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25 screen-free activities to wean kids off their screens

Kids glued to their screens? Here are some tips from dads and mums across Scotland on fun activities you can do together that will help unstick them: 

Play to the crowd

Screen swap #1: Swap to something they're obsessed with

If you want to wean them off their screens, it helps to swap it for something they're obsessed with already. Are they obsessed with comics? Why not give them 30 minutes to make a comic of their favourite character? Can they design and make an obstacle course for their toys? 

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If you need to keep them entertained in the mornings:

Screen swap #2: Toy story

When they go to bed, set up a little scene with some of their toys for them to wake up. You could write a little message for them from the toys. Try giving them missions from time to time, like drawing a picture of their toys, or making the best spaceship they can out of Lego.


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When you’re driving in the car:

Screen swap #3: Speed racers

Get them to pick a colour and guess how many cars they can spot in 5 minutes. Is the number higher or lower? If you’ve got passengers, why not make it a competition to see how many cars you can see? Who gets closest to their number?

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Screen swap #4: I’m thinking of a number…

Ask them to guess a number you’re thinking of between 0 and 20. Is the number higher or lower? Is it odd or even? Is it multiple of...

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If you're heading out together:

Screen swap #5: Swap the iPad for a playbag

Want to avoid those hideous strops while you’re out and about? Ask them to pack a special play bag. Does teddy want to come? What games do they want to play? If you’re in a rush, you could just grab your free Activity Bag as you’re running out the door! 

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Screen swap #6: Number hunters

See how many numbers your child can find hiding as you’re out and about. On letter boxes,  signs,  menus,  clothes. What’s the highest number they can count to?

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If you're tired of tearing them away from TV before school:

Screen swap #7: Tick tick tick off that checklist!

Get them to write their own checklist of what they need to do every morning – like have breakfast, brush their teeth, brush their hair, and then get dressed. Then get them to tick it off each morning.

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Screen swap #8: World records

Use a stopwatch or a clock with a second hand to help your child figure out how long it takes them to get ready. Then see if they do better than their “record” each morning!

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If you're out shopping together:

Screen swap #9: Personal shopper

Avoid a strop at the shop by getting them to make their own mini-shopping list. Ask if they can spot "their" items as you go around the supermarket. You can make it together when you get home! 

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When you're juggling a million things at once:

Screen swap #10: Super family

Ask them what super powers your family members would like. Can they draw you a picture and write a sentence or story about an adventure you go on together?

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Screen swap #11: Shape shifter

Try a shapes mission! Draw some shapes on a piece of paper and ask if your child can spot them round the house. Start with a circle, then a square, then a triangle. How many can they find?

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Screen swap #12: Keep them busy with a cosy corner

Get your child to make their own special place with some of their favourite books and toys. You could see if they want to read their toy a story. Then you can snuggle in once you’ve finished what you’re doing. 

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When your zombies have been on their screens too long:

Screen swap #13: Jump around

Set your phone timer to 2 minutes. Get them to bunny hop, star jump, and jump. How many can they do? What moves can they make up?

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Screen swap #14: Is it an… octopus?

Help them write down some animal names like cat, dog, unicorn and mouse on pieces of paper. Then ball them up and pick them out one at a time. Can you work out what animal they’re acting out for you?

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If you’re tired of them ignoring your call for dinner:

Screen swap #15: Restaurants

While you’re getting dinner on, ask if they want to set up a “restaurant” for you. Can they write the menu for the night? What toys would like to come for dinner tonight?

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Screen swap #16: Mini chef

Following a recipe together is a good way to peel them off their screens – and to get fussy eaters to try new things! They can help to wash rice before it goes in the pan or measure out ingredients.


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When you need them to do their chores:

Screen swap #17: My reward chart

Get them to draw their own chore chart for every day of the week. Talk to them about what reward they’d like if they do their chores. Why not make it something you can all do together, like a trip to the beach? If you give them lots of praise and encouragement, hopefully those chores will start getting ticked off!

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Screen swap #18 : Disappearing letters

Write some letters on a window, mirror, or even the bathroom walls with a whiteboard marker. Give your child a sponge. Then call out a letter and see if your child can identify it by cleaning it off. 

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When they need to do their homework:

Screen swap #19: Water pistol words

Get out a water pistol or even a water bottle. Then go outside and write messages to each other on the ground. Can they write their spelling words?

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Screen swap #20: Bulls-eye

Find something you can aim at, like a waste basket or a mark on the wall. Then get a ball (or even a scrunched up piece of paper) and throw it at it. Everyone scores 2 points for hitting it.

Here are more free maths games you can play together that will help get their homework done without them even noticing.

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When they’re getting tired and grumpy:

Screen swap #21: Colouring in

Can they draw you a picture of the best day they’ve ever had?

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Screen swap #22: Snuggle up for story time

Get them to pick their favourite book for you. Then cuddle up and start reading. You could use silly voices to see if you can some get giggles out of them. 

Head here for even more ideas for calming them down with story.

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When they need to go to bed:

Screen swap #23: Wind down with a countdown

Kids don't have a good understanding of time. It's something they don't get to grips with until they get older.  So when we tell they have “15 minutes”, they don't know what that really means. So when you come to tell them their time is up, it really does come as a surprise to them!

One way to make it easier on everyone is by letting them know throughout the night how long they have until bedtime. You could show them on a clock what 'time-up' looks like. Can they make up a chart of their bedtime routine, and time how long it takes to do everything?


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Screen swap #24: Funny feet

If you find it hard to get them to their bedrooms, a fun way to get them there can be to count the steps to their bedroom with them walking on your feet. You can also play “horsies” and put them on your back. As they get a bit older, they can play “lava” and see if they can get to bed trying not to touch the 'lava' bits.  

Here are even more tips for counting down to bedtime.

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Screen swap #25: Swap out the screen for story time

It's best to keep screens completely out of their rooms at night. Screens interfere with their sleep and can make them a real grump the next day. Why not swap it out for some story time? Get them to pick their favourite story and snuggle in. You could ask if they'll read you a story too.

Here are some more tips for sending them to sleep with some story time.

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This article was created as part of

Read Write Count

Last updated: 27 Apr, 2020