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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Hartgrove Mahoney

Screen free activities (a.k.a "Cold and Flu season activities")

There is a new (albeit small) group of parents who believe in "screen-free" children. This means no TV, no video games, no smart phones... and for a lot of these parents; no toys with buttons at all.

Check out: for more information. I will bet that once you read through this, you will approve of the "no screens" movement.

While I would LOVE to have a screen free child, it seems as though the only way to get Avie to sit through CPT is to turn the TV on. So, I've given in to having 20 minutes of TV time per day. I try really hard not to break down with more TV time, but it has gotten harder and harder to entertain her inside the house. She loves to play outside, which is awesome and I totally support that.... but I don't have a yard. We have a small roof deck, and an asphalt alley. The park is within walking distance, so I try to do that when possible.

But what if it's raining? Or too cold? Or too late? What if it's cold and flu season and you have a toddler who is more susceptible to nasty infections from these viruses?


Well, no worries... I've complied a short list of indoor activities ( some are with emphasis on being seated, since she's a tad gimpy these days) and I'm sharing them with you. Aren't you lucky?



Simply cover your coffee table in white butcher paper and let your kid go to town!

This is the best idea I've ever had. I'm not claiming that it's innovative at all- I'm sure many people have done this before. My baby's play area is the living room, she likes to color but was having a hard time keeping the crayons on the coloring book. Once I covered that sucker with paper, it was like the sky opened up and angels sang. She can mark and sticker the crap out of the coffee table and I don't care one bit. I put all her crayons and washable markers (YES- WASHABLE. From Crayola, I'm in love...) in a mason jar and they live on the table. Once your kiddo has exhausted the paper, just rip it off and start fresh with a new sheet. You can even frame pieces of the paper if you see a hint of artsy genius. Best. Mom. Ever.


It really doesn't take much. Gather all your kid's balls and toss them in a bucket, or basket or large pot... whatever!

Avie's basket is another permanent fixture in our living room. Sometimes she just picks it up, dumps the balls out and then puts the basket on her head. But, you know what? Who cares. She throws the balls up the stairs, down the stairs, at the cat and to me. Kids love balls. For the more advanced (read: bored) toddler, you can show them how to throw or roll the balls back into the basket. Avie loves when I kick the balls up the stairs. She cracks up, and it's a pretty good workout for me.


For some reason, I got on the magnet bandwagon a little late. I'm sure most parents have magnets... but I'm posting this anyway.

Avalyn has been a bit clingy since her fracture. This makes it hard for me to get anything done. My biggest challenge is whipping up a meal for her one-handed. So, I did the simplest thing I could do and I bought a $3 pack of jumbo princess magnets. Not sure why I didn't think of this sooner. She will entertain herself for at least 4 minutes (never 5, I don't know why kids don't make it to 5) in front of the fridge while I get her plate fixed.

*Stickers are the same concept. If your child understands how sticker books work and/or they have a sheet of stickers and want to stick those little devils on your paper-covered coffee table. Avie loves stickers and they honestly provide at LEAST 15 minutes of entertainment. This doesn't sound like a lot, but it's like a huge exhale for me these days.


Those reading Teepees are perfect for this, if you have room! Check out Target's Pillowfort collection... it will make you wish you were a kid again.

But, we don't have room... sad. We do, however, have a play pen in our living room! This play pen has many purposes: it blocks our scary wall cut-out that has a 5' drop to the hardwood floor on the level below, it also serves as Avie's "front door" when she pretends to go to work/the grocery store (she says, "bye!" gives me a kiss and then closes the door... cute). And last, this play pen has turned into the cozy stuffed animal home/reading corner. There aren't many books pictured here today, but usually there is a nice little stack. Avalyn can entertain herself with books for hours! Not all at once, but periodically throughout the day. I actually have two reading areas in the living room, but this one is the snuggliest.


Not to be confused with "role play", though I'm sure there is a toddler-friendly game you could play with that.

