Do you have school going kids? Are you grappling with the invasion of technology and the resultant electronic devices in your life? With technology being an unavoidable companion in the modern world where children middle school upwards have to use laptops to access their school work and make submissions, perhaps limiting and monitoring device time is the only way out. How about the very little ones though? Do they really need screen time? Where do you start and when do you stop? Are you struggling to find alternate ways to stimulate your kids? Our guest author, Radhika Sathaye- an eco warrior and a mother of two young kids- is back today with her practical tips on how to incorporate device free fun activities with your little ones to be truly eco friendly in your lifestyle!  

Recently we were on holiday in Lombok and it was super blissful because the beach, the pool and a few sand toys were more than enough for our children’s entertainment. Our kids were having a great time splashing in the water and eating sand; exploring and experiencing simple joys of nature.

The hard part though is once you’re back and in the routine. Given the hectic pace of our lives, we as parents are succumbing to the ever-rampant FOMO which has hit us all. Especially when it comes to our children’s routines. We spend hours planning playdates and organizing trips to indoor playgrounds because we are worried they might be bored at home. Newsflash! IT’S OK IF THE KIDS ARE BORED. Boredom will teach them to be creative. We don’t have to spend hours of our precious time organizing their entertainment.

Easier said than done! Because it’s hard to entertain them if it’s a rainy or hazy day or if the kids have skipped their naps. Even harder if you have two kids on separate schedules and maybe you just want the toddler to play at home while the baby naps. What does one do then? Our parents usually just left us alone to let us figure it out. But our kids are so used to structured play and an overload of external stimuli that they need some help to find their way.

All we need to do is to try and remember how we entertained ourselves as kids. So, I say let’s bring back simple fun. Things which they can do on their own or together with you. Fun which is device free and helps our children be independent and innovative. With no end goal but loads of fun 😊. These ideas are great especially for rainy days, for days when you want to get some work done or even for days of cancelled play dates.

MIND over MATTER

Start with the most fun, jigsaw puzzles. Yes, you heard that right. Challenging, stimulating and there are so many options to choose from. Blocks, puzzles and other hands-on toys that have long been mainstays of children’s play are still best at teaching some skills needed for success, according to a research review. Read the full article here.

I remember doing these a lot as kids and I know they are great for us adults too. Usually when I’m very cluttered in my head and need to refocus, I do a 500 or 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. That totally helps clear the mind. Plus, it’s something the whole family can do together. And it’s great even for holidays and for flights.

device free jigsaw puzzle and card games with kids
Mind over Matter- Engage your little ones with puzzles and card games to stimulate them

Card games are also great for kids. Our favourites are UNO, Go Fish and Too Many Monkeys. We started when my daughter was 2.5 because I felt she was old enough then to understand the concept. The maximum fun is of course shuffling and dealing the cards and taking them out of the box and putting them all back in. On repeat 😊.  

IMAGINE that

This could be anything that sparks our children’s imagination and creativity. One of our favourites is pretend play. Why is it great? According to a recent study, when children use toys to introduce possible scenarios or friends, the representation of multiple perspectives occurs naturally. Taking on different roles allows children the unique opportunity to learn social skills such as communication, problem solving, and empathy. Read the full article here.

Pretend play is great because they can dive deep and there are no limits to what they can imagine. You can choose from a range of options. Sometimes we make grocery lists on the back of old paper receipts, sometimes we give her dolls a massage and a bath, and sometimes we pack our bags to go on holiday or we visit the airport and get on a plane.

Our personal favourite is cooking. We all love to eat and cook so it’s a natural fit. We make a full game of it starting with what we plan to cook for our next dinner party. I bring out all the recipe books and then we choose a few recipes and then I read aloud and say what we need for the recipe. My daughter then makes a grocery list and she brings all her fruits and vegetables and then we cook with her kitchen set. Once it is ready we feed Goldilocks and the bear family and it’s a super fun game. Sometimes I also get some grains of rice and pasta and some real fruits and vegetables to make it interesting and it feels like we are cooking for real.

pretend play with kids device free
Pretend play- Shopping, baking, traveling, cooking. They love it all! Join them to bring out the child in you :-).

We can do this for hours and the amazing thing is that it’s great for building their vocabulary and also for highlighting everyday cooking terms like sautéing, stir frying, roasting, grilling, chopping etc. I also ask her to help me when I’m baking cakes or biscuits for her school snacks. Simple things like lining the baking tray with butter, arranging fruit on the cake and then dusting flour on the baking tray.

Real life scenarios are the best part of pretend play and as a result, the possibilities are endless. All you have to do is go with the flow. Pretend play is also great for their development because kids love it when you take them seriously. The trick is to let go and forget that you’re pretending.

The SOUND of MUSIC

“Where words fail, music speaks.” ― Hans Christian Andersen

This rings so true in our home and it’s always our easiest go to. Music is also great for calming the kids and it’s the perfect way to destress and bond with them. A recent study found that babies who participate in interactive music activities with their parents smile more, communicate better and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music. Reason enough to start! Read full article here.

free play Music for kids
The sound of music: Music is the perfect way to bond with your bubs

Try a few basic instruments like the drum and maracas and see how your baby responds to them and then move on to the rest. Luckily both my kids love the drums, or maybe they just like banging on things so music is a really popular activity. You can also pretend to be a band and sing and play all the nursery rhymes and you can keep a nursery rhymes book handy in case you aren’t sure of the lyrics. As a variation you can also bring out all the steel plates and wooden spoons from the kitchen and let the kids have fun with them. If all else fails, there’s always Baby Shark.

