We live in a virtual, transient, whirlwind world of ‘likes,’ hashtags, Tik Tok debuts, Insta influencers, fake news and conspiracies.
Social Media and screen time: some of the most controversial subjects out there. The topic has been very negatively highlighted as of recent, and we have all been encouraged to take a step away from our phones.
As is the case with most things, there are both good and bad aspects when it comes to screen time. Social media and devices can be used as a platform to promote businesses, share achievements, and connect long distance friends and families. However, devices and social media hold many an antagonistic connotations, including a decline in face to face socialisation and a counteracting of self-confidence.
Combine the lock-down of the past few months with the impending dark nights of winter taking their toll, and it is an almost natural reaction to reach for a device to aid those long, often boring evenings.
While it is often an easy option to give a child a device to cull their clamours for games and music, it can be detrimental to their social skills and mental well-being in the long run. For older kids, the attraction of devices tends to come in the form of social media. We should endeavour to limit the time our children spend on phones and devices. Not only can excessive screen time cause health issues such as headaches, eye conditions and repetitive strain injury, it can also fuel the fire in the mental health crisis.
Even if it’s just one evening a week, encourage the family to turn off their phones. Some swear by gathering the household phones in a box during family tea times each day, whereas others strive to achieve a whole day without devices on a weekend. There will inevitably be grumbles at first, and not to mention prolonged sighs of, ‘It’s not faaaaaaaaaaair!’ but the benefits will be worth the initial battle!
Below are some ideas for a device-free few hours, whatever the age, whatever the time of year, whatever the weather!
9 Fab & Free Things To Do Instead of Playing On A Phone/ Device: Younger Children
1. Build a den. Rip cushions from the sofas, drape blankets over chairs, hang up a ‘NO ADULTS’ sign, and construct an impressive fort fit for royalty!
2. Go for a walk in the rain and jump in puddles. Is there a more liberating feeling than running towards a big puddle, wellies on, while the rain pelts you from all angles? And the best part? Getting home and cosy with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate afterwards!
3. Bake cupcakes - the more elaborately decorated, the better! Plain sponge cupcakes are yummy, but why not try adding some fresh strawberries as a topping, or a handful of chocolate chips to the mixture? You will be the most popular member of the family in no time at all! If you’re feeling particularly daring, you could even make some cupcakes with a difference… In the garden! Mud pies are a staple element of childhood freedom! Will your topping of choice be a conker, or a yucky, rotten cooking apple?! Remember to wash your hands with lots of soap afterwards – and don’t let big bro mistake your gruesome grub for chocolate brownies!
4. Read a book. Discover the ultimate childhood classics, such as The Tiger Who Came To Tea, The Gruffalo, and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
5. Write a story. Will you got for a spooky ghost story, or a fantasy adventure packed with mythical creatures and monsters?
6. Make a collage. Take a stroll and collect as many natural materials as you can find to create your ultimate masterpiece. Things like pine cones, twigs and pretty leaves always look fantastic. Don’t forget to ask a grown-up to share them with Parallel Parents so we can show them off!
7. Play hide & seek: quite possibly the most fun and underrated game of all time! You will all be giggling hysterically in no time as Dad tries to squeeze himself into the washing-up basket in a bid to hide! If you have a dog, don’t forget to include them in the game, too! Most dogs love to join in and snuffle out their beloved owners, so if you’re the seeker, they’re a good addition to have onside!
8. Have a good old fashioned disco! Turn the music up L-O-U-D and clear the living room (AKA the dance floor!). Can you teach Grandad how to floss?!
9. Indulge in a spot of afternoon tea at the teddy bear’s picnic. Bag the best spot in the house, line up your trusty teddies and indulge in a veritable feast! Don’t forget the honey sandwiches – they’re a bear’s favourite snack!
8 Fab & Free Things To Do Instead of Playing On A Phone/ Device: Older Children
1. Read a book. David Walliams is perhaps one of the most popular authors for older primary school children. Packed with David’s wickedly unique sense of humour, his stories will engulf children into a world of whacky make-believe. Francesca Simon’s famous Horrid Henry series and Roald Dahl’s works are also timeless hits!
2. Find a cosy corner and listen to the rain against the window. Take a break from homework and SATs prep and enjoy the simplicity of doing nothing.
3. Get your Great British Bake Off on and conjure up a cake! Feeling extra adventurous? Why not try your hand at making bread, or a pastry? When it comes to culinary creations, there are no limits!
4. Devise a quiz and get the whole family involved. Why not theme your quiz around a much loved topic, such as football, Disney, or animals?
5. Become an out of this world explorer and learn about the solar system. Grab a telescope or a pair of binoculars, and see how many cool constellations you can spot in the night sky!
6. Participate in sports day! Who says you need the school field or local park to show off your relay skills?! Old household items can make surprisingly good obstacles – use your imagination! Upturned paint cans topped with brooms make wicked jumps, and old Beanie Baby teddies can be used during the beanbag race. Just make sure you ask a grown-up before stealing all of the eggs for your egg and spoon race!
7. Think up an amazing new invention! Design something never seen before, and list all of the materials you would need to make it. How about a re-producing biscuit tin, so you never need to be out of Jaffa Cakes again? Or what about a self-making bed, so Sunday morning chores take half the time?! See you on The Apprentice!
8. Hunt for mini-beasts! The average garden is bursting with all kinds of awesome bugs, from beetles and bees, to worms and woodlice! Have an adult devise a Bug Bingo for you, and head out to see how many you can spot! If you like, you can also make notes on the habitats of the different creatures, noting whether they seem to prefer leaves or soil, or dark or light conditions. Remember to be extra careful if handling bugs, as although they often look a little bit scary, we are a lot bigger than they are, and we may frighten them!
8 Fab & Free Things To Do Instead of Playing On A Phone/ Device: Teenagers
1. Show off make-up skills by giving the ladies of the family a make over! Whether contouring is your thing, or you’re a whizz at nail art, this your time to shine! (Is Dad brave enough to join in?!)
2. Read a book. When I was a teen, I loved Louse Rennison’s books, which had me in absolute stitches! Jacqueline Wilson is another author who manages to hit teen life on the head with each and every book, bravely discussing a variety of very real topics such as divorce and bullying. Of course, we’ve all seen the Harry Potter movies, but have you read the books? Dig out a copy, and prepare to get lost in the wonderful world of imagination!
3. Host a footy tournament in the garden! Rope in the fam, and if permitted, invite your friends round for a kick about. See if Mum will prepare half time refreshments, and perhaps Dad could even be referee! You don’t need 11 players per side to enjoy the beautiful game – even if your numbers are just two, you can enjoy penalty shoot-outs until you drop!
4. Embrace your inner ‘zen’ and have a clear out of your bedroom. Ransack those cupboards and rid them of unwanted junk. You could even donate your old items to a charity shop as a good deed. Once this is done, you could even re-arrange furniture and trinkets to create a whole new space to chill in.
5. Kickstart your music career. Keen musician? Go solo, or start a band with mates! Design a logo and chose an edgy name. Get practise perfect in time for your band’s next meet-up, and get ready to bag gigs at college, or a local establishment in the community!
6. Become the founder of a fashion show! We all have clothes we haven’t had the opportunity to wear this year, thanks to the restrictions of Covid-19. During such glum times, you don’t need a excuse to dress up and feel one million dollars.. Turn your hallway into a catwalk and wear your most cherished garments with pride!
This takes me back to when I was a teenager, and I would come home from a shopping trip with my friends and then spend the evening parading up and down the kitchen in my new outfits, showing them off to my Mum and Dad! (Looking back, I don’t think my Dad was as bowled over by my 3D Piglet slippers and glittery dresses as my Mum was, but he obliged to watch my one-women fashion show all the same!)
7. Ready, steady… COOK! As a teen, you are probably well accustomed to making cakes, so why not branch out and try something a little different? Plan a meal to cook for the fam, write a list of ingredients, and get your Master Chef on! Be sure to always take care in the kitchen, and wash your hands thoroughly before and after cooking to eliminate any nasty, lurking bugs! If you’re very confident, you might consider re-creating a ‘fake away,’ - think home-made pizzas, a flavoursome curry, or a tasty stir fry!
8. Write a bucket list. Covid-19 has put a stop to many of our much loved activities and has stood in the way of our travels, hopes and dreams. Now is the time to look to the future! Make a list of all of the things you want to do, and all of the places you want to go. What will be the first five things on your bucket list? Swimming with dolphins? Seeing the Great Wall of China? Visiting Mexico? Skydiving? Driving a car? Sometimes, making plans can have a really positive effect on our well-being, and it’s always an uplifting feeling to have something to look forward to, no matter how far in the future.
Cara Jasmine Bradley