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30 Screen-Free Activities Your Kids Will Actually Want to Do

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I am a horrible mother. At least that’s the phrase that reverberates in my brain when I think about the amount of time my daughter spends on technology. OK, I guess I am not THAT horrible, since I am mindful of this sad fact and that I care. I would be a far more sucky caregiver if I didn’t notice or if I just didn’t mind.

Kids really do not need a guide to be kids. But with all the television viewing, movie watching, video game playing, Minecrafting, iPad’ing, iPhone app fiddling, and other hi-tech this, that and the other — our kids are missing out on those oh-so-fleeting moments of childhood and trading them for a virtual existence. They are forgetting — or simply not learning — what it’s like to be a human child living in the real world. And you know what? That sucks.

While keeping the kid preoccupied with these devices may be a quick fix for Mama, I have started to see side effects and they’re not pretty. She was grouchy, tired, and listless as she became way too dependent on technology. I started to freak out. What if she became a couch potato? What if her imagination was stunted? What if she hurt her eyesight? So. Many. Fears. Like a parent needs more of those, right?

I realized I had to do something to break this cycle that was leading to screen addiction. After picking up my 8-year-old from school, I broke the news to her: We would be doing a tech-free week. I was hoping that she would be excited about the challenge. To embrace this experiment! To hug me and tell me I was the best mom in the world for caring! But no, she pouted. She pouted a whole lot. She started to panic. But I was undeterred.

This summer we should let our kids embrace the dirty, messy, silly, skinned-knee-acquiring days of school break. As a reminder of what it’s like to be a kid, here are 30 things to do this summer for kids, and adults!

What will you do?

  1. Don’t bathe for three days in a row.
  2. Chase a butterfly and see where it leads you. (Just watch out for traffic.)
  3. Get so lost in a book that you forget to eat.
  4. Lay on the grass and try to figure out what shapes the clouds are making.
  5. Make a cake without using a recipe just to see how it turns out.
  6. Perfect the cartwheel.
  7. Climb a tree and go higher than you think you should.
  8. Have a water balloon fight and let your friend win.
  9. Send a letter to someone, anyone.
  10. Eat a bowl of ice cream without using utensils.
  11. Try to run as fast as you can.
  12. Save up all the pennies you can find during the summer. At the end, count them up and buy something.
  13. Invent something. Anything!
  14. Stare at a map. Try to pronounce all the states and countries. Pick one place that you want to go to and learn as much about it as you can.
  15. Make up a dance routine to your favorite song. Perform it for your friends.
  16. Plant something.
  17. Make dinner for your family. (Your parents will be stoked!)
  18. Write a poem rhyming the words “zoo,” “egg” and “three.”
  19. Go through all your stuff and donate the things you don’t need anymore to charity.
  20. Stay up way past your bedtime.
  21. Make up your own language. Try to use it all day long, no matter how much it annoys people.
  22. Learn 30 new words. Try to use them in everyday conversation as much as you can.
  23. Wear your pajamas all day.
  24. Earn a new nickname like “Scout,” “Huggie” or “Miss Sassypants.”
  25. Try a food you’ve never had before — the weirder the better.
  26. Build a fort and see how long you can keep it up. Bonus points if it stays upright beyond 48 hours.
  27. Play an old-school game like jacks, hopscotch or marbles.
  28. Have a staring contest with a cat. Try to win.
  29. Rearrange your room. If you don’t like the outcome, put it back the way it was.
  30. Stare at the stars and learn about a new constellation or two. Then makeup one of your own.
  31. Bonus: Last but not least, enjoy every single day!
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