While a week without screens may seem daunting, it can be fun for the entire family. Prepare some activities to look forward to if you’re going screen-free for a week. Spend more time outside and involve the kids in daily activities. Experiment with new things and get to know your neighbourhood. This type of special time with family will provide you with quality bonding time as well as an opportunity to learn more about each other, which is especially important for your children. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about your children’s preferences and dislikes. Quality time also allows you to give each other your undivided attention, sending the message that your family is the most important thing in your lives. Get other families involved and have the kids play together to provide additional support.
Part 1 Preparing for the Week
1. Discuss the upcoming week. Inform your children in advance that the family will be taking a break from screens so that they can mentally prepare. Tell them what to expect and make some suggestions for things to do instead of watching TV or playing video games. Discuss what is and is not permitted to be used during the week.
You can also discuss acceptable exceptions. For example, if a child needs to finish a report, they may be allowed to use the computer for a set period of time.
If at all possible, do not limit your listening to music. Use non-screen music sources, such as an mp3 player or voice-activated system.
2. Pre-plan your activities. Nobody wants to dread the week or count the seconds until it is over! You should plan some activities to do before the week begins, especially if this is your first screen-free week or if your family is heavily reliant on screens. Make a week’s worth of activity and social calendars. For example, you might want to go for a daily walk in the park with your children or let them play at the playground after school.
Make a list of activities for your children to choose from in their spare time. Put some options on popsicle sticks and place them in a jar. Activities such as “jump on the trampoline,” “paint/draw,” and “build a pillow fort” could be included.
Allow your children to participate in their activities so that they feel as if they have contributed and have something to look forward to.
3. Encourage new hobbies. Now is a great time to encourage your family to try new things. Perhaps there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, such as taking an exercise class or playing mini golf. This week, challenge each member of your family to find an activity they want to try and to try something new. They might be surprised to discover that they enjoy baking, tower building, dancing, or singing.
Allow your child to practise a new skill, such as riding a bike or climbing a tree.
Allow your child to begin a new karate class or assist you with a project.
4. Set attainable goals. If your entire family cannot commit to going a week without screens, set a realistic goal for each member of the family and for the family as a whole. It may be more feasible, for example, to set a goal of reducing screen time or eliminating one thing, such as television, for a week. Alternatively, ask each member to refrain from using social media for one week. Include all family members in decision-making and go over exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
If you work from home or your children use the computer for school projects, set a time limit for turning off devices. For example, if it is after 5:30 p.m., turn off your computer.
5. Continue working in the office. If possible, avoid bringing work home. Put in a few hours the week before if you can finish some work so you can fully participate in the screen-free week. If you have a separate work phone, consider leaving it at work this week or, at the very least, refrain from responding to any texts or calls that are not urgent.
Only check and respond to emails during working hours.
If you are unable to eliminate work obligations, try to reduce them.
Make it clear that screens can be used both at school and at work. Allow your children to use a computer if they need one to complete an assignment. Consider sending them to the library or another location to complete the work. Doing it outside the house can help them focus and avoid tempting themselves or other family members.
6. Turn off all displays. Take into account all of the screens in your home, from cell phones and tablets to televisions. Video games and portable game systems are also included. Set up a safe and secure location, and then have your children hand over their devices. This will assist each family member in being accountable for their actions and avoiding the temptation to sneak in time.
Keep the screens in a location that will not tempt any family member to sneak some time. Keep all screens, for example, in a box, uncharged, and in a difficult-to-access location, such as the attic.
Part 2 Encouraging Family Cohesion
1. Make family time a priority. Make time for the entire family to spend together. This is especially useful if the children attend dance classes or violin lessons and are dispersed throughout the week. Find a time when everyone is (or can be) at home and spend some quality time with them. Make a fun activity for everyone to enjoy.
Go on a hike or play basketball in a park, for example.
Rearrange your living room furniture so that the television is not the focal point. Instead, arrange the chairs so that everyone can face each other and easily participate in games and discussions.
2. Organize a family game night. Parents and children both enjoy playing games together. Bring out board games, card games, or make your own. Games are a great way for families to spend time together and have fun. Play a simple game like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland, or a more complex game like Uno, Sorry!, or Settlers of Catan Junior, depending on your children’s ages.
