How to Enjoy a Screen‐Free Week with Your Family
While a week without screens might feel daunting, it can be enjoyable for the whole family. When preparing to go screen-free for a week, have some activities lined up to look forward to. Spend more time outside and get the kids involved in daily activities. Try new things and explore your community. This type of special time with family will allow you all to have quality bonding time and a chance to learn more about each other, especially for your children. Embrace the opportunity to learn more about your children’s likes and dislikes. Quality time is also a way for each of you to give full attention to each other, sending the message that your family is the most important thing in your lives. For extra support, get other families involved and have the kids play together.
Preparing for the Week
Talk about the upcoming week.Let your children know ahead of time that the family will take a break from screens so that they can mentally prepare. Tell them what to expect and offer some suggestions of activities to do instead of watching television or playing video games. Talk about what is allowed and not allowed to use during the week.
- You can also talk about acceptable exceptions. For example, if a child needs to complete a report, they might be able to use the computer during a specified time.
- If possible, don’t restrict listening to music. Use music sources that don’t rely on a screen, such as an mp3 player or voice-activated system.
Pre-plan activities.No one wants to dread the week or count down the seconds until it’s over! Especially if this is your first screen-free week or your family tends to heavily rely on screens, you’ll want to plan some activities to do before the week begins. Create an activity calendar or social calendar for the week. For example, you may want to take a daily walk together at the park or let the kids play at the playground after school.
- Have some activities for your kids to choose from in their free time. Write some options on popsicle sticks and put them together in a jar. You might include activities such as, “Jump on the trampoline,” “Paint/Draw,” or, “Build a pillow fort.”
- Give your kids some say in their activities so that they feel like they’ve contributed and have something to look forward to.
Encourage new interests.Now is the perfect time to encourage your family to explore new interests. Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, like an exercise class or play mini golf. Challenge each person in your family to find an activity they want to try and try something new during this week. They might be surprised and learn that they love baking, building towers, dancing, or singing.
- Teach your child a new skill and allow them to practice it, like riding a bike or climbing a tree.
- Let your child start a new karate class or help you with a project.
Make realistic goals.If it’s impossible for your entire family to commit to going a week without screens, set a realistic goal for each member of the family and for the family altogether. For example, it may be more feasible to set a goal to lower screen time or cut out one thing, such as television, for a week. Or, ask each member to cut out social media for one week. Include all family members in decision-making and discuss exceptions case by case.
- If you work from home or your kids use the computer for school projects, have a certain time limit when devices are turned off. For example, turn off your computer past 5:30 p.m.
Keep work at the office.Avoid bringing work home if you can. If you can finish some work the week before, put in a few hours so that you can fully participate in the screen-free week. If you have a separate work phone, consider leaving it at work for this week or at least not responding to any texts or calls that are not urgent.
- Check and respond to emails only during work hours.
- If you can’t cut out work obligations, try to cut back.
- Clarify that screens can be used at school and at work. If children need a computer to complete an assignment, let them use it. However, consider sending them to the library or another place to do the work. Doing it outside the house can help them stay focused and not tempt them or other family members.
Turn off all screens.Make sure you consider all screens in your home, from cell phones and tablets to television screens. This also includes video games and portable game systems. Designate a safe and secure location, then have your children hand over their screens. This will help each family member be accountable for their actions and not be tempted to sneak in time.
- Keep the screens somewhere that won’t tempt any family member to sneak some time. For example, keep all screens in a box, uncharged, and in a place difficult to access, like the attic.
Encouraging Family Cohesion
Create structured family time.Set aside time specifically for the family to be together. This is especially helpful if the kids attend dance classes or violin lessons and are often scattered throughout the week. Find a time when everyone is (or can be) home and spend some time together. Do a fun activity that everyone will enjoy.
- For example, go on a hike or play basketball at a park.
- Rearrange your living room furniture so that the television is not the centerpiece of the room. Instead, face chairs so that everyone can face one another and participate in games and discussions easily.
