How to Keep Your Kids Entertained without a Screen
5 screen alternative entertainments for kids
Slow Living

How to Keep Your Kids Entertained without a Screen

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Keeping kids entertained without a screen is the hardest it’s ever been.

Parenting in the digital age is uncharted territory for the most part.  

I mean, the simple childhood of creativity to cure boredom is nearly a thing of the past.  

Childhood and technology are inescapable with screens in cars, iPads, TVs, cell phones – and the list goes on.  

Now, this is not to say that screens are all bad.  

In fact, I think that the ability to have a world’s worth of knowledge at our fingertips has been a very great tool.  

But, like all tools, it can be misused.  

Helping our children navigate these confusing (and some would say, addictive) tools is a challenge.  

Low tech parenting has become more and more attractive to many parents.

One of the hardest parts of low tech parenting is unplugging ourselves.

If that’s something you struggle with, check out some great tips in my How to Unplug Yourself post.

Keeping kids entertained without screens is more difficult but worth it.

RELATED: How to Unplug Yourself to be More Present with Your Kids
RELATED: 16 Awesome Gentle Parenting Books for the Nurturing Parent

So what’s the big deal with screens?  

Well, recent research has shown that screen time (especially for very young children) stifles creativity and prevents proper brain development.  

It also disrupts sleep which is so important for developing brains.

If you’re interested in a screen alternative, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to start going TV free with toddlers or have no television in the house.  

There are lots of alternative forms of entertainment for kids.

And, really, kids usually need less entertaining from us than we often realize.

Parenting is a difficult job and sometimes the only way to get something done is to grab the remote, cell phone, or tablet to keep the kids entertained while you get things done.

Now, screens aren’t all bad, but spending too much time in front of one can encourage your kids to waste away the day.  

I think we’ve all seen a child who has no idea what to do when the TV is off.  

Or seen kids playing with an iPad rather than being engaged in the world and people around them.

Many times you can still keep your kids entertained and get things done without needing a screen.

It just takes some thought, preparation, and a few ideas to keep in mind!

So, here are 5 ways to keep your kids entertained without a screen:

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Low tech parenting for a simple childhood

Prepare your children for the great outdoors

Outdoor play is possible any time of year!

Physical activity is vital for children to burn off energy, develop physically, and keep fit.

Make sure that your kids have the proper clothing to play outside in any season.  

You’ll help to avoid them getting cold and possibly sick during the cooler months.

You’ll also teach them that a good day outdoors can happen no matter the weather.

You can encourage them to play outside with fun outdoor exploration, games, scavenger hunts, or even the classic hide and seek.

Kids don’t need a fort or even a swing set to have fun outside (though they can be lots of fun!).  

Most of all they want interaction and can often create the best games themselves.

They may need less coaxing to get outside than you think!

Playing outside is a great alternative to screens.

It also gives you quiet time inside to get things done when they are old enough to play outside by themselves.

Create a home library

Reading is a wonderful way to pass the time and a great screen alternative.

If your children are old enough to read on their own you have the added benefit of silence!

If they aren’t old enough to read yet, make sure you have some lovely picture books for them to look at.

Or you can make a game where they create their own story based on the pictures (we always look for the spider in this one).

Create a home library where your child can easily grab a new book as they finish one, and have a wide selection to choose from easily at their fingertips.

You can buy used books to fill your library for less, or you can just check them out from the library.

Reading aloud to your child may not give you uninterrupted time to do things but is a great way to connect with your child, no matter their age.

Need some ideas of great books?  Check out my post Read Me a Story – Perfect Read Aloud Books for Your Kids.

Buy quality toys over quantity

You don’t need to have a ton of toys to keep your kids entertained without a screen.

In fact, the less toys they have, the more creatively they use the toys they have.

It’s not the number of toys that will determine how much fun they have, but the reusability of them and the number of ways they can be used.

Toys that serve one purpose will get boring quickly.

But costumes, craft supplies, Lincoln Logs, LEGOs, and toys that can be played with in a variety of different ways will keep them entertained for hours.

You can find lots more options in my 12 Wooden Toys Your Kids Will Love post.

Open ended toys help them develop imagination and creativity while also inviting longer and more in depth play times.

Set up play dates often

Playing with other kids can be way more enjoyable for kids than playing by themselves.

Try to set up one playdate a week if you can to ensure that your kids have someone else to play with.

Playdate isn’t an option?

Take them to a local park, library, or story time where they can meet other kids their age.

Nearby parks and libraries can be a good way to meet families in your neighborhood.

You might find a new friend for your child and yourself!

Encourage them to be creative

Pretend play, crafts, and even science experiments can increase your kids’ creativity and can be done without screens.

You can craft with items from around your home and encourage hands on learning with science experiments.  Check out this fun, screen free coding activity!

A simple search through blogs or Pinterest will give you tons of great ideas for any budget and season.

Pretend play is also a great way to stay entertained without a screen.

Dress up, tea parties, and other fun activities will keep them busy for hours, even if they don’t have friends over.

Believe me, even though it may seem more difficult, you can find that you really don’t need a screen to entertain, educate, or babysit your kids most of the time.

These are all great options for screen free fun and, remember, your child’s favorite playmate is you!

Sometimes you’re going to let your kids use a screen

Please, please, PLEASE remember this – that it’s ok to sometimes let your kid have screen time.

If you need to get something done, need a few moments to yourself, or just don’t have the energy or patience to do a screen free option – it’s ok.

You’re still a good mom.

Please don’t feel guilty for taking some time for you, even if that means giving your kids a screen every once in a while.

The important thing is that you’re trying and finding alternatives to screens.

Sometimes, to be the best mom you can be, screens are going to happen.

And that’s ok.

Related: 12 Wooden Toys Your Kids Will Love
Related: Dealing with Unwanted Kids Gifts

Read more about slow living with kids here!

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Low Tech parenting ideas for a simple childhood

Alexis is a wife and mom on a journey of gentle parenting, slow living, and lower toxicity in a laid back way.


  • Nicole

    These are great ideas. I often find myself letting my toddler watch the iPad when I need to get work done, but she then becomes so reliant on it throughout the day. I really liked the idea of creating a home library. She has a few books in her room, but she honestly doesn’t play in there that often, so I might try moving them out into the living room and thrifting for some new-to-us books!


    I totally agree with all of your suggestions. My family and I live in the Midwest, so we are anxious for the temperatures to consistently be warmer so we can get outside more. We live near an amazing park and lake with walking trails and boat rentals, so it makes it easy to get out for a family walk.\

    I’m also a big believer of creative time – we love to pull out play-doh, paints, and coloring books, as well as do science experiments. It’s so tough to balance it all, but the effort to get kids away from the screen to do something more worthwhile is definitely worth it.

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