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Encouraging Offline Hobbies and Coping Skills: Creative Alternatives to Screen Time for Children


Though technology can be helpful for children, too much screen time can be a problem for some families. However, it can be difficult to get your child to reduce their screen time to create more positive childhood experiences. One of the best ways to do this is to entice kids with more exciting opportunities.

Provide your children with indoor and outdoor activities that interest and engage them. This fosters creative play, which in turn helps children develop coping skills that will serve them well, especially if they have had adverse childhood experiences (ACES).

How to Reduce Screen Time To Benefit Your Child

Less screen time results in a healthier mind and body for your child. Research has linked excessive screen time to a higher risk of obesity, poor academic grades, and poor sleep quality.

However, research shows that parents who actively monitored and limited their kids’ screen time improved their children’s sleep habits, lowered their BMI, did better at school, and improved their behavioral skills. These children also had less exposure to violence and other negative emotions often linked with screen activities, which can improve their mindset.

These benefits are great for any child but for those with a history of ACES, it can be a real game changer. These children may spend a great deal of time on their devices as an avoidance technique. Over time, your child can become emotionally reliant on spending time on his devices. That can impair his ability to cope with ACES, leading to mental health challenges like depression. It’s wise to provide him with ways to reduce stress.

Exercises and Coping Strategies that Help Reduce Stress

To better manage stress, you should help your kids develop coping skills. Children don’t always know how to ask for help, but all experience stress. However, you may see physical signs of stress, such as headaches, fatigue, sleeplessness, skin picking, or eating challenges.

If you think your child is experiencing stress, these activities can provide exercises and coping strategies that allow them to better manage stress.

  • The squeeze-relax game. Give your child something to squeeze, like Play-Doh or a stress ball. Alternate squeezing and relaxing for a few minutes and checking in after.
  • 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise. Ask your child to name five things he hears, four he sees, three he touches, two he smells, and one he tastes. This helps him to focus on something less stressful.
  • Red Light, Green Light. Kids move from the starting line to the finish when you yell “green light” and stop when you say “red light.”

You can also have your child run, jump, or dance to blow off steam.

Outdoor Activities

Spending time outdoors has many health benefits for children and adults. It reduces depression, lessens stress, improves focus, and potentially boosts immune function. It also resets the sleep cycle, leading to better sleep quality and benefits the respiratory system. Exposure to the right amount of sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which may fight depression.

The impact of nature, however, is not just limited to trees and plants. Birds may also be good for our mental health. Studies revealed that when participants were exposed to birds and their songs, it improved their levels of mental well-being, even if they suffered from depression.

These are just some of the reasons to get your children outside.

If your kids are still resistant to dropping their tech and leaving the house, set boundaries by designating times they must use their tech outdoors for fun, educational activities. Here are some outdoor activities for techies that you can do as a family:

  • Geocaching involves using GPS-centered gaming apps to scavenger hunt for hidden items in parks and other outdoor areas.
  • GPS-based augmented reality (AR) games let players seek out and interact with virtual characters at certain locations.
  • Nature observation apps such as Merlin Bird ID, provide detailed info about wildlife, like identifying recorded bird calls.
  • Smart gardening involves using apps to help you create a thriving garden.
  • Citizen science projects allow everyday people to participate in real-world science and more smoothly research, such as wildlife observation.

Unfortunately, inclement weather means you can’t always go outside and most kids are more likely to turn to tech. With a little creativity, you can help your child find indoor activities that are not only fun, but increase family time.

Engaging Indoor Activities for Your Kids

When the weather is bad, we’re all tempted to sit on the couch on our devices or put on TV. But there are many reasons why your family should unplug together instead. Studies show that children who spend more activity time with their families are less likely to participate in unhealthy and dangerous behaviors. When they spend time with their siblings they tend to seek out positive interactions, like doing good deeds. Plus, the more time you spend with your kids, the more likely you will have an impact on their future choices.

To tempt your child away from the screens on bad weather days, you don’t have to be a homeschooler, but you do have to get creative. Here are some excellent indoor alternative activities to screen time that you can do as a family:

  • Make a pinata from papermache.
  • Teach your kids to do magic tricks.
  • Make invisible ink and create your own spy game.
  • Use plastic bottles and rolled-up sock balls to make an indoor bowling game
  • Have a spa day, which can involve relaxing in a bath or hot tub.

Don’t let bad weather distract you from helping your kids turn off the tech.

Too much screen time can be harmful to children. Set boundaries and expectations for your child to help them engage in activities that don’t involve screens or still get them out of doors. Inside or outside, the best activities can help improve your child’s mental well-being and provide the tools they need to thrive.

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