10 Screen-Free Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

I realized I forgot to edit my photos before posting so sorry they are dark, use your imagination to pretend they are bright!  

Kids get started at an early age on iPad games, YouTube videos, TV shows, playing with your phone etc.  It’s a sanity saver at times.  When they are irritable and need some down time, its a good distraction.   Sometimes you need to get something done, or a child is sick.  All good reasons, in my opinion, for some screen time. There is so much educational stuff in videos – My 4 year old grandson has learned things from the life cycle of a butterfly to how a garbage disposal works. There are apps that teach counting, and shapes.  TV shows have content from exercise for kids to singing with Elmo.   Though there is a lot of violence and bad moral examples also, I am not opposed to screen time.

Part of our job as parents and caregivers is to pull them away from the screen sometimes and put limits and rules on the screen.   It doesn’t take much effort at all to give them other things to do for the rest of the day.


  1. Story time!  If they love books, this is easy.  If they are bored with story time then get a different reader sometimes:  grandparents can read to them, if Mom usually reads, get Dad to read and vise versa.  Read in a different location like outside.  Get books about things they are interested in and deal with something they are going through.  Take them to the library to chose their own books.  Most libraries have a story time each week too.

2. Take them on an errand or a fun destination.  It’s nice to get out and if you happen to get something checked off your list of things to do then that’s a bonus!  Try not to be in a rush, let them look at things that interest them.  This is a good time to talk about what is expected of them in a store or museum or restaurant, wherever you take your children.  Take their personality into consideration when you decide where to go.





3.  If you have a family pet, spend some time playing with it, taking care of it, feeding it.  Make it fun, talking and listening to each other.  Be in the moment.  You will want to have your phone for photos of course but don’t get distracted by texts or emails.

 4. Get out anything costume-y.  Previous halloween costumes, souvenir hats, sunglasses.  Put them in front of a full length mirror and let them put their own look together. 

 5. Bowling in any form.  If you have a hallway this is perfect but a kitchen or family room works too.  All you need is a ball and something to knock over.  My husband set up these Play Doh  pins.  It doesn’t have to be in traditional pin formation and it can just be one or a few items to knock over or hit with the ball.  empty water bottles, stuffed animals, little sister, boxes.

6. Get outside.   Go for a walk.  Take a snack with you if it’s snack time.  Walk the sidewalk if you have one in your neighborhood, go to a playground or a grassy area.  Take riding toys and go to a cemented area.  Work with what you got!  Again, make it about the kids.  Look at that spiderweb or whatever gets their attention.  Talk, listen.

7.  Put flat, non slippery items on the floor;  rugs, towels, my grandkids have these rubber letter puzzle things that worked great.  Tell them whatever they do, they have to stay on the squares.  When that gets too wild or they start to get bored, start calling out instructions such as hop to another square, now take a giant step to a yellow square, twirl around then go to the letter G.  You will modify your instructions to what you put on the floor.

8.  Put a piece of cardboard on the floor and give them some Play Doh.  For some reason, it makes it different if they are on a big piece of cardboard.  Bonus it saves the carpet from getting Play Doh smushed into it.  9.  Play with toys in a different way.  One day, I brought sand toys to my grandkids house because I planned on taking them to the beach but the weather wasn’t great that day.  I put the sand toys out anyway and Brinley played with them in the family room, then she wanted water so we took them to the kitchen where she poured and scooped.  Take bathtub toys outside, take dishes in the tub, even just playing with toys in a different room than usual sparks their imagination in a different way.  Do you usually do puzzles in their room?  Put them on their table instead.  Read books on the porch, Set up their train set on the patio and let them use rocks and sticks as landscape or things to haul in the train cars.  Let them push their toy cart or stroller down the sidewalk.  Bring a riding toy inside.  I could go on and on but you get the idea.

  10.  Play music and everyone dances, runs, jumps around.  Stop the music and everyone ‘freezes’.  Turn the music on and dance around again.   Repeat turning the music on and off until everyone is silly and sweaty and tired out.   This is a great game to get energy out of the kids and some exercise for the grown ups.  We played this today.  Brinley was tired and wanted to be held so I jumped and danced with her in my arms when the music played, which made her laugh.

That’s all for now, there are a TON more activities but I will save them for later, or share yours with me in the comments.  These should give your kids (and you) a break from technology without them even knowing what you are up to.  Go have fun, play, explore, pretend, learn, and make friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *