Unplug to Cook: A Screen-Free Saturdays Guide

On your next Screen-Free Saturday, UNPLUG TO COOK, eat, forage, share a meal, or try a new recipe! Maybe you need to use up those veggies before they take their last turn, or maybe you’ve already got a weekly baking ritual like 24/6 author Tiffany Shlain – Screen-Free Saturdays are a perfect time for a culinary adventure. Whether you’re in the kitchen, busting out the barbecue, or setting up a camp stove in the backyard, take some time this week to enjoy a very yummy day with your family.

What’s Cookin’?

Cooking with kids can be a daunting task if it’s not already part of your parenting practice, but even the tots can participate in the kitchen!

  • 0-3 year-olds can stir along with you and on their own, pour, press buttons, count, or wash veggies. Smelling spices and “cooking” with their own pots and pans on the floor are often a big hit, too!
  • With careful observation, 4-5 year-olds can stir, mix, crack an egg, add water to the pot, measure and add ingredients, knead, or wash vegetables.
  • 5-8 year-olds can learn to chop, grate, and peel with close supervision. This is also a great age to introduce cutting with scissors, mix in different ways, grease pans, set timers, collect the ingredients, read the recipes, or help plan the meal.
  • With supervision, 8-13 year-olds can follow a simple recipe, boil water, chop/grate/peel, use a hand-held mixer, heat and move things in or out of the oven with mitts, and prepare salads and pastas.
  • High schoolers are ready for the next level! They’ll benefit from “home ec” style opportunities to learn knife skills, cooking techniques (saute, mince, poach, grill), and try out new recipes.
  • Young adults? True sous chefs! They can do it all, but benefit from reminders to clean up their messes.

There are also so many opportunities for learning and development while cooking together: small muscle (fine motor) strength, following directions and managing multiple steps, math (measurement, addition/subtraction/multiplication/division), chemistry, and more!

Of course, you know your child’s needs best, so meet them where they are. I have worked with 8-year-olds who have independently whipped up falafels and 13-year-olds who are only comfortable cutting with the edge of a spoon.

For additional information about cooking with kids, we like this article from the BBC.

Kids’ Weekly Menu

This week, the 11-year-old in my house was tasked with creating a dinner menu for the rest of the week. With expectations around having some vegetables in each meal, she artfully crafted seven days of dinners!

The best part? When kids have buy-in into the menu, they are more likely to eat it up with fewer complaints! We all could use more of that.

SFS Cookbook

As you print or write the recipes you need for your day away from the screen, consider building a collection of family recipes! These can be unique to the ones you try out on Saturdays or they can be favorites to go to whenever you need to whip something up.

To help you collect your recipes, we’ve provided a recipe page template and cookbook cover to print or copy! You can check it out here!

Community Connections

Check in with your neighbors

Unplugging to cook can be a real privilege, and a great way to support your community’s food needs! This weekend, consider:

  • Starting a Little Free Pantry: Learn more | Learn about what people have done in cities like Seattle, where COVID hit hard
  • Contacting your local food banks: Most food banks and pantries are still operating and need specific types of support based on community needs. Look up the food bank near you this week to see if there is a way to support it!
  • Checking in with your schools: COVID-19 has put many of our students experiencing hunger at an even greater risk of food insecurity. School systems are working around the clock to be able to continue to serve meals and support families, but their funding is running out. Contact your local school district to see what’s most useful at this time!

May this Screen-Free Saturday be DEEEELICIOUS. Make sure to stay connected with all of our Screen-Free Saturdays ideas, resources, and fun by taking the pledge:

Screen-Free Week 2020 is postponed

After discussing as a staff and talking to hosts, organizers, and participants, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has decided to postpone Screen-Free Week 2020.

Last year, more than 150,000 people celebrated Screen-Free Week in more than 1,000 celebrations around the world. Now, as more and more communities begin to practice social distancing and with no clear end in sight, it simply doesn’t make sense for us to plan a week based in global, face-to-face community celebration. We are still deciding whether or not it makes sense to try to plan events for the fall, but for now, we can say with certainty that Screen-Free Week will not take place from May 4 – 10.

For nearly ten years, Screen-Free Week has functioned as a kind of container: a week with different rules and expectations, where children and families are invited to step back from screen-based entertainment and rediscover the joys of imagination, play, nature, and community. During Screen-Free Week, our daily lives have a different rhythm. There is more time to breathe, to see, to notice, to feel.

Now, though, it’s COVID19 that has given our lives a different rhythm. As school, work, and socializing move online, it is more important than ever that we are intentional about our relationships with screens, and that we make time for the offline play, joy, and relationships that are instrumental to children’s (and our own) wellbeing. CCFC is committed to keeping the spirit of Screen-Free Week alive throughout this period of rapid change. As we find ourselves quarantined, with all this new time on our hands, there is incredible trepidation and uncertainty. But there is also incredible opportunity to find new ways of being.

Moving forward, the Screen-Free Week team at CCFC will be focusing on creating and sharing resources families can use every day as they navigate quarantine, social distancing, and COVID19. The first of these resources is our two-part webinar series with early childhood educator Nancy Carlsson-Paige, pediatrician Mark Bertin, and psychologist Teadora Pavkovic. Part one, on March 23, is for parents and caregivers of children under 6. Part two, on March 26, is for parents and caregivers of kids 6 – 12. We hope that you can join us for one or both of these events, which will offer in-depth conversations about helping children thrive in a time of great uncertainty. (And, yes, we will talk about working from home while your kids are home!)

Thank you so much for being a part of Screen-Free Week. Your community and family celebrations are at the heart of our work, and we’ll deeply miss hearing about them this May. We’ll be in touch soon with more information about rescheduling public events, and more strategies for building meaningful connection in this rapidly shifting moment. Until then, we hope you’ll continue to use our resources to find the screen-free time and space it takes to dream big, show care, and imagine new possibilities for the future.

Here’s to unplugging,

Josh, Jean, Rachel, Rinny, Sam, Melissa, and David
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Your Screen-Free Week 2019 stories

Your Screen-Free Week 2019 stories

Screen-Free Week 2019 was the best yet! Communities and families gathered to create, connect, and celebrate at 1,000 Screen-Free Week events in 24 countries and 49 states – and on every continent except Antarctica!

Whether it was building new worlds out of cardboard boxes or enjoying a long walk that ended with ice cream, kids and adults played together, explored together, and just plain got to spend time together! We loved hearing about the new things people explored and the old interests they rediscovered with their time away from screens.

Residents of Canfield, OH enjoyed community activities throughout Screen-Free Week, including a chalk drawing contest judged by the mayor and a town-wide pizza and dance party. According to City Manager Wade Calhoun, their celebration was a success! “Our community feedback was 100% positive!” said City Manager Wade Calhoun. “Everyone who attended the events was thankful and appreciated the initiative. We already are getting commitments for next year.”

During his family’s Screen-Free Week celebration in Providence, Rhode Island, 9 year-old William wrote his own newspaper. The top stories? His school’s taco night, and the opening of his very own 4-star pizzeria!

In New Market, MD, families enjoyed making fairy garden gates at the The Original Playhouse Children’s Museum.

In Christchurch, NZ, Screen-Free Week organizer Miriam McCaleb and her daughter both learned something new. “I LOVED Screen-Free Week,” Miriam told us. “I always do. My little girl learned to ride her bike without trainer wheels and I learned to play gin rummy!  When it was over on Monday morning, my little girl was sad!  She digs it, too!” Miriam also wrote an op-ed about Screen-Free Week in her local newspaper, encouraging other families to get in on the fun!

In Tehachapi, CA, Screen-Free Week organizer Elisa Carlson hosted what sounds like the coolest cooking class ever! With help from Tehachapi’s historic Errea House and Healthy Hands Cooking, Elisa’s students got a view into history with a tour of the historic house. Afterward, they made flower arrangements, table settings, and their very own early-1900s-style meal using fresh ingredients and old-school methods! “I love promoting wonder in children’s’ lives – wonder that can be so limited by man-made technology,” said Elisa. “I believe you can find wonder in the juiciness of a tomato and in the tiny petals of a flower as well as in contemplation of how people lived in our hometown 100 years ago!”

In Minneapolis, MN, the City of Lakes Waldorf School became a screen-free sanctuary for the week, and students decorated the building with notes on their favorite screen-free activities.

Families in Chilton, WI, students enjoyed a full week of screen-free fun! On one day, the Eastshore Humane Society brought some furry friends for kids and parents to greet. And later that week, families crafted together during Create and Read night.

In Buffalo, NY, Vicki Martinez’s daughter painted a picture nearly as tall as she is!

In the small town of Burns, OR, Harney District Hospital outreach coordinator Savanna Cate organized a SFW Pledge outreach table at Hines Middle School. Savanna says that they were able to genuinely engage with over 100 students! She found that students were really open about their screen use, and that they had a lot of questions about the screen time habits of the adults in their lives. “I feel confident this generation has a good grasp on the importance of active vs sedentary activities,” said Savanna. “I can’t wait to see how this campaign helps to shape our beloved youth in America.”

While CCFC staffer David Monahan’s family was celebrating Screen Free Week, six-year-old Lillian adorned the living room TV with some of her favorite stuffed animals. Lillian also put on an outdoor concert, with the help of her trusty air guitar and a mic stand made out of a tree branch, and got her family to help clean up nature: “Screen-Free Week is a good time to go outside, walk in the park, and pick up trash,” Lillian says. “If we take care of the world, the world will take care of us.”

At Mounds Park Academy in MN, Russ Purdy kept up what might be one of our favorite Screen-Free Week traditions. For the 2nd year in a row, Russ challenged his students to go screen-free, promising that “If 45 or more Lower School students signed up and “survived” the week screen-free, I would color my hair pink.” The result? “We had 61 [students] sign up. Not only did students participate, but siblings and parents participated as well!”

The town of Round Hill, VA celebrated Screen-Free Week for the second time this year. Organizer Kathi Hottinger says it was “a joy” to help her town plan Screen-Free Week! Their celebration began with an Earth Day festival, where kids planted trees, learned about composting, and painted rocks. Other activities throughout the week included a family nature scavenger hunt and a family book fair.

Yorkshire Elementary in York, PA, filled their Screen-Free Week with fun family events. Students, families, and teachers loved the celebration, which included a hike, an ice cream social, and even a visit from an alligator named Wally! Principal Kim Stoltz especially enjoyed cardboard night, where parents helped their kids make cardboard creations. Although the school planned to display the crafts, Principal Stoltz says “the kids were so attached to what they created they ended up taking them home!”

Thanks so much to all the organizers, communities, and families who made Screen-Free Week 2019 such an exciting week for kids. We can’t wait to celebrate in 2020!