39 TV-free activities for you and your kids
I started noticing a couple of weeks ago that every time I took my daughter out to the playground when I got home from work, I was messing with my iPhone, checking Twitter, using the Facebook app, just doing mindless things to pass time. Why wasn’t I just playing with her? Was she not stimulating enough for my already overly-stimulated brain?
What I SHOULD have been doing was playing with her and trying to recall what it was like to be a child and play with glee on the playground.
We’ve fallen into these routines in our house that involve a lot of computers (we have at least 6 in the house, 2 are non-functional), a lot of television (3 half-hour episodes in the AM, maybe one or two in the evening, a movie in between perhaps…sometimes more, sometimes less), and just a lot of busy-ness overall. It was with a shock that I realized last week that this was a grotesque amount of tv to expose a 2-year-old to and I needed to make things right before she grows up (and is gone, sniff!). My fear is that she won’t want to be with Myk and I when she’s older because she’s so busy communicating with the outside world. Seeing that that’s likely inevitable in some form or another, I want to savor the time we have together now and hopefully show her that it’s great to unplug and have fun.
So I risked public scrutiny for letting my 2-year-old watch so much tv and put it out there on Facebook:
Anyone: how do you entertain your children for long periods of time without using a television? Wanting to stock up on ideas.
I was not expecting to receive DOZENS of responses. They were so great that I wanted to give them a permanent home here on Greener Life. This list couldn’t come at a better time since so many kids are on summer break now. Enjoy!
- Listening to music
- Playing with empty paper towel tubes (swords!)
- Mud (!)
- Playing with water–moving from one receptacle to another
- Making forts/tunnels/tents out of tables and chairs covered with bedsheets
- Big, empty cardboard boxes
- Join a playgroup
- Sidewalk chalk
- Obstacle courses out of regular (safe) household items
- Playing outside!
- Kiddie pool/sprinkler
- Poker (!)
- Play food in a play kitchen
- Going to the park
- Giving a recording device to the child to allow them to make their own news broadcasts
- Pots and pans to bang on
- Floor puzzles
- Keeping a garden
- Pretend grocery shopping with Daddy’s wallet (hehe)
- Kid yoga
- Baking bread and washing up together afterwards
- Finger knitting
- Conga line
- Dancing and singing
- Pretending/playing “office” using home office supplies
I remember loving to play by myself as a child, and later with my brother after he came along. (I remember my brother and I playing a game we called “Meteors” that involved both of us pretending we were orphans drifting through space in a lonely spacecraft (ie, his crib). It was so depressing though, I don’t know why we liked that game. I digress.)
As you can see, there were a lot of great suggestions. I can always turn to this list now (and so can you!) for inspiration. I do have to share with you what I felt was the most poetic response from a friend, former colleague, and design mentor, Bob Reddy. Bob and his wife Kathy raised two amazing kids who are now immensely talented adults, and here’s what he shared:
We built skylines out of cardboard blocks and then swung a wrecking ball (tied to the ceiling) at them. We make people and animals out of playdoh or clay and then slammed large meteors into them and then excavated the fossilized remains. (Do you detect a bit of a testosterone-influenced agenda here?) We set up stores and then bought cookies from each other. We rolled steel marbles down long metal tape-measurer tracks. We blew large bubbles made from dish soap and glycerin and water. We climbed into boxes. We made a net across the living room and played balloon volleyball. We made up words and used then in ridiculous sentences until we were laughing too hard to continue. We made paper airplanes and flew them. We drew stories on paper as they unraveled in our mouths. We invented ways of blupping wet sand through our fingers. We accidentally affixed jello cubes to the ceiling.
Then later he shared:
Here’s another one I forgot to tell you… Go to the bathtub and fill about 30 water balloons with warm water and leave them in the tub (you may use assorted sizes and shapes for added interest). Then fill the tub with warm water for your kid’s bath. The balloons are neutral-buoyant, meaning that they sort of co-exist with the water and hang out “all casual-like.” This provides a spectacular arena for three dimensions of squishy fun. Narratives about fish, atoms, cells, planets… At the end of the bath – you get to pop them all in the empty tub. We once used the very long thin balloons and a few big 14-inchers. They are very heavy if you were to take them out of the water, but perfectly playable in the water!
How awesome is that?!
This past weekend we had a completely tv-free weekend (with the exception of a snippet of the George of the Jungle movie while at a social event…we needed Navab to simmer down for a while while a serious discussion was happening). I have to say: I was terrified of the prospect of having to entertain her or provide her with ideas for entertainment for the WHOLE WEEKEND (normally I drop her off at school and let them do that part) but you know what? I loved it and she didn’t ask to watch tv. Not once!
Now you have no excuses–get moving parents. Unplug for a while and enjoy your kids!