these people.
Screen-free time allows children to develop communication skills, which are important early on and throughout their entire life. Partaking in games with other people encourages them to take turns, problem solve, and express their emotions.
It’s also a great way for children to be more active, both physically and creatively. Screens are an easy outlet for boredom. Forcing children to turn off the device and find something to do enhances their independence and their sense of play and imagination.
Ultimately, there are a thousand reasons to peel away from technology and take a breather from screen-time. Don’t be intimidated by not knowing what to do. Kids are naturally creative and find ways to stay entertained. Use this list of screen-free activities to help your kids get started having fun during screen-free time.
I’m curious how strict you are with screen time. Do you allow your little one to watch all the TV, play on a tablet as they wish, do you completely disallow it, or are you in the middle? There is no judgment, no matter your parenting style. We are all doing our best to raise good humans, and that’s all that matters.