Somewhere between a quarantine and summer break, screen time has skyrocketed. And while some is OK, especially now, when so many schools and camps are closed, no parent wants to see their child’s face glued to screens for hours day after day.
One way to peel kids away from screens is to steer them towards videos and virtual activities that build a bridge to the real world—that is, they help kids transition from screen time to offline activities. This way, kids still feel like they’re getting what they want (more screen time) but it’s also motivating them to move offline.
Here’s a peek at eight great ideas that’ll take your child from screen time to offline in no time (see how we did that there?):
Imagine Forest’s How To Create a Comic Strip
The clever folks at Imagine Forest put together a simple six-step plan that teaches kids how to create their own comic strip—and all it requires is a paper and pencil. Toss a few crayons and markers into the mix and let ‘em go offline to create. The website also shows them how to draw comic strip characters, complete with examples they can copy and storyline ideas they can try out on their own. Great for ages 6 and up, or younger if an adult helps them read the short passages.
Painting With Bob Ross
With his iconic fluffy hair and sweet demeanor, artist Bob Ross became an international sensation in the ‘80s and ‘90s delighting art lovers young and old with his PBS shows The Joy of Painting and Beauty Is Everywhere. In each episode he walked viewers through the steps of creating a painting, making it seem so easy. A free YouTube channel and a Nextflix series, Beauty Is Everywhere, has placed the artist back in the limelight (even HGTV’s Joanna Gaines’ kids are huge fans), and it’s the perfect activity for children who love arts and crafts. Let your kiddo paint along with the videos and watch the series, then turn it off and see what they come up with on their own with some paper and a few washable paints.
The Dynamite Dinner Club
If your little one loves hosting tea parties filled with make-believe food and believes they’re ready to make a real meal, the moms behind the Dynamite Shop have the perfect solution. Founded by two James Beard Award-winning food writers and editors, this Brooklyn-based duo provides young chefs ages 7 to 15 the choice of two daily afternoon cooking classes where they learn to cook a hearty meal for the whole family as part of its Dynamite Dinner Club. You can pay for single drop-in visits ($30) or sign up for a semester of classes ($25 per class for 10 classes). Either way, the online lessons include a lot of unexpected perks, like a virtual tour of another student’s chicken coop. Before each class, you’ll receive a shopping list that’s almost entirely reliant on pantry staples, instructions to guide them when they’re cooking on their own, access to a kitchen helpline, and online videos for more culinary inspiration.
For kids too young to cook in the kitchen for real, the Toca Boca Kitchen app teaches them about the different kitchen tools they can work with and invites them to host virtual dinner parties where they decide the menu and learn all kinds of tips and tricks, like how to juice a tomato. It’s perfect for kids who love to help you with dinner prep, so they can transfer some of their newfound “skills” to your dinner table.
The Science Lab at National Geographic Kids
For curious kids age 7 to 13 who love science and nature, the online Science Lab at National Geographic Kids is a treasure trove of videos and games that leads kids towards a ton of offline exploration. From how to investigate the rocks in your backyard or local park to how to build your own weather station, they offer a huge library of activities for kids to do on their own after they’ve watched.
When your little one isn’t quite yet ready for National Geographic but you’d love nature-based activities that even a toddler can participate in, Tinkergarten is great. Just in time for summer, they’re offering 8 weeks of free online and offline activities designed to fill your kiddo’s life with outdoor fun.
Each Friday a new week’s worth of activities is released, complete with books and videos designed to supplement play, so they can go from online to offline and back again. From fun-but-messy water games that involve whatever toy trucks you have lying around, to I Spy games they can play using the app on a smartphone, there’s a wide variety of choices, and no activity is ever repeated twice. The camp is designed for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary school kids, with activities and videos targeted to their age and stage.
The Card Tricks at My Kids Time
For kids who love magic and putting on shows, there are tons of online resources for easy card tricks that even little ones can learn. One of our favorites is My Kids Time, a website run by two moms whose specialty is suggesting activities designed to “ensure there’ll never be a dull day or an interminable summer break.” All your kiddo will need to take this particular activity offline is a set of cards, but who knows what else they’ll discover once they’re on the site.
LEGO fans ages 3 and up will love logging on to this fun, free YouTube channel that serves as the official hub for brick lovers. Videos feature fun builds and challenges that kids can make themselves offline. Other times kids are invited to simply sit back, watch, and be inspired by cool LEGO Robots builds that are truly over the top. Either way, this channel is a great bridge from the virtual world to the real world with lots of hands-on LEGO-based activities tossed into the mix. Preschoolers might also enjoy the LEGO How-To Academy on the LEGO Access YouTube channel, which features some simpler builds.
The bottom line? Don’t feel bad if your kid’s screen time is through the roof right now—you’re definitely not alone, based on the huge number of parents talking about it in our parenting Facebook group and elsewhere online. But if you’d like your child to spend just a little more time in the real world, without having to go cold turkey with a full screentime detox, hopefully these ideas will help.