Finally, it’s evening, or perhaps the kids have the day off from school.
The family is at home together.
But only in body – minds are flying everywhere and nowhere.
Because everyone in the family is staring into a separate screen.
Occasionally, if you are lucky, some family members are staring into the same screen together, watching a TV series or football game.
But otherwise, the closest you can get to spending fun family time together is to join your kids in an online game. There’s nothing wrong with that, and you might even learn something! But how can you unplug and reconnect in ‘real time,’ also called real life?
Here are 9 fun family activities that don’t involve screens.
- Create a treasure hunt in house and yard
Kids get easily involved when there is a goal — something hidden that can be found (most video games follow this narrative) — and when they can release their physical energy. Treasure hunts create a great team dynamic that can be fun for adults too, so maybe one of the parents can join the searching team!
Considered a calming or even meditative activity, baking is fun for all ages. Everyone can join in at different skill levels, there is scope both for creativity and a more scientific approach, and at the end you have a product that the whole family can enjoy together (and funny memories you will never forget in case something goes wrong).
- Sports activities for the whole family
Another way to release pent up energy and work towards a common goal, sports provide an almost endless list of fun family activities from going on a bike ride together to playing tennis. Presidents have found time to play sports with their kids in the White House – you can too!
- Short trips
You don’t need to wait for a full-fledged vacation to enjoy a fun family activity based on travel and discovery. If you want to make it even more special, why not take the bus or the train and go on a hike? Children love things that are different and will talk about them for a long time. (For a really special treat, why not go horseback riding?)
- Games (non-virtual, you may have to explain the concept)
Yes, there are games that don’t involve screens and not just the sporty kind. Board games and card games from Monopoly (a great opportunity to playfully learn how to manage conflict!) to Crazy Eights and Concentration (that’s the one your kids will beat you at every single time!). Board games combine elements of competition and team spirit. You will find the whole family completely engaged.
Coloring books for adults are trendy right now. Don’t forget that kids love coloring even more. Coloring together can be an especially fun family activity – depending on the age of the children, either the same picture or a different picture for everyone. Conversations become calm and focused, and parents might even find themselves continuing on ‘their’ picture after their kids have gone to bed.
- Building Something
Whatever you build with your family, whether it is a Lego tower, a doll house, or even a tree house, it cannot be done anywhere else but in the real world. And it has to be done together. Apart from being a fun family activity, building something together teaches many new skills.
- Creating a project together in many stages
The best fun family activities are not just a one-time thing.
Some can become family rituals, repetitions that make us feel safe and connected. But there are other, more complex projects such as writing, rehearsing, and performing a piece of music or a simple theater play; making a patchwork quilt; or repairing a vehicle that have an inbuilt need and inbuilt rewards for returning to them many times. They also all have a tangible result that the whole family can be proud of.
- Sharing stories and food
Last, but not least, simply sharing a meal together (and if there is time, preparing it together) and sharing the stories of the day among the members of the family is a great daily ritual that helps you unplug and reconnect.
Screens and screen entertainment are here to stay. Maybe you even enjoy them yourself.
But fun family activities are everywhere. The trick is not to preach to your children and denigrate their contemporary communication skills, but to make it feel natural to play together off line.
For further information, please take a look at my specialty page on family counseling.