20 low tech family time ideas
The coronavirus restrictions in 2020 resulted in a surge in screen time for children and teenagers. Online schooling, plus reduced opportunities for socialising and the closure of many venues, left parents with little choice but to relax limits on screen time. (Not to mention the pressures on working parents to keep children entertained so they could get some work done!). But lots of parents are now turning their attention to redressing that balance with more low tech family time.
Tech is notoriously habit-forming – and habits can be hard to break. So, if you are looking to introduce some tech-free time, I’ve come up with 20 low tech family time ideas for all ages to get you started. Work through them all – or pick a few new ones to try this weekend!
Charades is brilliant for all ages and in my house even gets the reluctant teens involved and laughing. Pick a theme to mime (eg Christmas or vegetables or famous people) or stick to the classic format of books, films and TV programmes.
Some of my best childhood memories are playing cards with my family. Even very young children can play simple card games (see this list of fun card games for ages 3yrs+). Cards are a brilliant way to get different generations all involved.
Learn a song
If you are a musical bunch, you could all learn to play the same song on different instruments. Or just learn the words to a song and sing it together. Even very little ones can join in (you can add some actions too!).
Have a dance-off
Or, if you are dancers rather than singers, how about a dance off? Take it in turns to choose the music and be the judge. Dancers could be eliminated until only the winner is left or ranked at the end of the tune. If you are fans of Strictly Come Dancing or similar talent competitions, why not make scoring ‘paddles’ or have an elimination buzzer?!
Build a fire
There is something mesmerising about fire. You could use an open fireplace indoors or a firepit or chiminea or barbecue outdoors. Keep little ones safe from flames but let them help find sticks and wood and scrunch up newspaper to build the fire. Then sit and tell stories and toast marshmallows!
Go for a walk
You won’t be surprised to learn that the suggestion “Let’s all go for a walk” isn’t always met with glee, especially if it’s raining. But I often find the promise of a hot chocolate helps. If you have little ones, why not take a bucket to collect interesting things on route? Or go for a walk in the dark with torches or glow-sticks for the big novelty effect!
Play hide and seek
Hide and seek can be played inside with little ones (good for rainy days!) or outside with older kids. Take your time finding the little ones and they will soon start wriggling and giggling!
There are so many ways to incorporate cooking into low tech family time. Yes, you could make cookies again with your little one. But how about getting them involved in real meal prep? Or looking through recipe books to find pictures and ideas to try out? You could divide up your Sunday meal into courses and allocate a different family member to plan, prep and make each course. Or hand over the whole meal to the teens! How about a Great Family Bake Off competition? Making bread together? Or just home-made pizzas! Getting hands-on with food encourages kids to try new tastes – so lots of reasons to get cooking!
Find an outdoor space or head to the woods. Collect sticks and fallen branches and leaves and stones and build a fort. It can be a mini one for squirrels or a maxi one for people. Or, if you are stuck at home, get out the blankets and cushions and build a den in your living room. Make a picnic lunch/dinner and eat it all together in the den.
If you have an outdoor space, why not take the den building a step further and undertake a family construction project in the garden. How about designing and building a tree house or fort or outdoor kitchen or play house? Ir perhaps something smaller inside, like building window boxes? Using tools is really good for developing children’s confidence. Or how about a Lego construction challenge? You could build a whole city, or try and replicate your house in play bricks.
If you are feeling creative, there are so many crafts you could learn together as a family. Be adventurous – crafts with children doesn’t have to involve toilet rolls and cotton wool (though those are good too!). Could you all have a try at knitting? Or crochet? Or felting? Try out something that none of you have done before if you have older children.
If you like crafts, what about origami? Borrow a book of designs from the library and see how well you do. Or paper aeroplane building for younger ones!
If quiet, mindful crafts are your thing then jigsaw puzzles are wonderful. Go for something challenging that needs all your combined family efforts to get it finished. Puzzles can be really calming and also provide a great chance to chat about anything and everything.
Prefer something a bit louder or more interactive? Board games are the ultimate low tech family time activity. If your kids don’t seem interested, or if board games cause too much friction, check out Ellie Dix’s great book The Board Game Family for tips.
For a bit of drama, how about putting on a puppet show? If you have puppets with strings, great. If not, try making them. Or just make sock puppets. You could break into teams and act out a short skit for each other – or just use cuddly toys or action figures or dolls as your puppets. Or pretend to be puppets?
Growing plants from seeds is a slow burn family time idea – but it gives back so much over time with very little investment. You don’t necessarily need a garden. You can grow salad leaves in pots on window sills. Or why not grow some flowers to give as presents in decorated pots?
If you want to avoid on-screen yoga classes, why not buy a deck of yoga cards for beginners and take it in turns to help each other into the positions. Or, with older children and teens, clear some space on the floor, turn down the lights and put on a yoga soundtrack. Great for relaxation and for stretching out after too many hours sat at a desk!
I appreciate that not everyone is into running. But seeing kids out running with their parents was one of the real highlights of lockdown. If you are beginners, you can start with walk/run intervals to increase stamina slowly and reduce the risk of injury. For more of a challenge, sign up for park runs (great for getting teens out of bed early at the weekend!).
Running too hardcore? Nothing beats bike riding as a low tech family time activity. Why not take a picnic? Get the maps out and let the kids plan the route. (See 10 Things To Do This Summer To Boost Your Children’s Resilience).
Tweens might pretend to be mini-teens but they often love to play word games and memory games. Try the alphabet game where you take it in turns to go through the alphabet each identifying a boys’ name (or vegetable or city) that starts with each letter.
So, there you have it – 20 low tech family time ideas to get you talking, moving, creating and playing – all screen free. I’d love to know how you get on. And if I have left out your favourite low tech family time activity, please do share it in the comments below so we can all have a go!