Home Family First 11 bulletproof ways to get your kids away from their screens

11 bulletproof ways to get your kids away from their screens

8th October 2016
kids technology

One of my lovely offspring is an adventurer; she’s always looking to explore the great outdoors and gives most activities a go – rain or shine.

However, the difficulty I face is the complete lack of enthusiasm from my son. He’d happily stare at a screen all day and only venture out of the room for food or toilet breaks. Oh the joy!

Many a time I’ll hear the words ‘I’m bored!’ or ‘What can I do now?’ and when I suggest reading, playing Lego or practicing a musical instrument, it’s usually replied to with additional moaning and the rolling of eyes. Lovely.

According to a report by Play-Doh, kids are spending just eight hours a week playing outside – compared to the two days their grandparents enjoyed in the great outdoors.

The youngsters of 60 years ago spent more than 20 hours amusing themselves in outdoor play. But the image of today’s children glued to computer screens is well wide of the mark, according to the survey of 500 six- to nine-year-old children and 500 adults aged 60-65.

Nine out of ten children said they enjoy building or making things from scratch using raw materials.

So this got me thinking…

I must be able to come up with some great creative ideas to get my kids more active – even if I did end up bribing them!

So, over the last few months, I’ve been trialling some of them – here’s the ones that got my kids the most excited – and the most involved…

Here’s 11 things I found that got my kids off their screens without complaining too much…


  1. Prepare to get messy and get the crafts out!

Most kids like art and crafts – even when they get older. Capitalise on this by buying craft boxes and letting them loose on paints, glue, stickers etc…it will create a mess but this should buy you some time to get a few jobs done.

2. Not a gardener? Think outside the box!

Buy a birdhouse or feeder the kids can paint to hang up. The Works sell cheap products the kids can paint and I recently found this kit (above) in my local garden centre for less than £5.

This worked well for my 9 year old. For my 11 year old we let him burn the weeds in the garden with a weed burner.  Now he comes to us to ask if he can go and burn some weeds. I never thought I’d see the day!

3. Play a game 

The games we play range from tag to Pictionary, Articulate and my absolute favourite – Balderdash! We try to play once a month on a Sunday by setting aside an hour. The kids love it!

4. Send them to the shops

If your kids are a bit older (and you live near the shops), let them do a bit of shopping for you if you are running out of ingredients. Most kids like the idea of responsibility and I usually chuck in a couple of quid to let my son spent it how he wishes.

For my daughter we’ve got a post box down the road, so she’ll post a letter for me or I’ll give her another shopping list in the supermarket so she has to go and fetch items for me. Easy to reach ones of course!

5. Incentivise them

We’ve got a chores list drawn up (here’s one we had when they were really young) and here’s a list of the chores that they have now.

checklist-1316848_640_optTake out recycling; Burn weeds; Empty dishwasher; Clean windows in 2 rooms; Empty bins in bathrooms & bedrooms; Polish school shoes; Clean surfaces in kitchen; Tidy bedroom; Tidy lounge; Vacuum upstairs/downstairs; Polish wood surfaces; Clean inside of car; Load washing machine; Put shoes away in hallway; Clean sink area in downstairs loo; Strip bed sheets; Help put shopping away.

As you can see there’s plenty to keep them occupied and for each job completed they receive a £1, up to a maximum of £5 pocket money a week.

6. Get them communicating

Ask your child to call their grandparents or their friends for a chat. Your family would appreciate a phone call and their friends would be pleased to hear from them – and who knows, a play date might be arranged from it as well.

7. Put on a play

If you have more than one child, tell them that you want them to put on a 2 minute play and you’ll be coming to watch it in 15 minutes! Then leave them to it! Set a timer for 15 minutes and give them the ‘5 minute warning’ – they somehow like a countdown to having an audience!

They’ll have to decide on dialogue, props, etc You can give them the play to do (e.g. Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood etc) or they can make up their own play. If you have an only child, another idea is to ask them to make up a poem or a rap and memorize it to recite back to you.

8. Make a film

This works for older kids in particular – and yes, they’re using a screen but this is for educational purposes of course. So let them borrow a tablet to make a movie – there are some great free apps you can download to get them started (e.g. Videorama) that will allow them to edit their movie

9. Tidy their rooms with a difference

I give my kids precisely 4 minutes to tidy their room (up to a maximum of 15 mins) and then I do a room inspection. I pretend to be an army officer who walks round inspecting their rooms and they love it.

If they’ve done a particularly good job, reward them with a trip to the cinema or some extra pocket money.

10. Plan a day out

Pick a day in the diary and ask your kids to plan their perfect day out. It might be a trip to the beach to hunt for crabs or a visit to a museum in town, but let them plan it from start to finish, offering some guidance on the way – get them to think about the journey and what time you need to set off, how much money you’ll need, what you will eat etc..

11. Play shops!

Even big kids like playing shops and it’s great for getting them using coins and their brains for maths.

They could sell things from their room that they no longer play with – I usually end up buying them for between 10p and 50p and then take them to the charity shop if they don’t want them.

What ways do you try to get your kids away from the screens?

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Zena's Suitcase 12th October 2016 at 2:51 pm

My son went through a phase when you couldn’t get him away from a screen. I love these tips, as you have to keep trying to encourage better habits. I think my son has struck a balance now
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Rachel 10th October 2016 at 7:50 pm

These are all such fun ideas and I love the idea of decorating a bird feeder x

Cal at Family Makes 10th October 2016 at 11:07 am

Thanks for this great list. I find it so much harder as my kids get older to motivate them to do anything which doesn’t involve technology. This inspiration is just what I need!

admin 10th October 2016 at 12:16 pm

Thanks Cal ???

Ayesha Farhad 10th October 2016 at 9:24 am

This is such good post! I tend to give my son the phone/tablet every time he gets bored and its taking a toll on his learning now! and these are such helpful tips! definitely going to keep a few in mind!

admin 10th October 2016 at 11:08 am

Good luck Ayesha!

clairejustine 9th October 2016 at 8:44 pm

Great tips. I need to get mine to tidy there bedrooms!! I have 2 older ones and 2 younger ones. What worked for us was joining a running club. They work hard at there running to make them tired the they can play games 🙂 Youngest 2 have just joined and loving it so far..

admin 9th October 2016 at 9:03 pm

Great idea Claire – and great for their health too of course!

Kara 9th October 2016 at 8:11 pm

Days out are the way to get mine off screens although they do love being in the garden too


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