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Alternative activities for screen time

Stuck at home due to COVID-19? Gundersen child and family therapist Jeff Reiland, MS, shares ideas for keeping kids active and engaged without parking your kids in front of screens.

Take a sheet of paper and make four columns. You are going to be making lists of options for you and your children to help them find alternatives to screen time. Ask your children to help make these lists.

  1. Inside Activities I Can Do by Myself
  2. Inside Activities I Can Do with Others
  3. Outside Activities I Can Do by Myself
  4. Outside Activities I can Do with Others

Inside Activities I Can Do by Myself. Make a list of all the non-screen related activities your child can do by themselves. Be specific! Coloring, drawing, reading, building a fort, playing with blocks, cars, dolls. Describe the options your child has right now at home. No need to buy more stuff.

Inside Activities I Can Do with Others. Make a list of all the non-screen activities your child can do with others. This could be a sibling or a parent. Be specific! Examples include puzzles, baking or helping in the kitchen, craft projects, specific card games and specific board games. It is important to list each one.

Outside Activities I Can Do by Myself. Make a list of all the activities your child can safely do in your outside space. It may include sidewalk chalk, riding a bike, building a fort, playing in the sand box or watching birds.

Outside Activities I can Do with Others. Make a list of all the activities your child can safely do in your outside space with a parent or siblings. This may include games of catch, hopscotch, tag, hide-and-go-seek or building a blanket fort.

Pictures and words. For very young children it may help to use pictures to help them see all their choices. They can help by drawing pictures of the activities on the list, taking a picture of the activity or finding a Google image of the activity. You can use either the handwritten list, or create your own on the computer.

Use these four lists when planning out your days and weekends ahead. When your child complains of being bored, use these lists with your children to guide them in deciding what their choices are and how to plan out their time. Make recreational screen time a privilege. Make it the dessert of the day, a treat after the "work" of childhood.

Looking for more ways to stay healthy and active during the COVID-19 pandemic? Visit the Health & Wellness section of our website.

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