We can't and shouldn't stop our children using gadgets altogether – they're so much part of our lives now - but sometimes the technological torrent can all get too much. If you're keen to unplug your kids from that tablet/ ipod/ TV/ Wii just a little bit more but lack inspiration, here are some hopefully rather different ideas to tempt them away from their screens.
FIND THE MOST EMBARRASSING OLD FAMILY PHOTOS COMPETITION
Dig out those long-neglected snaps – you know, the ones from films that you actually had to get developed and printed - from the attic and challenge your child(ren) to find the top three most embarrassing/ amusing ones from days of yore.
Prepare for much sniggering at your clothes and hair dos and comments of the 'but you looked soooo young there mum/ had hair then dad...' variety. You could add in a caption competition (albeit not involving writing on the photos) for some of them too.
CARDBOARD STAIR SLIDING
Fend off badday cabin fever with a stair slide. Unfold a large appliance box and lay it along one side of the staircase (those of a nervous disposition can use the bottom steps only, rather than the whole length. Those of a very nervous disposition should probably skip this activity altogether...). Stuff cushions/ rolled up blankets onto each step to smooth things under the cardboard so it doesn't buckle. Tape the cardboard to the step you use (use builders' masking tape as it's less likely to damage anything). Ensure there's a pile of soft bedding at the bottom to land on. Kids could race cars or balls down before sliding themselves.
BUILD A DOMINO RUN
Invite friends with their own dominoes over (you'll need quite a lot to make anything larger) and see how big a run they can create together. After they've got the hang of basic runs without knocking them down (top tip: leave strategic gaps and fill these in at the end so only a small part can tumble accidentally), they can make all sorts of features, including spirals, staircases and spelling out words.
You could pique their interest with a quick online video of some of the amazing runs made by domino experts – the core of the activity is still away from screens.
Obviously this is not one for the depths of winter but perfect for sunny summer holiday afternoons.
Grab some water pistols, soak a few kitchen sponges in a bucket, make water balloons, turn that garden sprinkler on (provided there isn't a hosepipe ban at the time), then chuck the kids outside in their swimwear and await the soggy mayhem. Water balloon catch is always fun. Don't forget to keep towels at the ready for afterwards.
LIFE SIZE SELF PORTRAITS
You'll need some very large paper for this – wallpaper lining is a good option and suitably thick so it's less likely to rip. One person lies down on the paper, whilst another draws their outline (avoid permanent marker pens for this job for obvious reasons!) Once that's done they can then draw on their own details self-portrait-style – eyes, mouth, clothing, before colouring in/painting away.
BAKE OFF 90
Move over Mary Berry: hold a home version of Bake Off with friends or relatives and a retro tea party session afterwards to judge who makes the best biscuits or the finest fondant fancies. Think pink lemonade, floral napkins, proper teapots and fancy cake stands to showcase their culinary creations.
Keen older cooks could take charge of making cakes for family birthdays on a regular basis – always appreciated.
Revolting and fascinating in equal measure: your kids will see how the furry white and green stuff develops and which foods get grossest quickest. Put different food scraps in clean jars that you won't want to re-use afterwards (you MUST throw the jars away at the end) and see how it grows, checking daily over a couple of weeks. They could document progress by taking photos.
You'll need several clean jars, tape to seal them well, sticky labels to mark them as 'mould gardens – do not open' (it is very important that they are not opened) and chunks of various foods (e.g. orange peel, bread but not meat or fish as these will get too stinky)
ACTIVITIES FOR OUT AND ABOUT
Bored sitting in that doctor's waiting room or traffic jam? Don't just hand them a screen, try...
THE MEMORY GAME
You probably remember this old chestnut (in fact, if you don't, your memory might not be up to playing...), one person starts off by saying 'I went to the shops and bought...' and adds the name of something, and then each of the other players has to add an item in turn and recall all the previous ones too. First to mess up and forget is out.
Variations include 'Granny went on holiday and she packed...','I went to school and did...', and 'I met a footballer/ celebrity called...' depending on age and interests.
WOULD YOU RATHER
Each person takes it in turns to ask the others which of two bad, mad or fantastic options they'd prefer. It could be as simple as 'Would you rather marry Harry or Niall from One Direction?' or as weird as 'Would you rather be invisible or be able to fly like Superman?' Be warned: this one can get seriously silly!
PENCIL AND PAPER GAMES
They might lack the whizzy, super-fast action and fancy graphics of e-games but there are stacks of pencil and paper games that are wholesome and can truly be played anywhere even if you've forgotten the tablet, don't want to hand over your smartphone, or the battery is running low.
Dots and boxes, battleships, hangman, noughts and crosses are all still appealing ways to stay occupied offline. Invest a little time explaining the rules, and bingo (well, actually not Bingo), you've got a load of sociable games yourkids can do anywhere, with nothing more than a pen/ pencil and the back of an envelope or paper napkin.
For more ideas like these, check out Liat Hughes Joshi's new book, How to Unplug Your Child, published by Summersdale and available now via Amazon.
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