Screen Free Play

While I fully admit that I use my screen more than I should, I’m also a lover of low-tech, screen free “stuff”.  Especially for preschoolers.  While other preschool teachers were excitedly seeking out educational computer-based activities they could use in the classroom, I was digging through bins at thrift shops and hardware stores trying to find open-ended tools I could use at the play dough table or block area, or art table…

In this high-tech day and age and especially during these times (we’re months into the Covid-19 pandemic as I write this), it’s quite tempting to plop the kids and/or yourself in front of a screen.  You already know that’s not the healthy thing to do.  But it can be hard to come up with screen-free activities you can do–with things you already have on hand.

So, with all of that in mind, I’ve put together a little collection of a few of my favorite screen–free activities you can do at home  (and in a classroom when that’s back in the mix), using materials you very likely already have at the ready.  Let’s play!

three kids running outside

Go Outside!

This one is pretty obvious.  When things are getting stuffy, tantrums are on the horizon, tempers are flaring…go for a walk!  Play in the yard!  Do your kids need more direction?  A scavenger hunt or nature walk can be a life saver.  “Find three green things and bring them back to me….GO!”  “Jump up and down ten times and then go find me a rock!”   It’s so easy to naturally incorporate a little math into this type of activity, so those little brains and muscles are developing at the same time! (If you’d like a couple of free printable scavenger hunt pages, click here!)


I’ve written here and here and even here about fun things to do with play dough.  And I have a Pinterest page with a zillion ideas from other people, too.  Truly:  Make some.  Freeze half.  It lasts ages, and those links have tons of ideas of things to do with it.  I could personally play with play dough for hours on end.  Oh, and kids like it, too 😉


toddler swinging with baby doll

Wash Babies:

No, not real ones.  But gather up one or more baby dolls that are water safe, along with some real baby wash cloths.  Using a sensory table filled with water (check this post for ideas if you don’t have one), throw in a few sponges or bath poufs, an old baby bottle and some little dishes and spoons…  Anything baby related will do.  A few squirts of baby shampoo, swirl it around till you have some bubbles, and let the kids get to work.  (Don’t have any water proof dolls?  Substitute with waterproof animals or dinosaurs, and you’ll be amazed at how clean and well-fed they’ll be when the kids are done!)

Cardboard Boxes!

Have a few extra cardboard boxes lying around? I know I’ve got extra deliveries happening at my house during Covid, so I imagine you might be the same.  There are lots of ways to re-use these before they go into the recycling or trash bin. 

child in cardboard box airplane

The kids will love decorating the boxes.  Wrap a rubber band around a bundle of crayons or markers, and let them go wild designing the boxes.  If the weather is fine, head outside and let them paint them!  Have a hose and a towel nearby to clean everyone off easily.  You can break the boxes down or leave them assembled during the decorating phase.  But once they’ve been decorated, they can be used in a number of ways.  If they’re large enough for one or two kids to climb inside, imagine all the pretend play options—cars, rocket ships, trains.  Inside throw a few pillows inside and a sheet over the top for a ready-made fort.  Let the fun begin!

Bubble Wrap: 

Similarly, you might have extra bubble wrap lying around.  If not, put it on your list to start collecting this awesome stuff.  Sure, the kids will have fun popping the bubbles with their fingers.  But tape it to the floor or a sidewalk and stomp those bubbles out!  And have you painted on bubble wrap?  Here’s another blog post about just that!

Painting with Kitchen Tools:

At an easel, on a table, on a large piece of paper taped to an outside wall or fence, painting is amazing fun!  (This is my favorite kids paint.)  And using a variety of painting tools provides opportunities for kids to learn about cause and effect, and also to work their finger and hand muscles in different ways.  Plus…it’s fun!  So pull out your favorite paint and your potato masher, pastry brush, forks and spoons, spatulas…anything goes!  (Pro tip: the dollar store is a great place to get inexpensive kitchen tools reserved just for this use 🙂 )

screen free play pinterest pin

So there you have it:  screen free activities that can be done at home, or in a classroom, with items you likely already have on hand (or most likely can easily get in the near future.) 

And I can’t write a blog post that recommends screen free activities without a shout out to my own Flannel Board Fun felt sets.  Screen free play for home and on the go!  You can start shopping right here:

Want Some Goodies?

Grab a free song and dance cube for preschooly fun right here!

preschool song and game cube