We have all read the negative effects of too much screen time on our kids which is why when it’s nearing bedtime and you’re looking for entertainment for your kids to fill the gap, you shouldn’t reach for a tablet or turn on the TV. Instead choose any of these screen-free alternatives before bedtime that cover all the bases.
We all know that too much screen time is not ideal, and although its tempting to put your kids on the couch in front of a 30-minute show or plop on the ground with a tablet, there are easy alternatives to helping them focus, learn, collaborate, and most-importantly, unwind before its time to start your bedtime routine.
I know that if I don’t steer my kids towards low-energy pre-bed activities, they’ll be too wound up to fall asleep quickly and will most likely be tossing and turning or worse, getting out of their beds and playing for the next hour.
If your kids need to burn off a little steam like mine usually do, plan for a high-energy activity first and then transition into low-energy, peaceful and a calm screen-free alternative that gets their body ready to fall asleep.
Whether you want to wind down with them or let them have time on their own, these ten screen-free alternatives cover all the bases.
BOOK CLUB BEFORE BEDTIME
This is a favorite bedtime routine staple in our house and I love to sit close to the kids to read and can feel them settling into a more peaceful and calm state of being.
Choose a chapter book, maybe even a favorite from your own childhood that you can read to your children, together. Depending on the length of the chapters and your kid’s interest each night, you may only read through one or two chapters but be sure to take a moment to review and talk about what you’ve read too!
An alternative to reading together is letting your kids have “book club” on their own where they scour books – reading and looking at pictures – alone or together with a sibling. You may even be sitting in the same room reading your own book as part of book club.
SCHEDULE TIME FOR PAMPERING
Host a spa night at home with your kids, complete with manicures, pedicures, foot soaks, hair braiding and goopy face masks.
You probably already have all the supplies to whip up an hour of spa treatments. If you’re brave enough, let your kids paint your nails for a couple giggles.
A lot of homemade products already in your fridge can be used too – lemon, honey, avocado, oatmeal, and more!
PAJAMA WALK AT DUSK
Family walks at night are one of our favorite ways to unwind.
Loading the kids up in their pajamas in the stroller, wagon or sometimes on their bikes and head outdoors for a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood. It really helps children to unwind when they can get fresh air, and it gives parents time to talk and reconnect with each other after a long day.
Being able to get outdoors at dusk sends subliminal signals that the sun has gone to bed and now that it’s getting dark, it’s bedtime for your children as well. You may notice several yawns along the walk which proves why nighttime walks are so effective!
FLASHLIGHT HIDE & SEEK
What kid isn’t obsessed with flashlights at nighttime? What adult isn’t??
Head outdoors, probably in your backyard so no one is running in the street in the front yard, for a quick and fun game of flashlight hide and seek. Everyone hides while one person with a flashlight counts. When he gets to 10, he’ll start seeking everyone out and the first person he finds by shining the flashlight on them is the next seeker.
Make sure to use bug spray in the summer months to avoid bug bites. (We love the Babyganics Insect Repellent which doesn’t have a strong or terrible smell!)
INSIDE (OR OUT) MINI CAMP OUT
Set up your tent inside (or outside) where your kids can go to play with their toys or read a book (maybe even with a flashlight) to settle down for the night. This two-person easy-up tent takes us two-minutes to set-up and take-down but gives the kids hours of playtime!
While it may not be a complete overnight camp out – unless you want it to be – being able to play in the tent makes it feel like a special occasion. This Kid’s Play Camping Set really lets kids imagine the real thing and sparks their creativity.
GLOW STICK DANCE PARTY
Turn off the lights, snap some glowsticks, crank up the tunes and dance that little extra burst of energy out!
I have a kid-friendly playlist on my phone but I can also easily turn to a kid-friendly station on Pandora that has catchy and fun songs for them to really move their bodies.
Be sure to clear the floor and get pets and toys out of the way when they really start getting silly!
SLOW THINGS DOWN WITH A PUZZLE
We’ve been in a huge puzzle phase for the last year and I couldn’t be happier about it.
The kids have progressed from 10 and 20-piece puzzles to 50 and 100-piece puzzles that each take up to 30-minutes to put together. Seeing the determination to get the puzzle done before bedtime is wonderful, but the excitement when they’ve finished it, is pure happiness (and a confidence booster too!)
Puzzles are a great low-energy screen-free alternative that allows your children to work on their own or collaborate with a sibling or two. It’s a quiet and restful activity before bedtime while still stimulating their brain.
Baking together doesn’t have to be hard with little kids. You can make muffins, cookies, homemade ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries or egg muffins together.
Aim for quick baking items that include no more than 4 or 5 ingredients which is just right for their interest and attention span.
Children don’t want to bake just because it’s fun, they want to bake to spend time together and to also feel helpful. Creating something together that they can eat after wards is only a bonus. These mother and daughter matching aprons are cute and when my daughter and I wear them, it makes her over-the-top happy.
Find a handful of things you can bake together and once a week or once a month, spend one-on-one time together whipping up something yummy in the kitchen.
ARTS & CRAFTS
Pull out the coloring books, crayons, pens, craft supplies and have an hour of crafts whether structured or unstructured to let little imaginations create, draw, paint, build and design something to hang in the house.
Bonus! Coloring for adults is also a stress reducer and can be calming and peaceful if you need to unwind as well. This great Mommy & Me Coloring Book has easy to color images with fun, encouraging phrases.
Other Quick Arts & Crafts Ideas
- Stringing necklaces and bracelets with beads or cereal
- Play Doh
- Sensory Play with Shells, Rocks, Rice and Water
LOOK AT OLD PHOTOS & BABY BOOKS
Take a stroll down memory lane together and check out old pictures, baby books, home videos, and talk about your own childhoods and growing up when you were a kid yourself. Not only will they absolutely love it, but so will you.
When is the last time you watched home videos of your kids as babies or their first birthday? Tell the kids about the first year of their lives or trips you took with them as they were too young to remember.
More Activities for Kids:
- Ultimate List of 40 Best Family Night Ideas to Try With Kids
- FREE Nature Scavenger Hunt PDF Printable
- List of 98 Kid-Approved Indoor Activities for Kids on School Break/Closure
- School Break Plan for Parents & Kids
- 25 Fun Ways to be a More Playful Parent with Your Kids
- The Best Inside Activities for Entertaining High-Energy Kids
- How to Create a Positive Home (And Why this Will Affect Your Kids Forever)