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How to Reduce Screen Time -- Alternative Activities Kids can Play by Themselves during the Pandemic

Updated: May 17, 2021

To reduce Kids' screen time during COVID-19 pandemic time, alternative games/activities can be played by themselves (without screen), include playing audio games with google home (or mini), Leapfrog reading , story mp3 player (no screen), Magnetic Blocks Toys, marble run, and games in the yard. For older kids, lego sets, books, and science experiment kits (or Kiwico kits) also work well.

To reduce kids' screen time, there are three very basic things to do:

Set up Goals: Talk to children, let them know how much screen time they should have each day, and help them tract the time

Play outside as much as possible: If you have a yard at home, even a small one, please invent as many small games (or leave some toys in the yard) as possible to keep kids stay outside. Please see this post for small yard game ideas.

Offer rewards if kids meet the goals: Try to offer rewards without screen. Please check this post for some toy ideas.

For your references, according to Mayo Clinic, recommended screen time for children are:

  • No screen time for children under 2

  • One hour per day for children 2 to 12

  • Two hours per day for teens and adults

Google home (For both young and big kids)

Google Home is a smart speaker you can play audio games with, tell the stories on your devices (you need to set up the playing list), play music by saying the songs' names, or help with homework. It will attract your kids' attentions for a while.

Audio games: There are many games kids can play by "talking" to the smart speaker, instead of looking at the screen. For example, there is a game called "Disney's Mickey Mouse Adventure". Kids need to say "Hi, Google, play the game of Disney's Mickey Mouse Adventure". Then Google Home will tell a small part of the story, and give kids a chance to choose the next place to go. After kids choosing, It will continue the story for a little bit, and ask kids to make choices again.

Tell the stories (by list or by name): Kids can listen to the stories on your other devices as long as you connect other devices with Google Home and play the list. Or kids can try by themselves which story can be told by Google Home. It will be fun to see kids trying every name of the stories they know.

Play music (by list or by name): Same, you may set up the list on other devices and play the music list on Google Home. Or kids can try every name of the songs they know. Our kids used to play Baby Shark on and on for one hour.

Help with homework: Google home can answer questions such as how to spell astronomy, what is orangutan, or how to pronounce Otorhinolaryngologist. Kids need help with all kinds of such questions & they can ask the smart speaker to get the answers instead of bothering patents all the time. The best part is, this smart speaker does NOT have a screen!

Outside games in the yard (For both young and big kids)

There are a lot of games kids can play in the yard. Jump ropes, water guns, blowing bubbles, and planting seeds/flowers/trees are all popular things to do in the yard. However, some invented games may be more interesting.

We once invented a game called "Jingle Bell" and played in the empty parking lot, but later I found that it can also be played in the yard. I gave a bell to each kid, asked them to pick 10 plants (weeds, flowers, leaves...), then I pretended to give each of them 10 gifts. I told them to play the role of Santa, giving one gift to the fairy who lives on each plant. It took them 7 minutes to finish the task. I then "gave" them more gifts for more plants and ask them to describe the gifts to the plants. Kids played the game for a long time that day and asked for more later.

Lego Sets and Science Experiments Kits / Kiwico Kits (For big kids)

Lego sets and Kiwico Kits are common and popular among older kids. Fun to build creative things. However, experiment kits may be more interesting for those who are tired of Lego & Kiwico kits.

(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.)

This Reading pen comes with books. It reads the word or the whole story while pointing the pen to different places. Kids can easily use the pen to point the parts they are interested in and repeat multiple times.

Just like Google Home, story player is a connected piece and can be controlled by parents' devices. Choose the players without screen so that kids can only press the buttons to play next story/song/category. It is also safe & will not play any ads or any other unsafe content to kids.

This is another version of lego. Kids who are tired of lego can try this. No need to press hard on the pieces, and putting them together is easy. My two kids share the blocks and work together to create things.

Marble Run (For young kids)

Marble Run is also a block building toy. Kids can build the tunnels for marbles and let marbles run starting from the top, through a long way, and finally reach the bottom. Kids can try tall, wide, easy, or difficult shapes. Seeing marbles run down is my kids' favorite part after all.

National Geographic has a lot of good experiments kits. Kids get to know how a crystal forms, how a volcano erupts, and other knowledge. Those kits can also be played as family fun.

Audio books (For big kids)

Audio books can be played anytime, anywhere. There are a lot of websites offer online audio books, free or for fees. The most commonly used for kids are Epic and Raz-kids. Amazon prime also offers some free audio books.

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