Preparing for Screen Free Week: 20 Ideas to Help You Stay Unplugged

This post is by editor Kara Fleck.

Next week is Screen-Free week.  The purpose of the week is to encourage families to turn off the tv, unplug, and spend the week “free” of the screens in their lives.

Turn off your TV April 18 – 24th

From the Screen-Free Week website:

“Screen-Free Week is a national celebration where children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days turning off entertainment screen media and turning on life.  It”s a time to unplug and play, read, daydream, create, explore, and spend more time with family and friends.”

My family isn”t a TV-free household, and I don”t want to give that impression, but we do limit the television we watch, especially for the kids.

Aside from football season and IndyCar, and my love of watching Bones and Project Runway on Hulu, the TV isn”t a main source of entertainment for the adults in our house and so it isn”t for the kids.

But, as I admitted on Rockin” Granola this week, computer screen time and cell phone screen time are both things I could probably stand to give myself a more restrictive diet of.  Ahem.  (I was going to call this a side effect of being a blogger, but I have to admit that would just be making an excuse.)

However, we do observe TV-Free week every year as a family. I cover up our television with a tablecloth and the set stays off all week long.

I”ll be honest, even though we talk about it ahead of time and with the limited amount of television we watch to begin with, my family isn”t always exactly thrilled at the start of the week. But by the end of the week, we”re  glad that we took some time to be together and unplug from the television set this way.

20 Alternatives to Television

Here are a few tips and suggestions for turning the TV off next week.  Even if you don”t go “cold turkey” I would encourage you to at least keep the television set off in the evenings and spend that time together as a family.

1. Take a Walk When we first started cutting back on the amount of television we watched as a family, taking an after-dinner walk was a helpful step for us.  Instead of flipping on the set to catch the news, which then led to the evening sitcoms, we kept the television off after dinner and took a family walk instead.

2. Clean Up and Declutter Yes, doing household chores is not the most fun and cleaning isn”t going to top anybody”s list of exciting things to do.  However, you”ve got to tidy up anyway and even mundane chores are more fun when done together. Just think how neat and organized your home could be after a week spent together decluttering if everyone chipped in and did it together.

3. Make Bracelets. Craft Hope has announced their newest project.  Project 12 is an Orphan Outreach project and this time Craft Hope is asking crafters to make handmade bracelets.  They can be woven, hemp, beaded, or fabric, as long as they are handmade.  Go to the Craft Hope site for more details, gather your supplies, and then spend some time next week creating bracelets for a good cause.

4.Hang Up a Bird Feeder Our window bird feeder has become one of the highlights of our Spring so far.  The birds actually come and eat breakfast with us, right outside the window in our dining room.  We purchased our bird feeder, but you could certainly make a bird feeder, too.  Go to your local library and pick up a bird identification bird and learn about your feathered neighbors.

5. Speaking of the local library … Have a Family Read-a-Loud Why not pick a book and spend the evenings taking turns reading it out loud to each other?

6. Shake things up in the kitchen Learn some new recipes, try some new to your family cuisines, make something from scratch you might not have considered before (what about graham crackers and marshmallows?)  Try out some ice cream recipes and come up with a signature family flavor.  Make next week the week you ramp up your culinary skills and play in the kitchen.

7. Look Up Become star gazers for a week.  Observe a week”s worth of sunsets.  See what you notice about the weather without the local TV weatherman filling you in.

8. Create a large piece of art together as a family This is something that has been on my personal bucket list for a while now.  Perhaps next week will be the week we create that giant family painting I”ve been dreaming of?

9. Grow Something How are those Spring gardening plans coming along?  Start some seeds together or purchase a few new houseplants and spend some time learning about them.  Start a container garden on your kitchen window sill or plant some some culinary herbs for your kitchen adventures (see idea number six).

10. Board Games When was the last time you played monopoly?  Checkers? Or Apples to Apples?

11. Paper Games Tic tac toe, hangman, crossword puzzles, word searches are all favorites.  Head here for a few more ideas.

12. Do some dandelion painting These yellow flowers with the bad reputation have been popping up all over my neighborhood.  If they are invading your area, too, why not turn them into some art?

13. Jigsaw puzzles They come in a variety of themes and levels of difficulty, so you can really cater to your individual family.  Get out the card table and work some puzzles together.

14. Family Lego Creation contest Assign a theme to each day and see who can come up with the most creative invention. Head over to the Lego Quest blog for some ideas to get you started.

15. Explore your neighborhood. Become a local tourist.  Go into that little shop or cafe you”ve been meaning to step into every time you pass by.  Learn the names of those trees that line main street.  Visit your town”s museum.

16. Have picnic In the park, in your backyard, or on your living room floor.

17. Look through family photo albums

18. Make a sock puppet for each member of your family This one has some hilarious potential, don”t you think?  And, you will make good use of those solo socks that have been hanging around your laundry room.

19. Go See the Game One of the things I loved  that Dr. Thomas Cooper suggested during this past week”s session on kids and media was to go SEE the game instead of watching it on television.  Get out there and DO stuff together!

