TV Free Activities for Kids

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Life After Television: Teaching Our Children to Play Again

By Lisa Workman


Studies have made the news again regarding television and our children. What are they saying? Too much television is not good for our kids. The very presence of a television in your child’s room can be a determining factor in how well your kids do academically. Kids today are continuing to be “plugged in.”


What is the solution? Limit television viewing. Move the TV out of you kids’ rooms. Be involved in what they are watching.


Okay. We move the television into a common and give our kids time limits. Now what? A comment I hear often when people ask me about the Tokens for TV program is, what do my kids do now? Our kids are so used to being plugged in, they don’t know what to do. They’re bored.


It doesn’t matter if your children are 6 or 16, the answer is the same. It’s time to teach our kids how to play again. Having a time for quiet and play are important life skills. How else will their imagination start working on its own again?


Start with the following ideas to help your kids in their unplugged play:


  • Play a game. Dig our your board games. Checkers, Chess, Monopoly and Sorry! Are all great games.


  • Dig out the playing cards. Go Fish, Old Maid, War… There are even other specific card games such as Uno out there. You can also teach your children how to play solitaire.


  • Be a bookworm. Go to the library in your home or your community. Scour the thrift shops and yard sales. Be a part of a book exchange. There are also some great audio books available at the library. You can also purchase audio books at thrift stores, department stores and online.


  • Hands-on fun. Bring out the clay or play dough. Your teenagers may roll their eyes at this one too, but you would be surprised at how they will sit down and keep themselves entertained with this one. (And you don’t have to go out and buy your dough – have them help you make a batch. A recipe is included below.)


  • Build something. LEGO’s, Lincoln Logs and K’nex. How many of our kids still have these in the back of their closet? Don’t have these construction pieces? Try creating structures using toothpicks and connecting them together with green peas. Sounds funny, but it works! As the structures dry they become sturdier and you can keep them around for awhile.


  • Go outdoors. Outdoor games like marbles, jacks, hopscotch not only occupy your kids, they will also strengthen coordination skills. Too hot or cold out? The garage, basement and/or kitchen floors will work fine too.


  • Become an outdoor artist. Buy a tub of colored chalk from the local discount store and give your kids a theme to create their own masterpieces on your front or back sidewalks. Take pictures of them for your family album.


Are these new ideas? Of course not. But when our kids are given a choice of any of these “offline” activities or the chance to plug in to their TV or games, what are they going to choose? When you unplug your kids, they will learn how to play again simply because they have nothing else to do. They will find other activities to keep themselves entertained.


Be prepared for a little bit of whining or frustration on your kids’ part. It’s normal. It’s so much easier to sit in front of a screen with mindless entertainment. It won’t take long and your kids will be able to find other things to do instead of plugging in and tuning the world out.



Lisa Workman is the author of Tokens for TV: A Sensible Approach to Balancing Television, Video Game and Computer Activities. How much time does your child spend “plugged in” to some sort of electronic device? Get your FREE worksheet at

There are many variations of homemade play dough. The Internet or any kid’s craft book are great resources if you would like more ideas. There are edible versions as well (less clean up!). The following recipe contains items commonly found in most kitchens.





3 cups of flour

1/4 cup of salt

1 tablespoon of cooking oil

1 cup of water

food coloring (liquid is best)



1. Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl.

2. Add water and oil slowly.

3. Add desired amount of food coloring.

4. Store dough in air tight container.


Add water (a little at a time) if dough is too stiff. If dough is too sticky, add more flour.







In most of the country, the weather is getting nicer and it's time to head outside with the little ones and take in the beautiful sunshine.  Here are some great ideas for a fun afternoon in the back yard or park:


Painted Sheets:  Buy an inexpensive set of solid colored sheets or pillow cases. If you are using new or an old set, wash before hand without fabric softener. Cover your area with a plastic paint drop cloth. Spread out the sheets, and using your fabric paint set stamp or sponge paint your favorite design.  (Thanks to Lisa for this suggestion!)

Find great craft ideas for fun with the kids at and get busy stamping those First Communion thank you notes today!

Soap crafting and candle making is a huge hit right now as well. The beginner set usually runs around $20.00-30.00. I use QVC to order these sets.  Scrapbooking is also a wonderful kid friendly idea. These books are easy to make, and are a lot of fun with family pictures.  (Thanks to Lisa for this suggestion!)

Feed the birds - In honor of "earth day" and to enjoy the great outdoors with your family, help your child create a bird feeder.  For the youngest of kids, try the old "peanut butter on a pine cone" version.  Older kids might enjoy crafting a feeder of their own design.  Also available are inexpensive wooden bird houses for your kids to put together and paint.  Once you have hung your creations, encourage your family to watch the feeder and learn about the various types of birds that inhabit your back yard or park.  Take silent time to listen to their calls and enjoy the sounds of nature.

Fly a kite - if you don't have one, break out newspapers and paint and let you kids make their own to decorate.  My six year old Adam prefers his own home made kites from preschool days and doesn't even need wind.  He creates his own by running in circles...

Sidewalk chalk - so fun Mom will even want to join in!  Variations for older kiddos include hangman tournaments, hopscotch and tic tac toe!

Water fun - save all of those old detergent bottles, margarine tubs and anything else plastic you can think to recycle and have a water fun day out back.  My kids also love to play "tea party" and use playdo to make the food.

Nature Walk - take a walk around your neighborhood, but this time make it a "nature walk"!  Look for creepy crawlies, special wildflowers, seed pods to scatter in the wind.  Listen to the sound of the wind or new bird sounds you've never heard before.   Give the kiddos old spray bottles to water plants and insects you find along the way.  When your little one finds a beautiful flower for Mommy, have him give the flower a "drink" instead of picking it.  Pray together in thanksgiving for the beauty of our world and talk about ways to help protect and improve our environment.