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12 Tips to Keep Your Child Busy Without Television

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12 Tips to Keep Your Child Busy Without Television

Post by Mr.Carinoso on Tue 31 Aug 2010, 1:18 am

It may surprise your kids to learn there was life before television. Also, before DVRs, before remote controls, and before the hit TV shows Dora the Explorer and High School Musical.

At one time, parents kept their kids independently busy without the aid of television, freeing up valuable time to wash dishes, make phone calls, churn butter, scare away dinosaurs – whatever responsible grown-ups did back then. Experts have warned us that televisions make lousy babysitters, so here are some contemporary TV-free suggestions to keep your kids doing their thing while you do yours.
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1. Finger-Sticking Good
Good for ages: 3 to 7


Kids love stickers, and so should you – as long as they don’t become furniture graffiti. Collect lots of different stickers (pick them up when you see them on sale) and keep them in a box. When you need some free time, give your kids a cheap blank notebook (or scrap paper stapled together) and tell them to create their own storybook with the stickers and washable crayons.

2. De-Earthquake the Playroom
Good for ages: 3 to 9

The timeless “clean-up game” is still fun for young children, but it doesn’t always have to take place in “Hurry up, we’re leaving in two minutes!” mode. Give your children the assignment of de-earthquaking the playroom. It’s amazing how kids suddenly become more interested in toys they’re putting away, which is where the real time-kill happens. When you inspect your kids’ work, make sure to thank them for the help.

3. Sock It to Them
Good for ages: 3 to 8


Most little kids know basic colors like brown, black, white and red. So why are you up late at night matching socks when you have such color experts in the house? Dump a fresh, clean load of socks over your kids’ heads like leaves (they’ll love that), then ask them to make pairs. Some kids will be able to bind them as well.

4. All Ears
Good for ages: 4 to 12


Kids have been listening to recorded stories forever. While stories have more or less stayed the same, story-telling technology has grown like Jack’s beanstalk. Download a variety of stories from Storynory, Lightupyourbrain and Audible and store them in an iPod. Then, your little bookworm can skip chapters, choose from a full library, and really control the experience.

5. Animal Attraction
Good for ages: 5 to 9


If you have a cat, give your kid a cheap, small pen light and show her how to make the cat chase and jump for the teasing dot. Both the kid and cat will be endlessly amused by the cool collision of technology and feline acrobatics. If you have a tired dog around the house, he’ll make a great tea party guest, so long as you don’t expect him to sit up properly or lift his pinkie.

6. Form a (One) Boy Band
Good for ages: 3 to 6

Encourage your child to bring all the house instruments – drum, guitar, keyboard, triangle, tambourine, harmonica, recorder, whatever – out from their hiding places, and place them in a line. Then have him go down the line, playing each instrument to create different compositions. Also challenge him to see how many instruments he can play simultaneously. Just know two things: 1) This is not the activity to suggest when you have a headache, and 2) forget about making or taking phone calls in a nearby room.

7. There’s an App for That
Good for ages: 3 to 7


Your preschooler may not be chatting and texting nonstop on an iPhone (yet), but you can download some fun, time-killing, even educational iPhone games and other distractions for them right now. Some suggestions:

• Wheels on the Bus: They still go round and round, but your child can now add new instruments, different languages, new verses and even her own voice. Note: The song may not get any less annoying.

•Scribble: A fun, sophisticated drawing app that makes Etch-a-Sketch look like…well…Etch-a-Sketch.

•Steam: This distraction asks kids to rub their fingers over a steamy mirror to reveal hidden photos. And no streaks!

• Smacktalk: When your child speaks into the microphone, a puppy, kitten, guinea pig, or Chihuahua repeats it in adjustable speeds and pitches. (No, they haven’t yet made an app to adjust your own child’s voice quite yet.)

• Pet Shop – Animal and Letter Memory Game for Kids: This image-matching game uses pets, other animals, and alphabet letters to test and improve kids’ memory and thinking skills. It also allows you to upload your own photos, which may come in handy if your children have trouble keeping their cousins straight.

• ESPN Spelling Bee: In this app based on the official Spelling Bee, players hear words called out by ESPN’s Trey Wingo, then have 60 seconds to spell them on the keyboard. For help, players can get the word’s origin, definition, part of speech, and hear it in a sentence. Note: There are no penalty boxes, pit stops, or foul-outs.

8. Do It Your Shelf
Good for ages: 5 to 7


If you have a full shelf of kids books, tell your child you need them organized by size, theme, color, and/or by preferred reading order. Chances are, he’ll take time to flip through a few favorites and rediscover some oldies-but-goodies, too. Later, have your child explain his decision-making process, and maybe read a top book to you.

9. Cushion Diving
Good for ages: 5 to 8


There’s a fair amount of garbage and junk between the cushions of your living room sofa, but who knows what other treasures might be lying around? Arm your kids with small, recently emptied hand vacuums and set them free. While most finders keepers’ laws will apply, make it clear all five-minute or longer rules for dropped food have long since expired.

10. Reach for the Skype
Good for ages: 3 to 12


Set up a Skype connection between the computer in your and your parents’ homes and schedule live video chats. (Skype-to-Skype calls are free worldwide and many web cameras cost under $10.00.) Your child will love not only talking to grandma and grandpa, but showing off new clothes, drawings, costumes, pets and projects. The grandparents may be hesitant about new technology, but they’ll never turn down an opportunity for face-to-face contact with the little people they’re genetically trained to spoil.

11. Word Up!
Good for ages: 4 to 8


If your kids are old enough to type their names, then any word processing program can provide a lasting distraction. Show them the basics of typing, selecting text, and changing fonts, colors and sizes. Then, let them find their inner word artists. You can help them further illustrate their words with built-in clip-art. This activity has the benefit of getting kids used to typing, and the curse of getting them that much closer to texting.


12. Get Loopy
Good for ages: 4 to 8

It’s a project as old as summer camp. Pour Froot Loops and other hole-y cereal in bowls. Have your child first separate them by color, then string them into necklaces and bracelets. (Do it in two steps to kill more time.) When you’re done, ask for a home shopping-style demo of all the food jewelry. Fashion-wise, Cheerios go with everything, by the way

Mr.Carinoso
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