We are going almost three years strong as a screen-free family…and it works for us. I get that for some families this just doesn’t work, and I certainly don’t judge those that need some assistance from an educational and entertaining program like Sesame Street. Since Avery turned two we have eased a little in our 100% no screen stance. We FaceTime often with family on the east coast, and when he or I are sick we watch Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger or Thomas. On our last family trip via airplane we came equipped with iPad and the Cars movie which we thought would be a hit, but he asked us to turn it off after about 15 minutes. He will watch the occasional baseball game, basketball finals or special like the Thanksgiving Day parade. But in our daily life, we don’t have tv or iPads on at all.
Yes. It’s harder sometimes. But, in this world where we are so incredibly tied to our devices I figure he has a lifetime to be glued to a screen, and while I still have some semblance of control over his life, one of the best things I can do for him is to try to create the simplest, old school childhood I can. The fact of the matter is we live in a society (especially those of us mamas in big cities) where everything is louder, busier, more stressful and more disconnected than we grew up in. Being one of the last generations that grew up without cell phones, internet and screens constantly within arms reach, I know how great and simple my childhood was. I grew up in a small town where we played hide and go seek through the neighborhood, rode bikes, made up games, got creative. Kids are so stressed these days, and are losing creativity at a horrifying pace. I know once kindergarten starts, my ability to keep A in a bubble of old school small town bliss will start to rapidly dissipate, so for now…we have put a kibosh on the screens and technology.
I often get asked how we have kept A entertained and how I have kept myself sane without any screen time, and the answer is simple…a lot of creativity and a little bit of boredom. I’ve decided to start putting a series of simple, at home activities you can do with your toddlers that don’t involve Pinterest-caliber skills or really even a whole lot of effort.
ACTIVITY: Painting Rocks
What is needed:
- cup of water and paper towels (for rinsing brushes in between colors)
- optional: googly eyes, paint pens, glue
We usually choose to paint rocks outside for minimal mess and to get some fresh air/easy access to rocks, but you can also do this activity inside on a rainy day.
If you choose to do this inside, I highly suggest getting a great reusable tablecloth you can use for art projects. I found these PEVA tablecloths at Target and they are perfect for art projects. They are thick, stay in place and easily wiped down. We either place it over the kitchen table or just lay it down on the floor. That way we don’t end up with spilled paint, marker stains and glue spots all over our table and hardwoods.
Wherever you choose to do this, once you are all set up, you have a couple of options for the easiest paint use.
Get small Dixie cups or paper bowls to put a little of each paint color in. Then have a different paintbrush designated for each color. These paintbrushes are great because they have different colored ‘stems’ so each one can be matched to the right color. This option is great if you want to be able to relax and not work too hard (aka you are using this activity as a ‘breather’ during your day). Pouring the paint into individual containers will also keep your little one from contaminating the “source” paint with different colors.
Be the controller of the paint. This option requires you to have a little more involvement, which is great if you are using this as a quality time activity. It also allows you to “teach” colors in a fun, active way. I like to have A pick a color and then I will open that paint jar and let him go at it. Then when he is done with that color, he washes off his brush and picks another color for us to open. This method minimizes the amount of materials you need, but definitely requires more supervision.
If you choose to use ONE paintbrush, which I actually recommend, you will need a cup filled with water to rinse the brush between colors. We actually used an old square Tupperware container that has had a missing lid for quite some time. A’s favorite part of painting is actually rinsing the brush between colors and seeing the water get murkier and murkier. Show your little one how to rinse the brush and pat dry on either an old rag or paper towels in between colors.
If you have older kids or are helping out, you can help your little one paint designs on their painted rocks with paint pens or add googly eyes with glue. A painted a bunch of rocks all by himself, then we made a mommy and a baby ladybug together.
I love this as a summer activity because it allows me to sit outside and get some sun and maybe even read a magazine while A is calmly, safely and happily entertained right next to me for at least 30 minutes.
What are your favorite screen-free activities with your kiddos?!