Friday nights are ideal for game night. School-age children may be permitted to stay up a little later than their bedtimes to play games.
Sharing a game night with your entire family also allows you to unwind and bring out your inner child. Have some fun and let yourself be a kid again.
3. Prepare meals as a group. Make meal preparation a family affair. Include the kids in kitchen activities, no matter how small. Small children, for example, can assist in pouring ingredients into a bowl, whereas older children can assist in mixing ingredients or cutting vegetables. Working together can make meal preparation more enjoyable and the meal more enjoyable to eat.
Give each child a task and show them how their contribution aided in the preparation of the meal. Your children will be pleased to know that they have contributed to the creation of something.
4. Eat your meals together. Make it a point to sit down and eat meals as a family. Perhaps your family meal is breakfast before everyone leaves for work or school, or it is dinner after everyone has returned home. Find a time when everyone is present and eat together. A screen-free meal can help kids eat without distractions and contribute to conversations.
For example, have each person discuss a high and a low point from their day.
5. Get outside. Encourage your family to spend time in the great outdoors. This is a great way to get out of the house and avoid watching television or browsing social media. Raise your family’s interest in the outdoors and their curiosity. For example, on a walk through the woods, see who can spot the most animals. Plan a treasure hunt for children to look around for acorns, leaves, and caterpillars.
A walk outside or in a park is an excellent opportunity to teach your children about the world, talk and bond with them, and simply listen to all family members enjoy the simplicity of being together without distractions from a screen.
Make a fairy house or a nature mobile with sticks, leaves, and other natural materials with your children.
Sit outside at night or set up a tent in the backyard to gaze at the stars. With your children, count the number of shooting stars you see. Teach them about the constellations, how to find them, and where their names came from.
6. Gather with other families. Include other families in your screen-free plan and get together with them. It may be easier for children to engage in creative play when they are surrounded by friends who are also screen-free. Parents can help each other and allow their children to have fun playing without a screen. Share your ideas and activities with other parents in your community.
Plan some activities with other families, such as a park picnic or a hike to a waterfall.
Part 3 Helping Kids with Screen-Free Time
1. Maintain your focus. The first day will most likely be the most difficult for everyone. Don’t give in if your children are whiny or antsy. Instead, suggest activities to do or people to play with. Remind each family member of the week’s rules and when they can expect their screens back.
2. Encourage imaginative play. Children are discouraged from interacting creatively, coming up with ideas, and playing on their own when they are surrounded by screens. Furthermore, play provides children with emotional, cognitive, and social skills. During this time, encourage your children to engage in creative play. Encourage them to create art, dance, make music, and construct with blocks or other materials.
Allow them to construct in novel ways. Encourage them, for example, to construct a theme park for their action figures or a robot out of Legos.
Word games, making up jokes and riddles together, I spy games, charades, and other creative play activities are also options.
3. Make something. Encourage your children to be inventive and crafty. Allow them to experiment with paint, crayons, coloured pencils, popsicle sticks, glitter, and other craft supplies. Set aside some time each day for them to be creative and make something with their art. Perhaps they want to make clay sculptures or puppets and put on a puppet show.
Encourage your children to put on a play at the end of the week and prepare by creating props, costumes, and a set.
Encourage the artistic abilities of your family. Make crafts, songs, play, sculptures, and other activities with your children. Gather some fabric scraps, paper, cardboard, photos, and magazines and have each member of the family create something unique.
4. Investigate local events and attractions. Visit a food or music festival, or go to a museum with your family. Investigate the fun things to do near your home that you’ve never done before. You might come across an interesting children’s museum or a public garden that your children will enjoy. Get out there and discover new things to do in your neighbourhood.
Visit a farmer’s market or a craft fair. Attend a play at a nearby high school or community centre.
5. Be a good role model. If your family agrees to refrain from using screens for a week, this includes you. Staying away from screens is a good way to set a good example for your family (especially your children) during this time. If they are struggling, your positive example can inspire them to keep going.
Even if you feel it, don’t whine or count down the days until you can use a screen again. Being a good role model means showing a good attitude about the week, even if it’s difficult.
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