A low-tech school holiday: keeping children busy and happy without screens – Harvard Health Blog

As we approach the holiday season, parents, along with trying to keep track of holiday events, parties, and gifts, need to think about what to do with their children during school holidays. Considering how tiring the holidays can be, it is understandable why parents often let their children spend hours with TV, tablet or video games. After all, happy, peaceful children provide happy parents who can finally do things – or relax.

Except that children spend way too much time in front of screens. According to Common Sense Media, children aged 8 to 12 spend nearly five hours a day on entertainment media – and tweens and teenagers spend seven hours. These are just entertainment media; it does not include time spent using screens for school or homework.

Considering how tempting entertainment media can be, those numbers can easily rise during unplanned times such as weekends and school holidays. That is why it is good to be proactive and to devise other activities. Below are some ideas that parents and guardians can try. These are usually good for children through primary school, but tweens and teenagers can also enjoy it.

Spend time off the screen

To go outside. This sounds obvious, but spending time outdoors is something kids do less than before – and it can be fun. If you have a garden, go inside and play hide and seek or build a fortress of snow or anything else that is nearby. If you don’t have a garden, go to a local park or just take a walk.

Go to the library. Do this early in the holidays so that your child has many books to pass the time. View as many as they allow and you can wear.

Build a fort in the living room. Use blankets or sheets above chairs; if you have a small tent, put it up. Bring pillows, sleeping bags and flashlights; let the children sleep in it overnight. Let it stay up for the entire vacation.

Build a city in the living room. Use blocks, Legos, boxes (or something else) and add roads, cars, people, animals, trains and other toys. Let it stay up the whole vacation and make it bigger every day.

Get creative off the screen

Be creative. Go to the craft store and stock up cheaply. Buy things like poster board, huge pieces of paper (you could also use them for your city to make parks, roads and parking spaces), paint and markers. You can appeal to your child’s imagination with a paper mural, a comic book, a story, posters or whatever. If you know how to knit or sew, consider teaching your child or creating a simple project together. Play music while you create.

Read out loud. There are so many books that are fun to read aloud. When my children were younger, we read aloud the Harry Potter series, as well as the Chronicles of Narnia and books from E.B. White and Roald Dahl. Play the voices. Have some fun.

Have a puppet show. If you don’t have dolls, you can make a pair with socks – or you can hold up dolls or action figures and talk for them. You can create an improvised phase by cutting the back of a box and adhesive tape (such as a pillowcase) to fall over the front.

Take the games out. There are so many that work through the ages, such as dams, chess, Uno, Connect 4, Sorry, Twister, Clue, Scrabble or Monopoly. We forget how much fun this can be.

Baking. You don’t have to get in the mood – it’s great to use mixes or ready-made cookie dough. There is nothing better than baked products straight from the oven, and adding glaze and decorations makes it even more fun. Turn on music and dance while things are baking.

Although parents or guardians must be involved in some of these activities (such as those related to the oven or reading aloud), children can do many of them independently once you have started. That’s really what kids need: time to use their imagination and just play.

But you may discover that once you have started, you also want to play.


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