This toy, from Think Fun, was a Christmas gift from my in-laws, for Avalyn. At first, I thought that it was too advanced for her- BUT she quickly learned how to perform all the "moves". She hasn't learned colors yet, which has made the overall concept of the game hard to grasp. The game is played by rolling the soft cube (or chucking it across the room, as Avie does) and then picking a card that corresponds with the color that lands facing up. Easy-peasy. Avie LOVES this game. The cards say things like; blink your eyes 3 times, and bark like a dog (I like to say this with my best Caddy Shack impression, she doesn't get the reference but it makes me laugh). There is another version of the toy that gets your kid to move and groove. Both fun!

*If your child has a broken stick, like mine, then just remove the cards that require standing/jumping/spinning/etc.


Or bowl, or pan. Again, do what you can with what you've got, your kid won't care. I used cheap macaroni noodles for this, but you can use dried beans or corn too.

I actually got this idea from the screen free parenting website that I linked in my intro. And, while I'm being honest, I took the picture from there too! It's not mine, don't sue! This is a little bit of a messy project, so keep that in mind. If you have a spazzy toddler, the noodles will end up on the floor.... so make sure you have a patient husband, too. For Avie, I threw in some small tupperware containers and lids, then showed her how to fill them up, cap them and shake the crap out of it. It's loud, she loves it. This picture shows plastic spoons and cups and another activity listed on the website says to add little toys, called a "seek and find". Just be a smarty-pants and watch your child around small objects. I know you know that already, right?


Again, this one is so simple, but many times over-looked.

Toddlers love bubbles. So do cats. So, this activity is a win-win in my house. Avalyn likes to chase the bubbles, so the peg-leg situation makes that a bit tough for her... I've resorted to sitting her on a chair and blowing them in her face (fun for everyone) OR letting her blow the bubbles with her Olaf blower (or Alola, as she calls him). This little contraption makes it easy for her to blow the bubbles... usually toddlers don't have the 'gentle breath' that it takes to form bubbles. Now, this is typically an outdoor activity, but if you have a washable floor surface, it can be done inside.


Little people, that is (Fisher-Price makes all different kinds of these little people toys). This activity can also be called "Put things in a box and let your kid take them out".

Avie has a Little People farm, and some Disney princesses. This was honestly just an effort to keep the people contained and it turned into a fun thing for her to do. She got to decorate the container with stickers (which actually turned out really artistic), so you could consider that as and activity within an activity. If your toddler doesn't know how to unscrew a lid, this could be a whole NEW skill within an activity, within an activity. I mean... it's endless guys. Avie opens the tub, dumps the people, throws the people, eats the people, puts them back and and closes it up. Who knew there were so many ways to play with a storage solution??


Man, I never thought I would buy these things! You know what I'm talking about- I guarantee that you've seen them stuck to your neighbor's windows. Most likely, they change with the season... like a little gooey snowman in the winter and like some flowers and eggs for Easter?

Anyway, I grabbed them on a whim and Avie was thrilled. Should couldn't wait to get started peeling and sticking. I really don't know how long these will be fun for (I guess it's like magnets). But she is enjoying them now... they stick to everything so you don't HAVE to do it on a window. It's probably safer if you don't let your kids play with a window. Just make sure it's locked and as always: SUPERVISE WHEN NEEDED!

Boxer-briefs turned into a t-shirt



This doesn't actually mean that you will accomplish your chore of folding the laundry and putting it away. BUT, it does allow you to dump the contents of the dryer onto the bed (and let's be honest... that's about as far as you were planning on getting anyway). So, why is this an activity? Well, your toddler is going to have to learn how to dress themselves at some point and this creates a fun way to learn. Show your kiddo how to pull shirts over their heads or put their feet through the legs of pants. Let them try your clothes on and show them what they look like in the mirror. It's honestly a good time because they are learning while having fun. Plus, if they start concentrating on finding their way around an article of clothing, then you might actually be able to fold a thing or two while they're focused.

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