35 Screen-Free Indoor Activities for Kids

Recently my college-age daughter put an inquiry on her social media story: “DM me if you want low-quality water-color art delivered to you tonight. Serious Inquiries Only!” The humorous post was then followed by a sample of the “artwork” offered. Within the hour, she added to her story, “No longer accepting inquiries.” Apparently low-quality watercolor prints are in high demand among the college set, and she and her roommates had all the orders they could fill.

Ultimately, I recognized the activity for what it was—some good, old fashioned screen-free entertainment on a Friday night. Not only did it get them off their phones, but it encouraged face-to face interaction with each delivered product.

This amusing anecdote led me to think about how often our kids (and us adults) automatically turn to devices to fill the void when they are bored, tired, anxious, hungry, or otherwise unengaged. How great would it be if, rather than turning to their phones, computers, or gaming consoles to fill the empty spaces, they turned to screen-free alternatives for entertainment?

Why Screen-Free Activities Matter

It’s common knowledge that this generation spends more time glued to screens than any other—partly because screens are relatively new but partly because screens have become a crutch, especially during a pandemic. Sometimes devices are useful and necessary. But sometimes they’re not.

According to one source, “Parents may not notice the effect of restricting and monitoring screen time right away, just as they may not notice a child getting taller day to day. However, a so-called ‘ripple effect’ can occur. Monitoring screen time and content don’t immediately lead to changes, but over time, there is a wide range of health and wellness benefits.” A compelling reason to encourage our kids to put their phones down, at times, and participate in screen-free activities instead.

We’re moving into another winter season in the United States. Regardless of where you live, winter months usually equal more time indoors. And that often leads to more time glued to screens in unhealthy ways.

If you’re looking for some ideas to help your kids reduce screen time, try some of these screen-free indoor activities for kids.

Screen-Free Activities for Kids

  1. Build a Fort. Grab some couch cushions and blankets and create some fun.
  2. Have a fashion show. Raid all the closets in the house for spectacular ensembles. And don’t forget to clean up the mess when you’re done.
  3. Do a puzzle. And try this tip. Put the puzzle together on a large piece of felt so it can be easily rolled and moved. Free up the kitchen table for family dinner.
  4. Write a letter. Consider reaching out to grandparents, long-distant friends, or the neighbors next door. Everyone loves to get old fashioned mail.
  5. Clean a room. This may not be the most appealing activity in the beginning. But the end product is always satisfying.
  6. Paint a picture. Low-quality water-color projects accepted and encouraged.
  7. Read a book. Encourage your kids to read alone. Or better yet, read aloud to them.
  8. Have an indoor picnic. If the goal is staying indoors, kids can move some traditionally outdoor activities inside. Lay out a blanket, grab a basket for the goodies, and enjoy.
  9. Have a talent show. This is a great way to encourage kids to practice instruments on the sly.
  10. Rearrange furniture. Encourage kids to get creative with their bedrooms or other rooms in the house. They may like the new configurations.
  11. Create a time capsule. Remember this moment by finding items that represent today.
  12. Make a meal plan. Explore cookbooks and decide on some new recipes to try.
  13. Cook a meal or bake a dessert. Don’t just look through cookbooks. Try something out.
  14. Find items to donate to charity. Surely you have clothes, shoes, coats, household items, toys, or books that are no longer being used. Gather them up and give them a new life.
  15. Play board games. Favorites like Life, Candyland, and Ticket to Ride never go out of style.
  16. Play card games. Teach your kids everything from solitaire to Uno to Five Crowns. There are so many options.
  17. Play other games. Even if there aren’t any physical games on hand, try hide and seek, sardines, or Simon Says. You can even create your own obstacle courses.
  18. Build something. Have Legos on hand? Build something creative. And even if you don’t have Legos, find other building supplies around the house, and let your imagination run wild.
  19. Host a pie day. Why save all the fun for March 14th? Invite friends to make or buy their favorite pie and join you for an afternoon of indulgence.
  20. Do a science project. You might need to consult a screen for a minute to learn how. But then leave it behind and get to work.
  21. Write in a journal. It’s always fun to look back on the things we write.
  22. Have a dance party. Crank up the tunes and burn some calories the fun way.
  23. Do yoga. If dancing isn’t your thing, try the relaxing vibes of yoga.
  24. Try handiwork. Skills like crocheting, knitting, and cross stitching don’t have to be lost to the ages.
  25. Have a taste-testing. Pick your favorite food items and have blind taste tests with friends or family. For example, choose several brands of ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, or fast food items and see which ones are the favorites.
  26. Practice origami. You can purchase paper and instructions and fold away.
  27. Have a salon party. Have fun with hair and nails.
  28. Color. You can color everything from giant coloring pages to adult coloring books. You can even get creative and make your own coloring pages.
  29. Make a sock puppet. Put those old socks and buttons to good use. Even young kids can learn to sew with this easy craft.
  30. Put on a play. You can do this with your recently created sock puppets, stuffed animals, or actors. Act out scenes from favorite children’s stories or make up your own.
  31. Get crafty. Go to the local craft store and buy a kit or get super creative and make one up.
  32. Review nursery rhymes. You’d be surprised how many kids don’t know standard nursery rhymes. So take some time to teach them.
  33. Make balloon animals. There are books and kits available for beginners.
  34. Have fun with cardboard boxes. Check out local appliance stores. They may have big boxes your kids can use to build pretend robots and spaceships.
  35. Create a collage. Kids can use items found around the house, nature, or pictures from old magazines.

Make It Count

Regardless of the screen-free indoor activity your kids choose to try, encourage them to be creative, explore new things, and have fun. There will always be time and need for screens. But help them discover the joys of having fun without them as well.

If you’re looking for a good cell phone option for your kids to help them balance the need for screens with screen-free time, check out the options at Troomi.