Staring at a laptop all day, switching from one Zoom meeting to the next, or trying to learn remotely is taking its toll on Americans’ mental and physical health. Try some of these fun family activities to reduce screen time. As fall comes in, backyard play can provide a great break, and when the snow begins to fly, head indoors for togetherness around the rec room table.
Reopen the Game Closet
Somewhere in the basement or in the back of the guest room, there’s a closet full of old board games. If you can’t find your old versions of Clue or Sorry, or if they’re missing pieces, try ordering a few classic board games online. Beware—these have been flying off the virtual shelves, so you may need to opt for more obscure types of games. The same is true of jigsaw puzzles. If you can find them, select a puzzle that every member of the family can contribute to and help complete.
A deck of cards provides innumerable opportunities for games, from solitaire to games involving the whole family. Also, if you’re family includes an aspiring magician, a deck of cards provides endless opportunities for them to practice. To keep the screen time down, buy a card trick book for your child so they can learn how to amaze the family.
Act it Out
Pick a story and put on a play. Blankets and couch cushions become forts and caves, while towels become capes and hats identify good guys and bad guys. In the days before screens, families entertained themselves frequently by enacting favorite stories and even taking on full-blown Shakespearian productions.
Transform a Table
Kids who are stuck using screens for school still need recess and physical activity. If you lack the space for a full-sized table tennis table, small versions are available that convert a dining table into a games table for a refreshing break. Mini-versions exist for smaller kids as well.
Dance the Night Away
Clear the center of the living room and invite your family to a dance. You could even make it a formal event and encourage everyone to dress up. Mix up the music styles by creating a playlist as a family that has a few favorites for each person.
Go for a Walk
Getting some fresh air with members of your household is a great way to reconnect after a long day of screen time. The outdoors are safer than the indoors to avoid exposure to COVID-19, as long as all the members of your household observe appropriate social distancing measures. Make a point of strolling down a street you don’t usually drive down and notice what’s changed in the neighborhood since the last time you looked around.
Screen time may be inevitable for work and school for many months to come, but it doesn’t have to dominate your family’s life. Reduce total screen time by establishing a time when all screens are off. Then, prepare and enjoy a family meal together or play a game indoors or outside as a way of unwinding from the blue glow of phones, laptops, and tablets.