How to Entertain Your Kids in Public WITHOUT Screens

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The struggle is real. And for parents today, there is more than one struggle going on! Research shows that it is challenging for parents to limit their children’s screen time consumption, and this battle is a source of stress, frustration, and guilt for most parents. Meet struggle number two: taking your kids out in public. Whether it’s eating out at a restaurant, getting groceries for the week, or running into Target, there is extra pressure on parents to make sure their children are acting in calm, socially appropriate ways, or they face the stares and judgement of dozens of observing people!

It makes sense that many parents use screens to keep their children quiet and calm when out in the community. It may start slow; a mom is exhausted and has tons of errands to run and can’t handle the whining and fighting for another minute, or where a child is particularly cantankerous and absolutely nothing else is working to keep them occupied. Then the addictiveness of screens take over and it becomes a habit to hand children a screen whenever we need to keep them to simmer down.

If you are feeling trapped in this vicious cycle and guilty about how much screen time your child is consuming, there is hope! Here are some of our favorite activities to keep your kids entertained in public without using screens.

  • Wipe Clean Books: These books are easy to throw in a purse or backpack, and since they use dry erase markers you can just wipe them with a napkin for hours and hours of entertainment!
  • Color with Water Books: Another novel, easy to transport, and reusable activity!  You just need a little water handy to refill their pen, and they can do it again and again!
  • Play games like “I Spy” and 20 questions: These classics are really fun to play with your kids!  If the concepts are too hard for your little one to understand, adapt the rules into any fun and silly way to play; your child won’t notice!  No supplies needed so these are great to play when you are walking around!
  • Activity Books: These books are great ways to work on your child’s fine motor skills and keep them happily engaged when you are in a restaurant or pushing them in a stroller or shopping cart.
  • Table Games: Bring these games to play as a family while waiting for your food at a restaurant!
  • Read Books: Waiting in line at the grocery store or waiting for your food is a great time to get some reading in!  You child can look at the pages by themselves, or you can read the books to them. Here are some of our favorites…
  • Small Toys: Bring small toys that your child can play with at the table, in a stroller, or in a shopping cart!  (Beware small parts for younger children.)
  • Make Up Stories to Tell Each Other: Pick a topic and make up a silly story to tell your kids.  It’s even more fun if you find ways to incorporate their names and favorite characters into the stories!  If you need inspiration, check out the block set below…

Don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money to go screen-free.  We find great deals at thrift stores and garage sales, or you can make your own versions of some of these activities at home!

Keep a handful of activities in a special travel bag that you only play with when you’re out and about, and you can enjoy some fun, calm, and screen-free errands!