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7 Simple Ways to Replace Screen Time

Turn off the screens and reconnect with these simple tips.

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Screen Free Week (April 30-May 6, 2018) is an opportunity to turn off the screens—except when necessary for homework or work—and reconnect. Remember, this isn’t just screen-free kids week, it’s for the whole family. Parents have an opportunity to model (or learn) alternatives to screen usage.

Make the pledge at screenfree.org and physically unplug electronics to avoid falling into regular screen habits. Collect remote controls, chargers, and gaming units in a box and put them on a high shelf for the week. If kids have phones to take to school, collect them at the end of the school day and hand them back out as they leave in the morning. Fill the days with unplugged activities.

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Wondering what to do when the screens are off? Here are seven ideas, one for each day of Screen Free Week:

  1. Hold a game night. Get out the board games. Or, do you remember that deck of cards in the drawer? Pull them out and learn a new card game, such as Hearts, Bridge, or Gin, or teach the family one of your childhood favorites. Don’t know how to play these games? Call Grandma and ask her or get a book that explains the rules. No cheating by looking it up online—remember no screen time.
  2. Go to the library. Spend an afternoon or evening exploring the world without leaving town or tuning in to a TV show. Go to the library and page through books about everything from foreign cultures to skateboarding. Find a book about Colorado history or geography and get to know your home state better.
  3. Put together a puzzle. Assemble simple puzzles or step up the game a bit and try a more challenging puzzle. Younger kids can still help with harder puzzles. Give them a special mission like finding all the pieces that have a particular element of the picture on them; for example, find all the “blue sky” pieces.
  4. Go for an after-dinner walk or bike ride. The weather is getting warmer and nature is putting on quite a show. As you explore, talk about the changes the kids observe. Use questions to spur a reason for another trip to the library.
  5. Visit a museum. Denver Museum of Nature & Science is always a favorite. But have you ever been to Littleton Museum, Golden History Museums, or the Lakewood Heritage Center? These indoor-outdoor museums have plenty of artifacts, but also offer “touchable” exhibits and a great combination of historic structures and open space to play in. Some even have live animals and costumed docents.
  6. Create something. Set up a creation station and have the kids spend the afternoon painting, coloring, doing a sidewalk-chalk mural, papier-mâché, or using whatever medium is on hand. Set up the artwork for a “gallery” visit from the family after dinner. Or, dream up a diorama to build in a shoebox, a building to assemble with blocks, or a “whatchamacallit” to make from stuff in the recycle bin.
  7. Have a catch. It’s amazing how relaxing tossing a ball or playing a little game of soccer can be. Plus it burns some of the kids’ excess energy.

Bonus Idea: Each night make dinner together with the kids. Ask them to contribute ideas for a balanced meal. Take time to make something simple that little hands can help prepare. Set the table together and enjoy the meal. Afterward, do the dishes as a team. Keep the atmosphere light and play “restaurant” to make it feel like a game. Don’t forget the dinner music.

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