Learning at Home / Technology / Ages 2-10

Our Top Alternatives to Screen Time

Winter blues got your house? Here are our favorite screen-time alternatives that will have your kid turning off the TV (and don’t require you to step outside).

Real talk: Screens have a place in all of our lives, including our kids’. And as a parent, you gotta do what you gotta do. But sometimes—especially in the dead of winter, when your household is on its umpteenth virus of the season—it can start to feel like there’s nothing to do except screens. We did some digging to come up with our top screen-time alternatives that will actually have your kids happily turning off the TV. Try these instead of “go do something."

For Preschoolers…


Build a city for your animals (or dolls).

Building is such a great (and time consuming!) activity, and adding some direction by suggesting that they build a city or home for their creatures will extend the play time even further.


Make Play-Doh monsters (or dinosaurs or animals).

With Play-Doh or any kind of molding clay and some shaping tools like spoons or straws, your preschooler can make a whole family of creatures independently. And may we make a gentle suggestion? If you don’t have googly eyes in your house, get some. Seriously, they make these monsters—and pretty much everything else—way more fun. (Choking hazards disclaimer, of course!)


Play “The Floor is Lava.”

Trust us, they know the rules. And what preschooler doesn’t enjoy hopping around trying to keep their feet from touching the floor? Cushions or books make good stepping stones.


Play Charades.

This requires adult participation, but it’s too good not to share. Charades with preschoolers is, well, hilarious. Forget the formal rules and keep it simple: fill a basket with some slips of paper naming animals, objects, or easy-to-act-out activities. Then go to town.

For Little Kids…


Learn to draw a ___ .

Okay, so this one does slightly involve a screen—forgive us. Online drawing tutorials were all the rage in Spring 2020, and they’re still really fun! Suggest something your child already loves (unicorns, dinosaurs, trucks, etc.) and find a “how to draw” tutorial on YouTube. If you’re not sure where to start, Art for Kids Hub is a great option, or check out Lunch Doodles with children’s illustrator Mo Willems.


Write a letter to a friend.

Who doesn’t love snail mail? Have them make a letter or a card. Maybe they have a friend who would like to do a sticker exchange or start a pen pal relationship, so this can be a semi-regular activity.


Listen to an audiobook.

They don’t have to be reading independently yet to, well, read independently. Audiobooks count as reading too, and there are so many options for listening now. If you don’t want to hand over your phone or tablet so they can listen via an app, check your library for Wonderbooks. If you have a good old fashioned CD player in the house, your library will likely have a large collection of books on CD, too.


Make a fort.

Everything is more fun inside a fort, right? Use blankets, pillows, sofa cushions, sheets—whatever it takes. Throw a snack, a few books and a flashlight inside and poof, they’re on a camping trip.

For Big Kids…


Design your own board game.

Bored? Make up a board game. (Wait for the eye roll when you try out that pun on them.) With paper or cardboard and some craft supplies, they can draw their board, make game pieces, and create their own rules. Encourage them to document the rules so the whole family can play together later.


Listen to a podcast.

This is a good one to try when they’ve heard you say “go read a book” enough times. With kid-friendly podcasts available on so many topics these days, there’s something for everyone. Here are some recommendations by age from our friends at Common Sense Media.


Build an obstacle course.

When the weather outside is nasty, they can still let out some energy by building their own obstacle course around the house. (Is someone diving off your couch? Sliding across the living room in a desk chair? We recommend looking the other way and breathing deeply.)


Make dinner.

Yes, for everyone. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be food.

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