BOOKed

An all-time favourite in our home and in most homes I’m sure. Books, an easy win for all.! According to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime. Read full article here.

device free Books stimulate kids
Books, books, books: There’s nothing like books

I’ve grown up in a home where not just my parents but even my grandparents, uncles and aunts all loved to read and they still do. As a result, the passion for reading was stoked in me very early on in my childhood. When our kids were born, my husband was also very keen that they read so we started with black and white contrast books and then moved on to age appropriate story books. Thankfully my daughter really loves to read and there’s nothing we enjoy more, than curling up with a good book on a rainy day or a lazy Sunday.

Books are also great for their growing imagination because you can do funny voices, you can digress into an imaginary world, you can build your own sub plots and it’s something kids really love. One of our all-time favourites is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. These are real stories about great girls and women, not princesses who need to be rescued by a handsome prince. This was a gift from my sister-in-law and it was also recommended by a close friend who reads it to her son. I couldn’t recommend it enough and I suggest that whether it’s toddler boys or girls, both should read them.

We have also started changing the endings of all the fairy tales and instead we paint realistic pictures along the lines of, king and queen go to office or king and queen don’t live in a castle but in a condo and raise their kids while balancing work and life. I’m hoping she gets it 😊.

COLOUR me true

My daughter has always loved painting and colouring so if she just wants to hang at home, we bring out the paint sets, crayons and brushes and sit in our balcony to colour and paint. And instead of buying paper we just use recycled paper (back of receipts and spam post).

device free activity for kids Colouring books
Coloring is another apt way to keep your toddler happy

I find painting and colouring really cathartic and it’s also a great way to give the kids complete creative freedom. It’s also a good idea to just let them be while they do it which is why we usually choose to sit in the balcony. No matter how messy it gets you’re not worried! Alternately you can also spread out a picnic mat in the living room and get the kids to sit on it and paint. Or you could get them to sit in the bathroom and paint. Super easy to clean after!

You also get books with watercolours embedded in them and these are great in case you want to paint on the dining table while they eat their meals and want to avoid a big mess.

Get WET time

If you can’t go for a swim then the next best thing is to create the experience at home. I usually put a bathing suit on my daughter which is super exciting for her and then we fill the tub and give all the animals a bath. I also give her empty shampoo and body wash bottles and she loves to fill them up and then pour the water out. This can go on for hours 😊.

device free water play for kids swimming and getting wet
Free play in water will almost always be a winner to engage little ones

Water play of any kind is great for them because it’s also calming and relaxing and it’s something they can do independently. For added fun you can also bring some sand toys and water guns to the bathroom and ask the kids to wash the bathroom walls. Word of warning though, this can get super messy if they can reach the shower handle and there have been a few times when I’ve come back to the room and found everything soaked! That’s my cue to get in there with them and splash away 😊.

Fun Rules 😊

  1. Reuse – Don’t spend too much money on these. Try and use what you have lying around at home. Think food containers, empty shampoo bottles and steel ware.
  2. Organize – Store toys in different baskets so that they are easy to find and this way the kids will also be able to distinguish between each activity. You will get a sense of what the kids like to play with and an added bonus is that it’s easier to clean up.
  3. Recycle – We have a drawer in the living room which even my daughter can access and this is filled with spam post, grocery receipts, and delivery receipts. Every time she wants to paint or colour, she goes and gets “special paper” from this drawer.
  4. Let go – If your kids are older, this is a great way to teach them independence and how to play responsibly. Make sure they are safe and then leave them alone. Don’t helicopter parent.

Related Articles:

Handy tips on how to make your kids nursery eco-friendly

Radhika Sathaye
Radhika is a writer, a creator and a storyteller. She is a communications and marketing professional with over 10 years of experience. A declutter enthusiast, and a self-confessed naturalist, she loves anything eco-friendly and has been living it up in sunny Singapore since 2010.

3 Comments
  • Thanks for tips, We have young one (9 months old) who loves to play outdoors. We want to keep him engaged when winter comes without us getting mad. Will looks for creative ways to teach him new things

    • Thanks Tom. Since you have a 9 month old, you must have a look at Radhika’s article with tips on how to do up the little one’s nursery in an eco-friendly manner. Link here

  • Excellent. Very well written. Very very happy to realise that the next generation is on the right track and all will be fine with the future world.
    The invasion of technology and devices has taken place at such a pace that the mind is continuously in a state of whirl.
    As righty pointed out it is going to be impossible to keep these away from gen x, gen y, gen z, and so on. Technology and devices are very much going to become a part of your day to day life with IOT and AI just round the corner.
    So your article is very timely and will help parents to expose their children to ways and means of exploring their inner selves and not be totally dependent on artificially programmed and fed stimuli.
    Great Radhika. Feel proud that you have gone one step ahead in looking after kids.
    Keep it up and God bless.

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