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Things to do Instead of Screen Time

In my last post, we talked about why a lot of screen time is not ideal for children under 3. Brains are developing and these brains are seeking out experiences. Experiences that enrich the senses and build cognitive processes like problem solving.

It is often hard in the moment to think about what to do instead of turning on the TV or pulling out an "educational" app, but there are many, many great options. I have compiled a list of my favorite ideas I have picked up over the years from parents and friends. Check it out and see what you can add in to your day. Let's give our kids experiences and remember we need to play too!

Play, play, play, play! Blocks, legos, cars, mr. potato head, piggy bank, toy animals, remember language is learned through play so play at least 30 minutes a day on the floor with your child!



Read a book

Cook a fun recipe

Play with food- get messy!

Go shopping and smell the fruits and vegetables as you put them in the cart, give them to your child to smell and talk about what they are and how they feel, taste etc. Help your child use their senses.

Go for a walk- explore and talk about what you see and hear

Collect things on the walk- rocks, flowers, pick up trash!

Build a fort

Jump and sing “five little monkeys”

Run back and forth

Play chase

Blow bubbles

Play music on instruments or pots and pans

Sing favorite songs your child likes from TV yourself

Use old cardboard boxes to build something or just cut, color on, tape together

Play soccer or baseball with stuffed animals

Have a tea party

Pretend to “shop” at a store in your pantry

Listen to a book or music each night vs. tv

Create an obstacle course

Play peek a boo

Find colors on a color hunt

Make playdough

Create a sensory box- sand, rice, beans, pasta and put small toys and objects to find in it

Play with shaving cream! Lots of sensory fun.

Set up a water table- any bin will do! Put toys, scoopers, bowls, etc inside to play

Play with stickers! This can provide a long time of fun and will work on their fine motor skills!


  • Play with balls

  • Tag

  • Ride bikes/scooters

  • Bubbles

  • Look for bugs under rocks

  • Use sidewalk chalk

  • Swim

  • Paint

  • Lay on the ground and look at clouds

  • Water plants

  • Have a race

  • Make it a race to see how fast you can clean up toys in the yard

Hit the library

Head to the playground

Have a dance party!

Play dress up

Have a toy car wash

Play with a flashlight in a dark room

Kids love baths? Have a bath! Just for fun.

Call someone- grandparents! And chat

Pound golf tees into foam

Wrestle and get physical

Pretend to be animals and crawl, hop and pounce, make noises too

Cut a slot in a container and drop (pasta, beans, anything) in it.

Let kids take things out of drawers and put them back in

Give kids chores- sweep, help with laundry, wipe counters, put things away etc.

Follow their play! Kids will tell you what they are interested in, even if they don’t have words. Observe and go with it!!

Most importantly- HAVE FUN!

Oh and pro tip- I have one friend who always has a "go bag" ready. Not for diapers or food but for play while out and about to avoid use of a screen. Fill a special backpack for your child with preferred toys- cars, legos, bubbles, dolls, crayons and paper or other things your child may choose. Have this at the door or even in the car ready for when you are heading to a doctors appointment or other time when you may have unexpected downtime.

Hope you found these ideas helpful. What would you add to this list?

Happy holidays!

Ms. Rachel

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