Have a family game night.Kids and parents enjoy playing games together. Take out board games, card games, or make up your own games. Games are a great way to enjoy family time and have fun together. Depending on your children’s age, play something simple like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland or something more complex like Uno, Sorry!, or Settlers of Catan Junior.
- Friday nights are great to have a game night. School-age kids may be allowed to stay up a little past their bedtimes and play games.
- Sharing a game night with your whole family also allows you to relax and bring out the inner child in you. Have fun and allow yourself to be a kid again.
Prepare meals together.Make meal preparation family time. Involve the children in kitchen activities, no matter how small. For example, small children can help pour ingredients into a bowl while older children can help mix ingredients or cut vegetables. Working together can make meal preparation fun and make the meal even more enjoyable to eat.
- Give each child a task and show them how it contributed to making the meal. Your children can feel satisfied in creating something altogether.
Eat meals together.Make a point to sit down and enjoy meals together. Maybe your family meal is breakfast before everyone leaves for work or school, or perhaps it’s dinner once everyone is home. Find time when everyone is around and eat food together. Having a screen-free meal can help kids eat distraction-free and contribute to conversations.
- For example, have each person talk about a highlight and a lowlight of their day.
Get outdoors.Encourage your family to spend some time outdoors. This is a great way to get out of the house and stop thinking about watching television or wanting to look on social media. Get your family interested in the outdoors and raise their curiosity. For example, see who can find the most animals on a walk in the woods. Plan a treasure hunt for kids to look around and find things like acorns, leaves, and caterpillars.
- A walk outside or in a park is a great opportunity to guide your children in the ways of the world, talk, and bond with them, and just listen to all family members enjoy the simplicity of being together without distractions from a screen.
- Have your kids create a fairy house or a nature mobile out of sticks, leaves, and other natural items.
- Sit outside at night or pitch a tent in the back yard and look at the stars. Count the number of shooting stars you see with your children. Teach them about the constellations, how to find them, and the origins of their names.
Helping Kids with Screen-Free Time
Stick with it.The first day will likely be the hardest one for everyone. If kids are whiny or feeling antsy, don’t give in. Instead, offer ideas of activities to do or friends to play with. Remind each family member about the rules of the week and let them know when they can get their screens back.
Encourage creative play.Screens discourage children from interacting creatively or coming up with ideas and play on their own.Additionally, play arms children with emotional, cognitive, and social skills.Get your kids involved in creative play during this time. Encourage them to do art, dance, create music, and build with blocks or other materials.
- Have them build in creative ways. For example, encourage them to build a theme park for their action figures or a robot out of legos.
- Other options for creative play time include word games, making up jokes and riddles together, I spy games, charades, and others.
Get crafty.Encourage your kids to get creative and crafty. Let them play with paints, crayons, colored pencils, popsicle sticks, glitter, and other craft items. Set some time aside each day for them to be creative in their art and make something. Perhaps they want to sculpt with clay or make puppets and put on a puppet show.
- Challenge your kids to put on a play at the end of the week and get ready by making props, costumes, and a set.
- Encourage your family’s artistic abilities. Have your kids create crafts, songs, play, sculptures, etc. Grab some fabric scraps, paper, cardboard, photos, and magazines and have each family member create something unique.
Explore community events and attractions.Take your family to a food or music festival or out to a museum. Explore the fun things to do near where you live that you’ve never gotten around to doing before. You might find an exciting children’s museum or a public garden your kids enjoy. Get out and find new things to do in your community.
- Attend a farmer’s market or craft show. See a play at the local high school or community center.
Be a good example.If your family agrees not to use screens for a week, this also includes you. Be a good role model for your family (especially your kids) during this time by purposefully staying away from screens. If they are struggling, Your good example can help them stay motivated.
- Even if you feel it, don’t complain or count down til you can use a screen again. Being a good role model means showing a good attitude about the week, even if it’s difficult.
Video: Screen Free Week Ad
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