Before going any further, let’s unpack that title- yes, it’s ways to distract kids without a screen but that also includes the parent. Despite being in the presence of a loved one, it’s easy to get distracted by devices, such as phones or tablets. So this isn’t necessarily a list of things that will get a kid to quiet down and run off, so much as it is a list of things that can be done together and make a memory. Because no one remembers a time they were playing a phone game, even if it ends up accounting for months of your life.
So it’s fine to whip out that phone to take some pictures of all the cuteness, but don’t let that turn into checking social media. Don't be distracted by a screen for, I don’t know- maybe an afternoon? Maybe charge that device in another room… and on silent? Wow- good thing these activities are super fun.
20 Cooking Together
Is there a more useful activity that also makes such wonderful memories? I’m all about folding laundry but face it, no one’s ever reminisced too fondly about folding socks with their parents decades after the fact. But you definitely remember where you learned to cook and exactly what you learned to cook. And someday not too far down the line, maybe your kid will even cook it for you. Whether you’re whipping out a family heirloom of a recipe or something cheesy and full of buffalo sauce you saw in a video (that’s the one exception for screens, but no checking other windows)- it’s a fun activity that's totally rewarding.
19 Build A Scarecrow Stuffed With Newspaper
This can be the least expensive decoration, like, ever. All you need are old clothes that someone’s grown out of and then maybe some dried leaves or other filler (wow- what a sneaky way to get your kids to clean up the yard with the promise of a fun craft), and if you’re all out for a rustic look, some hay. Really you just need to set it up on a pole- but if you have unused lawn furniture hanging out, feel free to pose these scarecrows.
Your yard now looks neater and more festive, hopefully your kid is exhausted and you haven’t looked at blue light for… an hour?
18 Make Apple Stamps
All of these activities are such fodder for your memory bank of sweet times with your kid. When you’re running low on hope and your teenager is stressing out over something or you're just at work and tired, think back to the times when you could slice an apple and dip it in paint for a good time. Younger children will need help with the designs for their apples, but that just means they’ll be even more fascinated by the results. Definitely don’t eat the apples afterwards, but if you get extra then you can simultaneously snack! The added bonus is all that messy kid art.
17 Rake Up Leaves
First off, if you live somewhere that the leaves change color… I’m envious. I’m all kinds of rusty hues and burnt oranges with envy. Chores can become fun if there’s a goal at the end (even a made up one) and everyone loves crunchy leaves. First for playing and then for jumping into piles of it - which is probably the most rewarding chore ever. And if you don’t live somewhere that the leaves change… I don’t know, go to the beach.
16 And Bring Home The Prettiest Ones To Make Leaf Rubbings
Before raking up the leaves, create a contest for who can find certain types of leaves. Not that there are set types- just make up categories. If you’re all over this, you can even make a really easy scavenger hunt with certain types of leaves. It doesn't necessarily have to be for any specific types of leaves, so much as the similarities the leaves have. And with little ones, you can obviously help them. But older kids might get super into this and competitive. Anyway, once you’ve found your winners you can preserve them with paper, crayons and a beloved piece of messy kid art that will brighten up your day years from now.
15 Or Iron Them Between Sheets Of Waxed Paper
Definitely handle the ironing for younger kids but honestly… this one can be a highly sneaky way to teach older kids chores.
It’s going about it in a way that doesn’t seem at all related to clothing, but you’re teaching them to handle the iron in a way that makes them comfortable and knowledgeable with it.
Maybe you can sneak in a pair of pants when you’re done… just while the leaves are cooling, you know? And just, so like, they know how to do it if they ever need to (hint: they will, even if they don’t believe that).
14 Make Your Own Planters With Seeds You Find
If there’s a seed that catches yours or your child’s eye, why not gently remove some seeds? You can even go out on walks in the neighborhood with this goal and bring along a baggie.
It’s super easy to make your own mini-planters at home- free, even.
Cut up toilet paper tubes and add a little soil (you can collect that as well while you’re out if you don’t have any) and put them on some kind of tray you won’t mind getting wet. Once your seeds are set in proper sunlight, you’ll have a fun science project at home.
13 Volunteer To Walk Dogs At The Local Shelter
Really revel in the crisp Autumn air with someone who loves absolutely everything- a shelter dog looking for a friend.
Their appreciation and enthusiasm will make this completely worth it and animal shelters are almost always looking for volunteers.
This one might not be possible with younger children or children who are afraid of dogs, but you can impart a really great bond between animals and your children by taking the time to cheer up shelter animals. It’s also important that they see how precious a pet is and who knows- you might even meet your newest family member while on the job.
12 Make Your Own Jewelry
Sure, jewelry is associated with being expensive but no one’s asking you to pull a Kardashian and have your baby’s name written in platinum on a diamond. Even if you did that, pretty sure you and your kid wouldn’t be doing it together so… no go for this topic.
Children’s jewelry can be made with any kind of yarn, leather string or anything that can be threaded- that could mean beads or you could get really creative with it, like in this picture.
That obviously took some skills but it definitely doesn’t look pricy at all to recreate.
