Get Unplugged!

bitty baby

this is sometimes what happens when I tell the boys to “go play”

Sarah over at Clover Lane is one of the smartest ladies I know. Her annual Christmas Toy List has brought into our home some of the most fun games, toys and ride-upons we’ve ever owned (two words: Rip. Stick.). She is awesome. Today, the two of us are working on ideas for keeping our kids having fun — while Unplugged!

I’ve been thinking a lot about getting our kids to play or “do things” away from a screen. I’m probably thinking so much about it because we’re coming down from a particularly wintery winter (which we don’t always have) and I’ve gotten in the habit of, well, not keeping track of screen time as well as I should.


this was from a particularly rough day and I was like “DO WHATEVER” and

also please ignore the filthy risers

But once Lent began and we decided to cut down on time with hand-helds and video games, I kept telling the boys to “go play!” And sometimes, you know how kids can be, they couldn’t figure out what to do. Now of course, we are not cruise directors (as my mom was always fond of saying) but I also think being armed with some ideas can be a real sanity saver. For those moments when all they want to do is play on their ipod and you know it’s absolutely timefor them to walk away — well, I wanted to come up with a few ideas for my kids (and for me!).

Since my children are The Littles (3 and 6) and then The Big Boys (12, 13, 15, 17), I’m offering a range of random ideas. Some won’t work for all ages, some are fun for the entire family.

poker tourney

1. Cards. I always think of cards right off the bat. Go Fish, Crazy Eights, War. I snuck this picture of a Poker tourney the boys had once, where they dressed up and had snacks and played cards all afternoon, with real poker chips.

2. Mini-trampoline? You tell me. I’m pretty anti-trampoline, so on the one hand I can’t really endorse them — BUT the people who have them love them and swear by them as hours and hours of fun. I am planning on getting a mini-trampoline for a certain high-octane six-year-old.

3. Ride bikes

4. Take a magnifying glass, go outside and burn some grass. This is always so much fun!

5. Legos

6. Dominos

7. Bake cookies. You know, I don’t tell my boys to bake ever, but I’m might start encouraging that. Plenty of their friends do it (as I’m told by their mama’s).

8. Do art. Bigger kids can get out of the habit of being creative (not all, but some of them) and sometimes when I remind them to go draw, they remember how much they love it!

9. Play music. Sit down at the piano, pick up a guitar, pull out the recorder from the box of musical instruments. Harmonica, that too!

10. Dig in the backyard.

11. Play in the sprinkler.

12. Organize your room. I know this might sound silly, but my big boys actually get into this, once they get started. And it’s a good habit for them to form.


13. Dress-ups. This actually applies to ALL of my kids. They love donning wigs and the big boys especially love dressing up the Littles.

14. Do some gardening. Isabel was out in the yard on Saturday “planting flowers.” Not sure exactly what that meant but she was having so much fun.

15. Read books. I have some that are natural born readers, but a few of mine need real encouragement. That’s where picking out good books for your kids comes in handy (should I re-run my book list for boys? That might be a nice idea.)

16. Basketball in the driveway.

backyard games17. Soccer in the backyard. This is my big boys and friends playing in one of the open fields in our neighborhood. Summertime in the South is rough, but Spring andFall — ahhhh

18. Organize the garage. Another nutty suggestion that actually gets addictive for a few of my guys and they are so proud of themselves when they’re done (I am too!).


19. Ripsticks — do you have one? They are amazing!

20. Action figures. Big wooden blocks. Hot wheels. Hours of fun for all ages.

21. Excavate. I brought Henry home one of those “eggs” made of dirt that you chip away at to find the hidden shark tooth. So fun!

22. Scrabble. Sorry. Clue. Chutes and Ladders. Yahtzee — what are your favorite family games?

23. Hide and seek — we LOVE to play this. Usually after we’ve cleaned up from dinner and before the Littles go to bed. The house is dark and it’s Terrifying Fun!

24. Sardines. Same concept as Hide and Seek, but reverse. Everyone is looking for one person.

25. Take a walk. This usually requires me stopping what I’m doing and all of us heading out. But we always come back refreshed and happy.

What about you? Have any ideas you want to share? What works well in your home to get your kids away from the screen?


  1. Yes, please post your book list!

  2. Forts, forts and more forts! Playing in the snow, ice skating, driveway hockey, kickball, playdoh, going to the library (attending any program offered there). Also reading aloud as a family is a great way for the young ones to get involved in reading something other than picture books.

  3. Mary Kate says:

    You and Sarah working together not only makes me happy from a practical point of view, but it makes my heart happy!!

  4. Great idea – definitely re-run the book list! Mine are all great readers but I’m always looking for suggestions. And I have one that reads so fast I’m constantly looking for new books for him.

  5. I am laughing at how similar our lists are-one more reason we should live next door (I’ll come down there, hello sunshine, goodbye winter! 🙂

  6. Forts are huge in this house! And please post that list 🙂

  7. We do lots of things that you have already mentioned (baking/cooking, arts and crafts, building, reading, music). Puzzles is another thing that comes to mind.

  8. I have an 11 year old son and a 9 year old daughter and here are a few things that work for me (in addition to the ones you mention -#12 being my absolute favorite): play-doh (yep- still works even at their ages); letter writing to Grandparents and friends; talent show; chalk art on the patio (hubby’s not a big fan of this one).

  9. Michelle says:

    Board games! Specially the ones that last HOURS like Risk, Monopoly, Diplomacy etc …. Then there is outdoor camping, in the back yard. Or the neighbors back yard. And model planes or cars, or something that takes many hours to build.

  10. I’ve been reading your blog for a LONG time, but this is my first time commenting. (LOVE the blog, by the way!) I have 2 boys, ages 11 & 8, and a 4 yr old spunky little girl. I’m totallly into the boy thing as I also have 3 nephews living within a couple miles of us.

    Anyway…the picture of sliding down the stairs makes me laugh. I used to let my kids do it, until my oldest broke his collar bone a year ago doing that same thing. The difference was our stairs are carpeted and they were taking turns sitting in a nylon sleeping bag (SPEED!!). My motto was ‘kid-tested, mother approved’ but son #1 didn’t follow the rule of staying upright and one at a time. He rolled over and hit his shoulder on the corner of a step before he even made it to the bottom. He broke the collar bone in April and it took until late October before we got clearance that it was 100% healed. That was a very long 6 mos for my most active, sports-obsessed boy. So if you do let them slide down the stairs, just make sure they stay upright.