20. Call Grandma and Grandpa or Great Aunt Ester. Even better, if it is possible, go visit them.  They would love it and how many times have you been telling yourself that you”ve been meaning to drop in on them anyway?  This is the perfect week to do it.  Make a phone call, bring them a meal, and enjoy each others company.

Bonus Ideas:

Even if going TV-Free doesn”t become a habit, perhaps you could make this week the start of an annual family TV turn off tradition?  Have a great time!

Will you be going TV-free next week? Or, if you are already a TV-free family on a permanent basis, I”d love to hear your tips about how you transitioned to becoming a TV-free family and I”m sure other readers would, too. Here”s to unplugging!

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. After last years TV free week we got rid of cable. We still have the TV, but it’s for watching movies as a family mainly. We love to do puzzles, read books aloud our favorite has been the Little House on the Prairie series. We head over to our neighborhood playground after dinner too.

    I will say that ever since winter time and being ill with flu bugs we have had a lot more screen time than I would have liked. This comes at a perfect time to get back on track with cutting back on TV viewing. And also now that it is getting warmer we will be outside a lot more. Happy TV Free Week Kara!
    Rana´s latest post: This Moment

  2. These are great ideas! Our family especially loves board games and baking together. I’m pretty sure I can get the Lego building contest idea to take off in our house too.
    Kimberly´s latest post: Should Your Baby Nap in a Light or Dark Room

  3. I’m still on the fence about screen-free week. Last week I “fasted” from the computer for three days and it was SO GOOD for me.

    As an alternative to screen time, I was thinking about doing some listening to radio programs together with my kids. That way we can multi-task if we like–maybe do artwork or a craft at the same time. Or not. They might just be riveted if we can find a good story on the air.

  4. I just barely finished a screen-free week on Tuesday. How refreshing! We don’t have a TV, but since I work from home and can’t leave the apartment, I had had one too many “computer comas” (as I call them) and I was just done. I had my husband change the internet password and simply not enter it on my computer. Ta-da: no internet.

    It was hard at first. My mind kept wandering to all the cool internet things I was sure that I was missing. But then, it didn’t matter that much. After only a few days, I didn’t really want to get back online. I told my husband it felt like I was waking up after being asleep for a long time. Then, when I finally could go back online earlier this week, I was having a hard time finding things to look up.

    Taking time away from screens is one of the best things we can do to simplify and make the most of our days. Thanks for all the great ideas! Good luck to anyone who is undertaking this challenge; it is hard, but it puts so much into perspective.
    Jennie´s latest post: Simplicity Is Not a Phase

  5. I just love all of these suggestions and I really appreciate you letting us know about this! We are not a tv free zone but my kids are a bit older and I find that they are so busy with homework, sports and youth group activities, our “screen time” has really decreased naturally. We are a huge board game family so we will be spending a little more time in that department! 🙂
    Paula@Simply Sandwich´s latest post: Busy Weeknight Meal

  6. We are a TV-free family, but I don’t really have advice about how to make the transition because my children have never lived with a TV. I actually think that makes things much easier for me. I have friends who have made the transition, and I know it’s a lot more challenging when the kids are used to watching it. I’m actually really impressed with families who are able to make that shift!
    Two Chicks and a Hen´s latest post: This Moment

    • Oh, and I should add that while the kids don’t spend much time with screens, I, on the other hand, have a horrendous internet habit, mostly when they’re asleep. I took a 48 hour computer break a month or two ago, and it was amazing.
      Two Chicks and a Hen´s latest post: This Moment

  7. We are participating in our 1st screen free week! I am a little nervous. Please hop over to my blog and give me some useful ideas/activities. We are going to need it 🙂 Thanks!
    Courtney´s latest post: Screen-Free Week-Ready or Not

  8. Wow- timely post for me! We have been using a modified tv-free schedule with our kids since January. It was at that time that I realized I was depending on “tv time” too much- to get the dinner made, or when their behavior was kind of crazy…it actually never seemed to help them calm down and even had the opposite effect. When I said “Let’s go watch a show” one day and my 18 month old threw up her arms and said “Hooray!” I knew it was time for a change.

    The transition was a bit tough (they associated being in our basement with always watching tv), but now they are treated to a kid-friendly movie once a weekend and it makes it more special.

    Not sure we’ll stick with this plan forever, but it has helped us break a cycle.

  9. Great timing for Holy Week for those who celebrate Easter.

  10. We’ve been tv-free for years now. But my eldest and I could use a break from the computer/ipod screens and were planning on it already. These are great ideas. Thanks!
    Spalva´s latest post: Palm Sunday in Vilnius

  11. A really fun way to celebrate Earth Week! I’ll be sharing on our blog and Facebook Page. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Our family is celebrating, and I’m trying to put together some ideas on my blog for others parents who are going screen free too. Thanks for this great website. I’d love to see the giant art work piece process!
    Lindsey Whitney´s latest post: Best Board Games


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