National Screen Free Week kicks off April 29 and runs through May 5 during which time families are encouraged to turnoff digital entertainment, whether it be TV, phones, tablets or game consoles, and instead embrace activities that are off-screen.
It’s no question that screens are embedded into our lives. In fact, the average person touches, swipes, or clicks on their phone over two thousand times a day. And American children are spending more and more time on screens – kids ages 0 to 8 use screen media for an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes each day, with about 35% of that screen time spent with a mobile device.
Add it up, and you’ve got hours spent each week with kids glued to games or watching YouTube videos instead of playing outside, getting exercise and interacting with friends and family. This annual week-long event gives families an opportunity for a much-needed break.
Filip Francke, CEO of toy and puzzle maker Ravensburger, agrees that a digital break benefits everyone. “We see an urgent and growing need for families to disconnect from their screens and reconnect with one another. Families often tell us how much they enjoy a simple evening working on a puzzle with their kids or a fun and raucous game night battling for the win,” says Francke. “Families realize how precious time spent together is without the distraction of screens.”
But where to start? Tonda Bunge Sellers, a family tech expert with Living In Digital Times and producer of Kids@Play and FamilyTech Summit, recommends parents start with a little introspection about their own digital habits.
“After school, greet your kids without a phone in your hand and make eye contact, hug them. Really connect when you ask ‘how was your day’ without sneaking a look at email or scanning Facebook. The best gift you can give your children this Screen Free Week is to be a good digital role model.”
If you want to give Screen Free Week a try, you can visit ScreenFree.org for tips and suggestions on how to get started. Here’s five easy activities that families can do together while the screens are dark:
- Cook & Eat Dinner Together – Rally the kids to help make a weeknight meal and eat together with the TV off. Today.com has tons of family-friendly recipes to try!
- Take a Puzzle Break – Pile jigsaw puzzle pieces onto your dining room table to occupy the family for days, or take the challenge further with a 3D puzzle.
- Explore your Community – Hike a local nature trail, try a new local restaurant or create a fun neighborhood scavenger hunt.
- Plan a Game Night– Revisit classics like Monopoly, Labyrinth or Candyland or find a new favorite – Disney Villainous is ideal for tweens/teens or Heads Talk Tails Walk is great for the littles. Check out the board games section at Amazon to find a game for every interest.
- Create a Family Art Project – Use this opportunity for spring-cleaning to dig out all the odds-and-ends you have in your house – like half-finished sticker pages, broken crayons or almost-finished rolls of wrapping paper.
Making a concerted effort to hit the pause button and shutting down your screens can help to create genuine family connections and maybe even spark new family traditions.
Give it a try!