Wednesday 2 October 2013

Simple activities to replace screen time

(Goblin is nearly 4)

If you have read some of my earlier posts you will know that we are trying to cut back on screen time and reconnect with Goblin through play in an attempt to rid our lives of tantrums. There are periods in the day where we'd normally fall back on TV, and these are the times that for both him and me it helps to have something planned, an idea for an activity to replace TV. Because these are normally the times when Goblin is most tired the activities need to be simple. Here are a few of our more successful ones. 

Sensory play
This little invitation combined shells from our recent beach holiday with dried seed heads from the garden: poppies; honest; something that looks like cornflowers when its in flower. I also put out some military vehicles because for Goblin no play is complete without them. And finally I made some nice smelly playdough: orange (because I didn't have lemon scent to match the yellow) and rosemary. I used the ever reliable Nurturestore recipe
Goblin had great fun emptying the poppy seeds into the playdough and mashing it all up so the yellow dough became poppy seed dough. Its not what I had intended from my set up, but its one of the things I love about leaving something for your child to explore. They will take their own direction and sometimes it will surprise you. 
And talking of surprises I didn't expect Goblin to play with the coffee grounds the way he did. I'd taken the idea from TheBoyandMe's blog.  I loved the way her son had put the coffee grounds on the mirror and made patterns with them using a Q-tip. But my little Goblin had other ideas and he got all his construction and farm vehicles and played at moving "mud". He meticulously filled his truck using a tiny digger. I loved how much fine motor practice he was getting unintentionally.
And when he'd done with playing in the baking tray he asked to empty it into the mat and added some cloud dough. Then he called it snow and asked me to help him make a snow plough. Somewhere behind the cardboard is a miniature A-team van covered in tape.
I got this play dough idea from a lovely blog called Play Trains. I couldn't resist the idea of it smelling so great with the cinnamon stick logs and the clove ties in the chocolate playdough. So I invested in 4 jars of cinnamon sticks - Not the cheapest activity ever. I also made a bit of a mistake using drinking chocolate rather than cocoa in the playdough. The sugar made the dough quite sticky. In addition I tried to replace some of the flour with the drinking chocolate - let me tell you now, this doesn't work. However, when my playdough disaster had been averted this was a seriously popular activity with Goblin. He played with it on and off for two days. He even got all the component parts out on his own during some independent play time.

 We collected some lovely big stones from the beach on our holiday, and one of our activities was simply painting them.
I painted half a picture, an autumn tree. I invited Goblin to paint the other half. He did a great job painting what he called "the wind". But I think I made it too complicated and he got nervous about trying to replicate the rest of the tree. Next time I will make a simpler picture.
 This was a fun activity. I left out some solar system stickers. Goblin started by sticking them on the black paper I'd provided, but Hublet was a much more attractive canvas.

Numeracy and Literacy
I've been trying to provide Goblin with some simple number recognition games. This one was initiated by him playing "shop" with Hublet, using his toy till. I simply added some prices to the items on sale and showed Goblin how to use the calculator - not so much to add up, but more to match the numbers to the numbers on the key pad. We aren't at addition yet.
This was a letter matching game that I laid out with his afternoon snack. He named the objects and then decided if they were T or D words. He was surprisingly good at it. I've done a few other number and letter activities that I will share in later posts.

I'm sharing this at
For the Kids Fridays at SunScholars.comThe Weekly Kids Co-OpWhat to do with the children


  1. These look way more fun than TV, but then, I'm not a kid! lol. How is he doing with the less-TV thing? I hope it's working out for you!

  2. Thanks for this post, these ideas are really helpful. We're trying to do less screen time too and I'm always looking for simple activities that I can set up (and clean up) quickly.


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