When I speak to families about slowing down and enjoying family time, one of the things that comes up over and over is screen time. Screens dominate many of our lives, often to a greater degree than we wish. While many of us parents can attest to the addictive nature of technology, we struggle with ways to reduce it in our children’s lives.
It is perhaps a bonus, then, that the wonderful Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has proclaimed April 29 – May 5 to be Screen-Free Week. Sometimes this kind of added incentive is all we need to inspire us to action. More than once, parents have told me that their children’s favorite memories include episodes of family game nights by fire- or candlelight during power outages. You can create your own “power outage” by participating in Screen-Free Week. And, even if you don’t go completely screen-free, you might want to pledge an hour or so a day or night to have some good screen-free fun. Who knows? That fun might just become a habit or your own favorite family memory.
Here are 12 ways to celebrate Screen Free Week:
Make a Paper Boat and sail it in a creek, pond or bathtub.
Make a Bird Feeder. Our local birds have gone nuts for ours and we plan to make more.
Enjoy Loom and Finger Weaving. You can do this anywhere!
Keep a Moon Diary as a way of observing the night sky.
Slow your pace and have a Cloud Race.
Get a jump on summer by making S’Mores. Camp under the stars if it’s warm enough.
Start a Backyard Garden.
Bake your own Soft Pretzels. These are really easy and fun.
Play a different fun board game every night. We like Boggle, Sorry, Taboo, Pictionary, Scrabble, Mancala, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Hi-Ho Cherry O.
Discover The Joy of Quiet.
And, if you’re really missing your screen? Make your own Shoebox TV!
Shoebox or a square-shaped box and lid
Cardboard tubes, from paper towels, foil or plastic wrap, or wooden dowels
4-10 pieces of printer paper (8 ½ x 11”)
Scissors, craft knife and tape
Cut a large opening for the TV screen into the bottom of the box, leaving an even border of 1” or more all around.
Holding the box horizontally, cut two holes on the top, each about 2” the side and 2” back from the cut-out section. Your dowels or cardboard tubes should fit into the holes.
Cut two bottom holes that line up with the top ones.
Cut the cardboard tubes, if necessary, so that about ½ “ sticks out on the bottom and 1-2” on top.
Decide on a story you want to tell that primarily uses pictures.
Place the paper horizontally (cutting, if necessary, to fit the tube length) and draw one picture on each page, adding words, if desired. Leave at least 1” on each paper edge and at least 2” on the left edge of the first picture and the right edge of the last picture.
Lay the pictures out, left to right, in the order they will appear. Turn them over and, keeping the order, run a piece of tape down each back seam where two pictures come together.
Tape each end of the paper story scroll around a tube or dowel and roll on the back sides of the scroll, so that the paper image is at the front of the tubes and the paper is tight and sized to the box.
Place the tubes into the holes and place the lid on the back. Decorate the front of the TV, if desired.
Gently turn the tubes to make the pictures move.
Slow Tip: You can also use images from magazines or comic-books to create your story.
You can make multiple story scrolls and change them through the back of the box. In doing so, you’ll join nearly every ancient civilization in telling stories using scrolls, starting with the Egyptians, who created them on papyrus.
The Shoebox TV craft is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more ways to enjoy screen-free family fun.
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Graphic: Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman