Unplug to Move: A Screen-Free Saturdays Guide

Our ability to move our bodies throughout the week depends on so many things: space at home, outdoor access, our physical needs, and especially our time. That’s why this Screen-Free Saturday we invite you to Unplug to Move! 

This weekend, make a commitment to connect with your body and invite kiddos to do the same. Go for a family walk around the neighborhood while following social distancing guidelines. Stretch. Tumble off the couch. Have a dance party. Play hide n’ seek. Whether you’re in a studio apartment or have acres of land, there are so many excellent, screen-free ways to remind our kids (and, OK, ourselves!) that being a kid IRL is way more fun than running around in a virtual world.

3 Activities for Healthy Bodies

Hiding games: Having been a childcare provider for over a decade, I spent a significant chunk of my time hiding in closets, behind a suitcase, while babysitting and nannying. Most recently, I successfully lodged my 6’0” body into a washing machine and was crowned “CHAMPION” by two six year-olds and a couple of 11 year-olds. When was the last time you played hide n’ seek together? Or, my favorite challenge? “Hide the Rock.” Take an object (or multiple) and have the “it” person hide it. The seekers look for the object(s) and then get a turn hiding. It’s a real-life treasure hunt!

Yoga: Yoga is a great Saturday morning kickoff activity to bring presence, awareness, and fun to the day. Plus, everyone from babies to 99 year-olds can get into yoga! Can’t touch your toes? Great, there’s yoga for you. Your child is a super gymnast that can stand on their head? Yep, yoga is great for getting that energy out. Your child isn’t engaged? Meet them where they are: the 2-year-olds in my class were into trucks, so our “downward dogs” became “excavator scoops” and our “forward folds” were “cranes.” Families can also make or purchase great yoga story books and yoga cards, which can make it feel more like a game and less like an exercise.

Big body play: The science is out, and it tells us that children need big body play: fast, wide movements, big bear hugs, wrestling, heavy lifting, rolling, tumbling, crawling, swinging… the list goes on. One of my favorite activities with kids 6-12 in a small space is “The Spider Web” (also called “Ninja Lasers” for certain crowds):

Each kiddo gets a ball of string or yarn (we’ve even used old birthday streamers).

We picked a space inside (outside works, too) to play and cleared out any obvious dangers such as things that will fall and identify others that shouldn’t be touched. We usually did this in a bedroom.

Say “GO” and all “spiders” go to work, wrapping their string around furniture, door knobs, and more until it runs out.

As if that wasn’t enough fun, now comes the challenge: getting from one end of the room to the other without touching the string. Otherwise… “ZAP.”

Build upon the difficulty by adding more string, navigating it holding hands, trying to rescue an object that gets thrown in the middle… the possibilities are endless! We spent at least 3 hours doing this one day, adding on to our play. When I was over it, the kids kept going!

Indoor Big Body Games

Grown-ups, get your game faces ready. This article from Fatherly has some great tips for indoor big body games that also work during the week in between your WFH grind. While we might replace the word “distraction” with “quality time,” you get the idea! 

Take a Stretch Break

Anyone else having a sore neck from all this screen time? Experts call this our “TECH NECK” and it’s a common issue especially while many are working from home. Give your neck a break on Saturday and every day! Putting down the screen will help and these stretches are designed to relieve that tension.

Community Connections

Join our upcoming Action Network Live! webinars, which are designed to help families navigate children’s technology use during COVID-19. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.

 Make sure to stay connected with all of our Screen-Free Saturdays ideas, resources, and fun by taking the pledge:

Unplug to Read: A Screen-Free Saturdays Guide

For the past several years, we’ve partnered with the Children’s Book Council for a joint celebration of Children’s Book Week and Screen-Free Week! Even though we’re postponing our official celebration of Screen-Free Week this year, Children’s Book Week is still on, and it’s inspiring us to UNPLUG TO READ this week for Screen-Free Saturdays! No matter where you and your children are at in your relationship with reading, there are so many ways to use words and images to explore our world.

This Saturday (or whatever day you’re choosing to go Screen-Free), take a minute to read.

“I can’t imagine a single Screen-Free Saturday without reading. With older kids like mine, we all set aside time to read to ourselves. But read-alouds for all ages (younger and my kids’ ages) is a special time for us too. At this moment, I’m reading to my daughter while my husband reads to our son, but there have been times when I have read books to both kids at the same time, or when we’ve reversed the parent-child dyad. Reading is an all-weather activity, which makes it ideal for every Saturday.”
-Rinny Yourman J.D., Washington, D.C.

Tips for Success

With our friends at Children’s Book Week, we’re offering a list of 100 Screen-Free, Reading-Related Activities! Here are some of our COVID-friendly favorites:

– Read a book without pictures. 
– Read a book without words (They’re out there!)
– Hold a family book night — everyone reads a book at the same time, in the same room.
– Read to your pet.
– Find a new cookbook and try a new recipe together for family dinner night.
– Ask the adults in your life about their favorite children’s books growing up.
– Find a book about clouds, then go or look outside and see if you can identify them.
– Use a heavy book to press freshly cut flowers and leaves.
– Find a book about a place where an ancestor came from.

Need help finding a book? See below for info about libraries, support your local bookstore, visit your local Little Free Library, ask a neighbor (and sanitize) or check out and print PDFs from gutenberg.org.

Children’s Book Week

Children’s Book Week has so many great tools for your family to start, maintain, and expand upon a love of reading this weekend and beyond! Check out their website for everything you need to celebrate.

Our Annual Booklist!

Presenting our 2020 Screen-Free Week Children’s Book List! We’ve added some new, amazing titles and continue to enjoy our favorites from years past! Check it out here.

Community Connections

This week, we are encouraging folks to check in with their local libraries! In my town, our library offers a “takeout window” for books right now, so we were able to go and get books for the kids really easily this week. Other library systems are offering additional online resources, community book readings, deliveries, and more! Quarantine can’t stop us from enjoying books! 

What better way to kick off your Children’s Book Week and your Screen-Free Saturday than taking some time to reflect on your family’s wellness?! To help everyone develop healthy relationships with tech, our friends at Digital Wellness Collective are offering virtual and personal events going on all over the world on May 1- check out the archive. Learn more here!

Enjoy curling up with a good book this week! How will you unplug to reconnect? Share your experience with us at ccfc@commercialfreechildhood.org or tagging us @screenfreeweek on your social media (after Saturday, of course). Let us know what issues came up so we can troubleshoot together!

Haven’t taken the pledge yet? Join our community today and have access to regular Screen-Free Saturdays updates, resources, and activity ideas!

Unplug to Feel: A Screen-Free Saturdays Guide

Last week, the 8-year-old that I care for burst into the room and clung onto my legs. She sobbed, “I don’t want mommy and daddy to have COVID.” Her dad had shown symptoms that morning, and her parents, both doctors, were on their way to get tested. Her worry had become so big that it overtook the sense of humor she’d been cultivating recently — fake coughing on her sibling to give her coronavirus, licking my spoon in between bites of ice cream and sniggering, and other ways to mask the real fears that come with this moment. 

All of us are coping in our own ways — as individuals, as family units, as neighborhoods, as towns. Sometimes we don’t even know what we’re feeling until it bursts out of us and we start looking for legs to cling to. This Screen-Free Saturday, take the emotional pulse of yourself and your family. Unplug to hug, to cry, to laugh, to connect. Unplug to feel.

Activity Ideas

During the work week, I am not only buried in screen-heavy work, I think I’ve buried many of my feelings in my screen time. Many of us adults use screen time to cope, and often to meet new child care needs (like allowing extra screen time for our kids in order to get stuff done or to have a moment to ourselves). Whatever your habits during the week, use Screen-Free Saturday as a time to check in about your family’s overall and digital wellness, and to practice and model other ways to be with difficult emotions.

TAKE A PULSE CHECK: Before Saturday, take the Digital Flourishing survey from our colleagues at Digital Wellness Collective to get a sense of where you are in your relationship with technology. Use the results to talk with your family about how things are going and what you might change.

GET GROUNDED: “Self-regulation” is the word we use to describe how we can calm our emotions when we’re feeling all of our feelings. Kids need the grown-ups around them to model and teach them explicitly how to self-regulate — and some of us adults could use a reminder, too!

Breathing exercises: Have you heard of Five Finger Breathing? Breathing up and down while tracing your fingers can help to calm your nerves. It’s a great, concrete tool for kids!

Create a calm space: Sometimes we benefit from a physical space that helps us say “ahhh.” For my 8-year-old friend, this is under her bed, where she keeps a light-up peg board, a few books, and a flashlight. CCFC staff member David’s daughter has a lawn chair and some crafts under their porch. Even in my small studio apartment, I will occasionally string a big blanket over my couch and tuck myself into a temporary calm space. In your kiddo’s space, include activities and ideas for self-regulation, like breathing or yoga prompts, a favorite book, photos of happy times, and maybe a calm jar (see below).

Try meditation: Meditation with kids? It’s possible and really, truly beneficial. This resource from MindBodyGreen offers some ways to get started. 

Make a calm jar: A great Screen-Free Saturday project that can be used wherever is a calm jar. The jar contains sequins, glitter, or other objects that fall slowly when the container is tipped; looking at something like this can help to restore the nervous system! Learn how to make and use one here.

DO A PROJECT TOGETHER: Whether it’s painting the fence in the front yard, starting seeds, building a puzzle, or creating a new art piece for the living room, the act of physically making something for your home and family can help channel emotions and create a sense of competence and autonomy. Especially with teens, don’t force a conversation about emotions during this process — perhaps just share your own and leave space for others to share.

TALK ABOUT IT: One of the best ways to support your family during this time is to create the space to talk about their feelings, experiences, and work to answer their questions. Two of our favorite resources for guiding conversations with young kids come from the Fred Rogers Center and Defending the Early Years.

JUST PLAY: Playing and spending time together are really the best ways to reconnect with your kids and get to know how they are. In fact, for young children, open-ended, imaginative play is the ultimate therapy and a way for them to process their feelings. So, just play! Get on your hands and knees, use your imagination, and be a kid. In fact, our experts say that play is just as helpful for adults; it’s a tool for being present and experiencing, even for just a moment, what it’s like not to worry about the future unknowns. It will be therapeutic for all.

Unplug to Grieve

For every single one of us, COVID-19 has marked a time of loss: whether of a life close to us or a change in routine, a cancelled wedding, or a missed graduation. Read more about grieving during coronavirus and know you’re not alone.

Virus Anxiety

Need tools for addressing your virus-related anxiety? “You’re not in this alone. Listen to meditations, get expert advice, and more with this mental health tool.” But, seriously, you’re not alone. Check out virusanxiety.com for great solutions.

Community Connections

Folks at the Attachment and Trauma Network host an “It’s OK to NOT Be OK” Zoom Room Chat for parents, caregivers, teachers and anyone else working/living around children every Friday from 3-5 PM EST (12-2 PM PST)

National Day of Unplugging has teamed up with Halfthestory, NAMI NYC and Screenagers Movie to bring you a conversation for anyone concerned about the mental health impacts of our increasing use of technology. May 19, 3:00pm PT/6:00pm ET/10:00pm GMT. Learn more and register here.

We hope you have a fun and meaningful Screen-Free Saturday this week! Share your experience with us by replying to this email or tagging us @screenfreeweek on your social media (after Saturday, of course). Join our Facebook page for stories like yours. Your stories help keep our efforts going, so keep them coming!

Happy (or serious, or reflective, or whatever you’re feeling) unplugging. Make sure to stay connected with all of our Screen-Free Saturdays ideas, resources, and fun by taking the pledge:

Unplug to Get Outside: A Screen-Free Saturdays Guide

Did you know that even just a view of the outdoors has tremendous benefits for our bodies, brains, and hearts? Getting outside will look a little different this year, and Screen-Free Saturdays are the perfect opportunity to explore new outdoor adventures. Join us as we unplug to get outside this week!

Also, a quick update: this will be our last full weekly Screen-Free Saturdays e-mail! To help reduce the digital noise, we’ll be sending emails just once or twice a month. For inspiration in the meantime, we’ll keep sharing ideas on our Facebook page, creating resources, and answering your questions. We hope Screen-Free Saturdays become a weekly tradition for you and your family! 

Now, get outside! 😉

55 Nature-Related, Screen-Free Activities

Public health regulations are all over the map right now when it comes to access to public parks, deep trail hiking recommendations, and even walking around the neighborhood — but kids need to be outside! To help, we compiled a list of 55 Nature-Related Screen-Free Activities for quarantine and beyond.

– Go for a stroll.
– Lay in the grass.
– Find a tree to read under.
– Jump in a puddle.
– Venture down a street you’ve never gone down.
– Discover a rooftop garden nearby.
– Plant seeds and help them grow.
– Bring a basket on your walk. Collect beautiful things from nature.
– Pull weeds from the sidewalk/yard/garden.
– Wash the car, bike, or a neighbor’s car.
– Find a building with plants growing on it.
– Go for a rock hunt. Compare sizes, colors, weights, & shapes.
– See how many different colors you can find on a walk/out the window.

For more on accessing nature while physical distancing, we like what our friends at Sierra Club have to offer: “You can reap many of the benefits of nature without traveling, and the best way to observe public health guidelines right now is to stay home, visit the local parks and trails in your community (if they are still open), and bring nature inside.”

Kids to Parks Day

Our Screen-Free Week endorsers at the National Parks Trust celebrated Kids to Parks (now Parks to Kids) Day on May 16, and have tons of great resources! Their fun BINGO activity and ways to connect to nature on a small scale work great whether you’re in the forest or looking out your apartment window. View all of their resources here.

Finding Nature

Screen-Free Week Endorsers Children & Nature Network have launched an exciting new project! FindingNature.org is dedicated to helping kids and families stay connected to the outdoors during the pandemic. Check out their resources, which are focused on equitable access to nature, here!

Community Connections

Now more than ever, we need to practice using imaginative hope to think seriously about how to create a healthier, nature-rich, more equitable civilization in the years to come.
Rich Louv, Author and Co-founder of the Children & Nature Network

One thing that we’ve learned from the pandemic is that nature access looks very different depending on where you live and how many resources you have. Around the U.S., safe outdoor spaces are often inaccessible to communities of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized groups. Enter UnlikelyHikers podcast: a community of outdoors enthusiasts who are committed to breaking down barriers for getting outside!

 Make sure to stay connected with all of our Screen-Free Saturdays ideas, resources, and fun by taking the pledge: