screen-free activities and gifts

25 Screen-Free Kids Activities and Gift Guide

Are your kids on screens way too much? Need some screen-free activities to reduce technology overload?

I know if we aren’t careful at our house, the screen thing sneaks up on us and all of a sudden it seems like none of my four kids can get by without their electronic fix. Ugh.

This is made all the harder for so many people who are using a mixture of remote schooling or online schooling or distance schooling this year. However you want to slice it, it’s far too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of too many electronics.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that multiple studies have recommended limiting screen time for kids (see here). But where does that leave us work at home moms who need to get work done during the day while our kids are home?

While the TV can be a trusty babysitter (and believe me I use it if I absolutely have to), it’s nice to have some other activities on hand. I always aim to make television a last resort, and not my first go-to.

These screen-free activities for kids work for anyone who’s looking to minimize tech time, but I’ve curated the list specifically to help work at home moms. That means you won’t find any family or mom-intensive activities on this list.

While you may need to buy the supplies or help your kids get set up with a few things, the rest they should be able to do on their own. This gives you time to get work done!

If you’re in the market for gift ideas, many of these activities also make great gifts. You do have to purchase supplies for many (but not all) of the suggestions, which is why many of them are great Christmas or birthday gifts. I also view it as an investment in my work. If these items keep my kids happy and allow me time to work, that’s a win in my book.

Best Screen-Free Activities and Gifts for Kids

screen-free kids activities fingerpainting

1. Board Games

My kids love playing board games and they’ll play them over and over, which is why I’m willing to splurge on a new family game every few months.

Some of our favorites for all ages are Ticket to Ride, Monopoly Junior (yes, even my big kids like to play), and this silly card game, Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza.

2. Art Supply Box

This one is always a hit, and sometimes I only pull it out when I need to work, making it a “special thing.” Simply put a whole lot of art supplies in a big container and call it a day. I always make sure to have the staples on hand – crayons, markers, glue, and tape – but I also like to jazz it up with extras like pipe cleaners, pom-poms, and fun scissors.

3. Costume Box  

Kids love to dress up, so why not help them out? Gather any old items they may like to wear or even thrift a few fun finds and keep them in a special tub to aid in pretend play.

4. Coloring Books

Coloring books aren’t just for small kids. In fact, we’ve found plenty that the whole family will enjoy! Older children will love this animal coloring book or unicorn coloring book.

5. Hidden Pictures Books

I remember loving these hidden pictures books as a kid, and it turns out my girls love them too! They will pour over these books for at least an hour looking for the pictures. We always take one along while my son is playing basketball and my wiggly girls have to sit in the stands and watch.

6. Hands-On Brain-Teasers

There’s something about hands-on manipulatives that kids really love. We like brain-teaser-type puzzles like this Wooden Tetris Puzzle and these Wooden Puzzles.

7. Scavenger Hunt

This one’s easy to create all on your own. Create a list of items either inside or outside your house that you know your kids should be able to find (but might be a little challenging). Then send them on their way.

8. Make Food Sculptures

If you’re willing to part with a bag of grapes or some cheese cubes, you may buy yourself several hours of uninterrupted work time! Hand over these items along with a box of toothpicks and instruct your kids to build a tower or building. The sky’s the limit with this type of project.

9. Paper Dolls

Someone gave my daughter a hand-me-down box of paper dolls, and I couldn’t believe how much she enjoyed playing with them. Dig around and see what you might have in the attic, or find affordable options here.

10. Listen to an Audiobook

You don’t need screens to make playtime educational. While your kids are doing other activities, turn on an audiobook in the background. This will further engage them and make them less likely to disturb you as you’re working.

We love our Audible membership for this. They offer a free 30-day trial, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.

11. Hands-on Crafts

Crafty kids love things they can do with their hands. For example, my daughter can spend hours working on her latch-hook kit, rainbow loom, and cross stitch kit.

12. Family Coloring Poster

This giant wall poster is something the whole family can enjoy. Hang it up and encourage your kids to contribute to this collaborative work of art.

13. Sidewalk Chalk

Send the kids outside and encourage creativity out of doors. Try cool sidewalk chalk like this tie-dye variety and see what they can create.

14. Read a Book

Nothing better than reading a book! If you have any reluctant readers in your crew, I’m all about rewarding a good effort when it comes to reading.

15. Make a Journal

This is something creative kids love to do. Simply get a blank notebook and let them decorate with fun things like stickers and glitter glue.

16. Do a Puzzle

We find puzzles to be a really fun family activity during the cold winter months, but there’s no reason you can’t do one of these all year long. If you have a spare table or space in your home, set up a puzzle that your kids can work on when they’re bored.

17. Write Letters to a Friend or Relative

You don’t need any special supplies for this screen-free activity, and it can even be considered an act of kindness. Have your kids write a letter or draw a picture to send to a friend, relative, or neighbor. Teach your children that this is a great way to brighten someone’s day.

18. Create a Chore Chart

Hey, I didn’t say these activities were all fun 🙂 In all seriousness though, if there are tough chores you’re willing to pay your kids a buck or two to do, you might find that they’re very motivated to earn a little cash. And, whether it’s pulling weeds or clearing cobwebs out of the basement, you’ll find your space a little bit neater when they’re finished.

19. Kinetic Sand

Kinetic sand is like play-doh’s big brother. This squishy sand is super fun to sculpt and mold, and it doesn’t leave a giant mess. Even my big kids like playing with this stuff.

20. Give them a Challenge

Whether it’s who can build a house of cards or who can find the most bird feathers outside or who can clean the most windows – my kids love a challenge. If you’ve got a few very competitive siblings amongst your kids, definitely use this to your advantage.

21. Make a Fort

Again, no special supplies needed. Just find what’s around your house! Loosen your expectations for a bit, because chances are good that your house will get a bit messy with couch cushions and blankets thrown everywhere. If it buys you some time to work, it’s worth it.

22. Have an Art Show  

Set up a wall or special area of your home where you can have an art gallery. Encourage your kids to create masterpieces for display while you’re working.

23. Get a Magic Kit

My kids love putting on magic shows. We bought this kit for my son a few years ago and he’s gotten a lot of use out of it.

24. Origami

Origami is perfect when you need a no-mess hands-on craft.

25. Outside Toys

If your kids need a little encouragement to head outside and play, maybe some new toys will entice them. Sports gear like balls and bats are always a winner, as are fun lawn games like corn hole or ring toss.

Many of these screen-free activities also make great gifts for Christmas and birthdays. Try out several that you think will appeal to your kids, and spread them out so they won’t go through them all at once.

I always like to have something hidden in my closet so that if I absolutely need some quiet time to work, I have something I can pull out at a moment’s notice.

Looking for more work from home tips? Check out these:

25 screen-free activities and boredom busters for kids. Activities and gift ideas for moms who need to work from home.

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Hi, I’m Bridget Sielicki. 

I’m a freelance writer and a mom of four. For the past 10 years, I’ve been working from home as a freelance writer, creating content for major brands like Hertz Car Rental, Bankrate.com, and Credit Sesame.

Working from home has been a dream come true for me. Now I want to share my expertise with you, so you can make money while you’re home with your own kids. Learn more here.

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