11 Visit An Orchard
This one is definitely regional, but you might be surprised at how much closer an orchard is to you than you’d think. It’s worth a Google search, even if you’re positive there aren’t any. A ton of orchards will let you pick your own berries or apples and it really is fun for the whole family. A child of any age will love it and you’ll get pictures of so much autumnal family bonding and they’ll absolutely be exhausted by the end of the day. And then you can cook something up later! Or just munch on berries on your drive home.
10 Collect Pine Cones For Crafts
Hello, free fun! We’re here to dive in- there are so many resources online that are just ideas for what you can do with pinecones and they’re mostly kid friendly.
Your kid will feel important and useful helping create decorations for the home and it’s a fun, easy way to spend time as long as you put something down to catch excess paint.
I don’t even want to limit your creativity by saying what kind of crafts you should do with pinecones because the possibilities are endless. It goes without saying but this is a craft that also requires a Fall stroll so you’re welcome- more time and energy consumed.
9 Have A Free Draw Session
Guided crafts are really fun, but why not just remove all restrictions and let everyone do whatever? That can mean drawing animals or drawing each other. If you’re a trained artist, sure feel free to offer up some lessons but for the rest of us clumsy pedestrians, just let loose and have fun coloring and drawing with your kids.
You might be really surprised by the quality of conversation you two enjoy together when you’re technically working on something else.
It’s also a nice time to listen to music together or just be quiet and work on your own things.
8 Read To Them
What makes learning and reading more fun than doing it with your parents? There’s just no better incentive. Whether your kids are old enough to know how to read or if they’re still learning or if they don’t know how to read at all, you’ll have a great time reading to them. It’s just naturally soothing- who doesn’t like to be read to? You can also “popcorn read” or pick on someone to read when the reader gets tired. This works for all ages and stages of readers since one kid making their way with aid through a sentence can be just as rewarding as another kid flying through a page.
7 Go On A Walk To Play I Spy
In between all your leaf collecting and craft making, there’s so much opportunity to go on walks and enjoy your scenery. That may be difficult in more urban areas, but there’s almost always a little patch of nature somewhere. You can keep your eyes open for certain types of birds (and not even species so much as a color- like very amateur bird watching) or people of different professions or even cloud shapes if it’s warm enough to lay down. What’s important is you’re spending time together and you’re not just exercising, but your working your imaginations. That’s everything fun and wonderful about childhood in one activity.
6 Or Find A Great Hill To Roll Down
While you’re out and about, don’t be afraid to get a little messy. Sure, hill rolling might leave your hair with some twigs in it but it’s definitely worth it. This might be difficult in areas that are incredibly flat, but usually there’s at least one good hill somewhere. It might take some looking, but that’s part of the fun of it all. Go on a hill hunt and test out which one is best to fly down. This intel will come in handy later in the year when you’re looking for sledding hills… you’ll already have some good ones scoped out.
5 If You've Got A Few People, Play Ghost In The Graveyard
There’s so many outdoor games that are really fun for older kids and can be a great way to break the ice between families. Maybe they're your friend’s kids or the kids of a nearby family you’ve been meaning to get to know; some structured fun that involves teams, flash lights and running around is a great way to take down barriers and have fun. Plus, it’s an evening activity that’s just begging for hot cocoa or cider afterwards which is a great opportunity to get to know each other a little better.
4 Play Board Games
Board games can be pricey, but they don’t need to be. Thrift stores sell gently used ones and especially for younger kids, it doesn’t matter if they’re missing some pieces. You can get imaginative and rustle up some coins or buttons or really anything to make do.
If you do have a beloved board game, teaching your kids the rules of it while keeping the pressure low can be a really great environment to teach kids about winning and losing well (especially if your little one isn't super interested in sports).
Plus, you’re teaching them about something you care about which is always a good time.
3 If You're Really Creative, Make Your Own
These awesome chess boards were made by ironing little beads designed specifically for the purpose into a checkerboard.
You can definitely make your own version of a pre-existing game, especially if you’ve got a creative kid then they might really relish making up the rules to their own game.
Instead of you teaching them, they’ll be teaching you the rules to their game. There’s collecting pieces, making the board game out of whatever you feel like and then writing down the rules into a guidebook, which can be as fancy as you want. The rules might not all make sense, but it’ll definitely be fun.
2 Make A Classic Handprint Turkey
The hand turkey is a classic for a reason. You can keep it simple and do all kinds of finger painting while you’re at it, but most kids will have a really good time painting their hands and going to town on a piece of printer paper. Sure, there’s the issue of preventing them from running around, grabbing things with those paint-covered hands so this might be a better outdoor activity. It might seem like an overly simple activity to an adult but for a kid, these things are new and don’t need to be taken for granted.
1 Make A Memory Book Of Your Child's Crafts
This may be something your kids want to help out with and it might be something you work on while they do their own thing. For the sake of neatness, but also to preserve these awesome memories you put so much work into- why not compile them all into a kind of scrapbook? You can add pictures if you have those, but a crafts book can be another kind of memory keeper that preserves their work. It’s no baby picture of them in a tub, but it’ll be just as fun to show off years down the line when they’re older.
Sources: FirstPalette.com, NaturalLivingIdeas.com, Instagram.com.