For many parents, technology is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, we’re told that screen time is responsible for teaching our children bad habits and behavior. But on the other hand, we’re told to let them use it to communicate and express their creativity. So which is it? It’s hard to know for sure, since the research and available products are constantly evolving. It is clear, however, that not all screen time is created equal.
We get it. Parenting is hard work, and we could all use a break every once in a while. As more and more YouTube controversy rises to the surface, we want to encourage families to look for some safer on- and offline alternatives.
1. Host a dance party
Children can’t seem to get enough of lip-syncing app TikTok, but the platform wasn’t really designed with kids in mind. To emulate the goofy and musical TikTok experience offline, create a playlist of your kids’ favorite songs — so you can turn it on at a moment’s notice — or ask them to pick a song that they want to choreograph a dance to. You can even give them the option of performing for the family after dinner and make a promise to record it. This lets tech stay in the picture, but for a creative purpose (and in adults’ hands).
2. Turn up the music
Even if they aren’t musically inclined, every kid loves making noise. Simple instruments like tambourines, maracas, recorders, and drums (including those made out of pots and pans) are a fun addition to any household. Fun new products that combine music and tech, like Specdrums, are also a great option. Kids will love making songs simply by tapping the world around them.
3. Listen to audiobooks
For kids who are going through a bit of technology withdrawal, there’s always audiobooks — plus more and more kids companies are developing podcasts for young listeners. Let them quickly scroll through the app store to find a title they like, then turn up the volume, and put the device away (on a high shelf, for example) so they can listen but not touch.
4. Play a game
This activity is fun for siblings, cousins, and friends to do together — and since games make for a great birthday or holiday gift, it’s easy for the whole family to get kids excited about them. In addition to the board game classics, like Snakes and Ladders and Guess Who?, there are a ton of online games that ensure kids are learning something at the same time — like these favorites from Sago Mini.
Bonus: Playing games has been proven to help with childhood development of number, letter, color and shape recognition; hand-eye coordination; reading; and other skills.
5. Put technology away for the day
While finding safe tech alternatives is awesome, there’s always the option of removing screens from the equation (at least for a little while):
Go outside This one is a bit of a no brainer. Not only is being outdoors healthy and adventurous, but Harvard Medical School says it also affects development of kids’ executive functions (making decisions, multitasking), risk taking (climbing trees!), and appreciation for the world, among other things. From practicing soccer to playing tag and drawing with sidewalk chalk, there’s no shortage of things kids can do outside, rain or shine.
Set goals Help your kids to establish a set of goals — ranging from active to just plain quirky — that they can work towards while you’re busy packing lunches or prepping dinner. Some ideas include: doing 20 jumping jacks, balancing a Fidget Spinner on their nose for 30 seconds, learning a magic trick, building a Lego structure, or completing a few math problems. Younger children love having responsibility, so giving them a goal that also helps you (e.g. picking out tomorrow’s snack) works, too.
Plant a seed Teaching kids about the environment is easier than you think, and letting them take care of a plant or mini herb garden is an easy way to do it. Get kids to upcycle a yogurt container, decorating it however they please (more craft ideas below), and then give them a small amount of soil and some seeds to plant. Watering and keeping an eye on a budding flower can then become a daily activity.
6. Watch videos online (yes, it’s okay...within reason)
There’s a reason some people call YouTube “the world’s babysitter” — kids will spend hours on the platform if given the opportunity. It’s hard to balance a busy schedule and entertain kids at the same time, and videos are certainly helpful (not to mention, kids love them). But there are some YouTube alternatives that have been designed by companies who understand parents’ biggest concerns. We love these safe apps and platforms:
- Ameba: a children’s streaming service for animated, musical, and educational videos.
- Hopster: shows, games, and music specifically designed for kids aged two to six.
- Jellies: a safe, ad-free environment where kids can watch age-appropriate content.
- Tankee: the first gaming video platform designed for kids.
Parenting is a 24/7 job, and we all need ways to distract our kids sometimes. But YouTube isn’t really a dependable babysitter. These fun activities will give parents a little peace and quiet — and keep kids happy and healthy.
Photo Credits: NadyaEugene / Shutterstock, Frolphy / Shutterstock, Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock