Screen-Free Activities for Kids and Toddlers

toddler in a white gunamuna sleep bag, playing inside the house on a skateboard

Are you worried about screen time for your little ones? How much is too much screen time? Can my child have any screen time?

Here are the facts: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises no screen time at all for children under 18-24 months, with the exception of video chatting with grandma or other loved ones. For children ages 3-5, the AAP recommends less than an hour of screen time each day. Research overwhelmingly supports that young children do not learn well from screens, and that screen time is one of the leading causes of increased sedentary lifestyles. 

I know that setting limits on screen time is not always easy or practical. I work from home while taking care of my toddler and baby; incorporating screen time (usually Sesame Street or Mickey Mouse) is sometimes the only way I can get anything done. However, with a little creativity and time outdoors, it is possible to keep the TV off…most of the time. 🤪

We can do it!

Here are some of our favorite SCREEN-FREE activities for kids and toddlers:

Dance Party: I dare you to turn on the Macarena and NOT dance. Do it! Say, “Alexa, play the Macarena.” You won’t be able to resist the urge to wiggle your hips and neither will your kids. Find some music you and your little Dance Machine can jam to and incorporate dancing together into your daily routine. This is an easy way for me to keep the TV off and still keep Darcy, my toddler, entertained. The perfect time for us to rock out is while I’m preparing dinner. Darcy dances, I cook and dance, and Laney, my baby, is wildly entertained. 

Darcy’s current favorite is Let It Go.

(We’re a little late to the Frozen party.) I also recommend Get Rocked, Y.M.C.A, The Hustle, and Shake Your Groove Thang. (I grew up listening to 70s disco and 80s rock. Thanks, mom and dad!) 

Picnics: The great thing about picnics is that you can have a “picnic” almost anywhere, anytime. It adds an exciting element to eating dinner or having a snack. If the weather is nice, Darcy, Laney, and I (and Dada if he’s not at work) grab our picnic blanket and make meal time a little more magical by making it a picnic. If the weather isn’t nice and we are in need of a little excitement, we have a picnic right in the middle of our living room. Darcy LOVES to help me “pack” for a picnic. She has a little lunch box and fills it with a juice box and her favorite snacks. My favorite aspect of picnics is that there are no screens. Hurray! 

Sand Box: I give full credit to Grammy for this one. Lisa, Darcy’s Grandma, should win an award for grandparent who plays the hardest with her grandkids. She’s a lifesaver! (Shout out to all the grandparents out there who take an active role in their grandchildren’s lives.) Grammy gave Darcy a tupperware box full of kinetic sand and little sand toys. This keeps Darcy very busy. We play with the small sandbox both inside and outside. (If we’re inside we just sit on a towel to keep the sand contained.) What’s great about this activity is that Darcy doesn’t require a lot of guidance, just supervision. I can work right next to her while she plays. It’s a win-win! 

Color Walk:Going for a daily walk is one of the most sacred and crucial daily activities for my family. We all need exercise, fresh air, and sunshine. So, unless it’s snowing or storming, we find time to walk. An engaging way to make our walk more stimulating is to go on a “color walk”. This simply means that we find things along our walk that are a certain color. Ok, Darcy, let's find something that’s red…Yes! The Stop Sign! Nice work! Ok, now let's look for something blue. There are endless ways to make walking more exciting. One time we found as many different types of leaves as we could and then painted each one for an art project. So fun! 

Water Time: Darcy loves to “wash” the dishes. This is another super easy activity that she can do independently while I supervise. For this activity, I fill a few plastic cups full of water and soap in our kitchen sink and grab a sponge. Then, Darcy stands on her stool and plays with the cups, sponge, bubbles, and water in the sink. I’m always surprised by how entertaining this is for her. And BONUS! Some dishes may actually get washed in the process. 

Story Time with Stuffed Animals: If your little one isn’t enthusiastic about reading books, or gets bored after a couple of pages, try reading with his or her stuffed animals or baby dolls. You can make this as theatrical as you’d like! Sometimes, when we do this, the stuffed animals act as audience members to the story. Or, if I’m feeling extra energetic, her favorite stuffed animals help me to read the story. This is another simple way to keep the TV off and to help your child fall in love with reading. Try this out before bedtime as a fun way to mix up story time. 

Our team at günamüna knows that parenting is the toughest job in the world, and you’re doing GREAT! Stay tuned for more fun activities to help your little ones grow, learn, and have FUN. 

Sweet dreams!

Love, Emily and your günamüna team