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51 ways to get your kids off screens this summer

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summer

Photo: iStockPhoto

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summer

Set up a kiddie pool and throw in plastic cups, colanders and balls for toddlers, or have bigger kids turn it into a beach resort for their dolls and action figures.

Two little girls playing in a blow up pool with neon ballsPhoto: iStockphoto

Set up a scavenger hunt. Hot tip: The harder you make it, the longer your kids will be occupied (“Why, yes, I’m sure there’s a Golden Snitch somewhere in the garden”).

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Ask your kid to draw you or the dog. It’s even better if you sit and draw them, too.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

You know that old proverb, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime? Same with Go Fish, SlapJack, James Bond and other card games—teach them to your kids and they’ll be absorbed for hours.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Get them to set up a backyard obstacle course using hula hoops, boxes and skipping ropes. Then time them as they complete the course and try to get faster every time.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Give them a scrapbook, a glue stick, and a heap of old magazines, and let them create collages. Add some glitter glue pens into the mix if you can handle the sparkles getting everywhere.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Make roads and highways all around the house with masking tape and let the dinky car races begin. 

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Cake and ice cream for breakfast? Late-night pool party? Quarter-birthday celebration? Why not! Flip convention on its head.  

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Fractions. (Just kidding).

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Pick up a bunch of puzzles at the thrift or dollar store, and set them to work. Bigger kids love more complicated puzzles that take days to complete, especially if you help.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Join your library’s summer reading program. Many offer incentives to get kids reading, from cool bookmarks to restaurant vouchers and theme park tickets—solid encouragement for them to get lost (in books).

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Throw a dance party. Put on a mix of today’s top hits and get down (your Fitbit will love this).

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Give them a pack of sidewalk chalk and encourage them to beautify the driveway.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Send the kids off looking for 20 blue or squishy or sparkly objects around the house.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Have them build a fort.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Pretend the power is out. 

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Let them play with the hose.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Invite a kid over. Never underestimate the value of throwing an extra child or two into the mix.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Pick a route and ride the train, streetcar or bus to a new-to-you part of the city. Hop off when there’s something interesting or simply enjoy the ride from a non-chauffeuring vantage point.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Tell them to create a spa, and once they have everything ready, enjoy a little pampering. (Think foot soaks, massages, face masks and Impressionist toenail painting.)

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Print out An All About Me worksheet for them to fill out. Their answers may surprise you.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Get them to draw a card or write a letter to their grandparents/favourite aunt etc. 

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Tell your kids it’s bathtime for their Lego or dolls’ accessories. Give them a bucket of soapy water, an old toothbrush, and a towel for everything to be laid out on to dry.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Grab some markers and have them transform that giant diaper box from Amazon into an airplane, castle or rocket ship.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Introduce them to audiobooks, which you can find at the library. Spotify also has lots of classic children’s literature. 

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Drench them. Wage an epic water fight that will go down in family history.

kid jumping water gunPhoto: iStockphoto

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Get kids to play cleaner. Give them a bowl of soapy water and a cloth, and have them wash baseboards, banisters or floors. 

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Buy a roll of paper, spread it down the hall and let them colour away.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Set up your older kids with pen pals (perhaps the child of one of your faraway Facebook friends), so that they can write letters and learn the thrill of getting them back in the mail.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Bake cookies with them.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Send them out bug hunting, armed with a Mason jar and a fishing net (or a dollar store bug hunting kit). See how many different bugs they can find.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Take them strawberry picking. (Find listings for local patches online.) Don’t stress when they eat their body weight in berries; take wet wipes to hide the evidence when paying for whatever berries are left.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Who says April Fool’s Day can come only once a year? Plot a harmless prank (shoes stuffed with paper always works) for a morning when they least expect it.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Help them de-clutter their rooms. Get them to try on all their clothes and put the too-small things in a pile, and get rid of any broken toys.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Put them in charge. Assign a date for each kid and let them know that on that day they can make all the key decisions. You’ll be surprised by how little it takes to make their day perfect.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Get out old photo albums and have a nostalgia session. Tell kids how cute they were as babies (and how weird your clothes were when you were a kid).

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Find a new-to-you playground, preferably with a splash-pad.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Surprise! Show up at daycare pickup with a backpack full of sand toys. Announce an impromptu hotdog roast at a local firepit. And get some ice cream on the way—dessert before unexpected dinner: YES.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Fill a pail full of water, hand your toddler a big paintbrush, and have her “paint” the fence.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Older kids will get a kick out of a beautiful grown-up colouring book and a pack of new markers (and dollar stores have awesome colouring books these days, as well as the old standards that younger kids will love).    

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Be the judge. Set a goal of finding the best of something over a weekend. Will it be the best ice cream in town or the fastest slide in the city? Test as many as you can.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Take them on a choose your own adventure. Jump in the car, and each time you get close to an intersection, have your kids tell you to go left, right or straight ahead.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Let them try on all the fancy shoes and glittery accessories that you never get to wear anymore.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Have them mix up magic potions using food colouring, rose petals and glitter. 

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Set up a target range using stuffed toys, empty cans or whatever you can find. Bring out the Nerf guns, or tennis balls to whip at your targets. Get the kids to take two steps back every time they get a few hits.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Ask them to write a story or a song to read or perform for you later. If you have a couple of kids (or more), ask them to direct a play to perform for the family.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Pick up some boxes and masking tape so the kids can build something epic. Let them paint it afterwards for added impact.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Get dirty: Dress the part in grubby clothes and prepare for an outing where no one is worried about getting messy. Games that encourage sliding in the grass, jumping in puddles and slinging mud are perfect.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

Pretend you’ve all magically travelled back in time to pioneer days. Have them whip up some butter (shake a Mason jar filled with whipping cream), collect “eggs” (jelly beans) and do other “old-timey” chores.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

No need to travel far to show them the planet. Pick a country and use it as a theme for a meal out,a delicious afternoon of cooking or a craft project.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

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Put your phone away. The best way to stop kids from pining for a device is to stop our own compulsive social media checking. It’s hard to do, but it’s so worthwhile.

51 ways to get your kids off screens this summerPhoto: iStockphoto

When your kids chant, “We’re bored,” it can be tempting to switch on a screen. But rather than tweet out what a failure you are or wallow with an Instagram post about how much you absolutely hate summer vacation, try these old-school alternatives to Crossy Road. Trust us, they are way more fun.

Read more: All that screen time does real-life harm: Here's how much kids should actually be getting Your baby might love your smartphone but it can lead to speech delays 25 places every Canadian kid should see

This article was originally published on Jun 11, 2019

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