20 Screen-free Activities for Kids

With spring here and summer approaching, most kids will have fewer structured activities and more free time. This time is great for building creativity and independence, but it can also result in kids spending way more time than usual on screens.

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends children ages 2-5 have less than 1 hour of screen time each day and children over the age of 5 have less than 2 hours of screen time each day. While some screen time is fine for children, spending the entire summer consuming media all day is definitely not the best.

Having a few fun activities to try can help limit screen time. You don’t need to plan elaborate activities or have expensive supplies on hand to compete with the allure of digital media. Here are some simple, exciting activities that don’t require excessive planning.

Outdoor Activities

As the days warm up, time spent outside becomes more appealing. No matter whether you have a large backyard or not, getting outdoors is good for your children and for you.

  1. Have a sponge toss.

A sponge toss is a great way to cool off on hot days without needing to find a swimming pool. Fill up several containers with water. Place the containers close enough to toss and catch a large sponge. Each player will dip the sponge in a container before throwing it to the next person.

  1. Create an outdoor obstacle course.

Either you or your children can decide on the route for an obstacle course in your backyard or on a playground. Take turns timing how long it takes for each person to finish the course.

  1. Learn to jump rope.

Jumping rope is a classic childhood activity for a reason. You only need a jump rope and a small amount of space for this high-energy activity.

  1. Go on a nature hike.

As plants and animals start emerging now that winter is over, it’s the perfect time to take a nature hike. You can talk about the different things that you and your child notice as you walk.

  1. Find shapes in the clouds.

A low-prep activity that still gets everyone outside. Place down blankets or towels and relax while searching for people, places, and objects in the clouds. If your kids enjoy drawing, you can bring along paper so they can sketch what they see.

  1. Have a picnic.

Since you’re going to eat anyway, why not have a picnic? Depending on their age, children can assist with planning and packing the meal as appropriate. A picnic makes the day just a little more special.

  1. Blow bubbles.

Another super simple activity that kids love. Get a pre-made bubble solution or make your own. Then, head outside for a fun morning or afternoon activity.

  1. Create chalk art.

Chalk doesn’t have to be confined to the sidewalks. Children’s chalk will wash off most hard surfaces during a rainstorm. 

  1. Go on a bug hunt.

No matter where you are, there are sure to be bugs. Walkthrough your neighborhood or just your backyard and see how many different bugs kids can spot.

  1. Make a sundial.

A homemade sundial is a fun way to get outside while also learning about science. All you need is a paper plate, some clay, a pencil, and a marker. Use the clay to place the pencil straight up in the center of the paper plate. Find a sunny spot for the sundial. Then, set a timer so kids can draw a line where the shadow of the pencil falls each hour. By the end of the day, you’ll have a completed sundial and get to talk about how the earth moves in relation to the sun.

Indoor Activities

On rainy days or bad weather days, screen time can be more difficult to avoid. There are still plenty of fun things that children can do indoors. 

  1. Work on a puzzle.

Puzzles are the perfect indoor activity when kids have a lot of free time. If your kids really enjoy puzzles, try swapping puzzles with other families periodically to switch things up.

  1. Have a dance party.

When kids can’t go outside but need to let out some energy, pick a couple of great songs, and have a dance party. Everyone will feel better afterward.

  1. Make homemade ice cream in a bag.

You don’t have to buy an ice cream maker to have homemade ice cream. With just a few ingredients and supplies, kids can make their own ice cream. This is one activity, everyone will want to do again and again.

  1. Put on a puppet show or play.

Give kids a few puppets or some old clothes to use as costumes and let them see what their imaginations can come up with. 

  1. Make a book of jokes.

If your child loves jokes (and who doesn’t), set out paper and writing materials and encourage them to make their own joke books. This activity is good writing practice, but more importantly, it’s just fun.

  1. Make homemade playdough.

Did you know that you can make your own playdough at home? Chances are you already have everything you need. With some assistance, kids can follow the steps to make their own playdough, and then spend hours creating and playing.

  1. Learn to cook a meal.

This activity will definitely require adult assistance. Learning to cook a meal is a great way to spend time together while also teaching useful skills. 

  1. Play animal charades.

Have kids either draw animals or write animal names on pieces of paper. Fold the paper and place them into a container. Then, take turns pulling out slips of paper and acting out the animal while everyone else guesses. 

  1. Create your own board game.

Are kids tired of playing the board games you already have? Give them supplies you have around the house like poster board, cardboard, paper, writing supplies, and whatever else is on hand to create their own board games. 

  1. Write a letter to a friend or family member.

Everyone loves getting something in the mail. Encourage kids to pick a person to write a letter to. It’s good writing practice 

In addition to these ideas, encourage kids to come up with their own lists of ideas for screen-free activities. Kids are capable of coming up with creative, fun ideas for themselves, too. Even for adults, limiting screen time can be challenging, so having other activities to look forward to can make limits easier for children.

There probably will be some days during the spring and summer when it just isn’t feasible to follow the recommendations for media time. Limiting screen time has positive behavior and development effects for children, but it can also be challenging. 

For more ideas on how to handle children’s screen time and what to do instead, take a look at these resources. 

Public Health Agency of Canada: Mind: Screen Time

CBC: 50 Ideas to Keep Your Kids Busy During Screen-Free Week

Healthy Children: Create Your Family Media Plan

Media Smarts: Four Tips for Managing Your Kids’ Screen Time