If I’m going to be honest, Screen Free Week initially sounded like a punishment for the parents. I’ve come to rely on a show for my littles while I’m trying to get my bigs out the door for school, or in the evening when I’m making dinner. My oldest works hard all day in school and I don’t feel bad letting him play on his iPad in the evening.

For us screen time isn’t instead of our active Charm City life. My kids love going to a playground, being part of different sports (lacrosse, soccer, gymnastics, swimming) playing in their rooms and snuggling up to read books, but I like the idea of showing them we don’t need TV and other screens to “survive” a week.

Screen Free Week—is an “international celebration where children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days turning OFF digital entertainment and turning ON life!” The idea is to completely unplug and play, read, daydream, create, explore nature, and spend time with family and friends.

So, here are some ideas for May 5-11. Your super (cool) screen free week guide (painless. promise!):

play

Hit a new playground a day. We love our neighborhood playgrounds but also like to explore others too. Some of our favorites include Linkwood Park Playground, Pierce’s Park, Annie’s Playground, the Patapsco’s Recycled Tire Playground and the Playground at Stadium Place. It’s a great way to visit new neighborhoods and meet new friends.

When was the last time you go on the floor and really played with your kids? I spend half my time picking Legos up off the floor. But it’s really amazing what my 7-year old can build. For my three year olds it’s making an awesome train track and for my five year old it’s uninterrupted time playing a game like The Sneaky Sneaky Squirrel.

One of the best things we bought this year was a record player (a Hanukkah present). We mostly listen to my old records (Strawberry Shortcake, Scooby Doo, and Annie) but have also found some great vinyl at some of the local shops. We like to dance party and ignore the skips (hey, they are vintage like me!).

read

 A favorite place to visit in our house is Storyville—which combines reading and playing and learning. (It’s for ages birth to five and the fact it has long hours helps to work around naptime or preschool schedules.)

In our house – with four kids and all different reading levels – we like to make it a family affair. The youngest pick the books, the oldest reads the book to the youngest and the middle usually draws pictures to accompany the book.

We also love theme nights. Look up any book on Pinterest and see a ton of ideas for food, décor, art activities surrounding most any popular children’s book. The Hungry Caterpillar, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter. (I’ve yet to stump Pinterest!)

daydream

Sometimes it feels like all we do is rush. Rush to school. Rush to activities. Rush home for dinner. But an evening walk (especially with daylight extending past 5 PM – woohoo!) with no agenda is the perfect activity. We look for shapes, collect sticks, and feed the ducks. Maybe we stop at the park, maybe we don’t. Maybe we make it 10 blocks, maybe we make it one. It doesn’t matter.

One of my favorite memories of being a kid was going with my class to the planetarium. So, it’s, of course, one of my favorite activities to do with my kids! How lucky to have the Davis Planetarium right here downtown! I love the wonder every single time my kid’s watch One World One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventures as their little minds try to process the universe.

create

One of our favorite activities is to roll out those long rolls of paper (like from Ikea) and trace the kids. We then add clothes and facial features. It was one of our favorite things to do during all that snow and cold this winter. Since it truly captures the size and shape (as best I can with them giggling in fits about the pencil tickling them) I like to write on them the age and some of their favorite things to eat and do and taste and smell.

Also, there are some great classes going on this week at aMuse’s new bigger and better Quarry Lake space including a Mommy & Me Mother’s Day Craft (11:30-1) on Wednesday and another Mother’s Day craft on Friday from 4-6 PM.

explore nature

We might have taken it to an extreme but we are camping this weekend with some friends (near the tire park.) Since we don’t camp that often we rent our supplies from REI and visit a campground not to far from home. Our kids love sucking down the fresh air, making sticky melty S’Mores and enjoying “opposite of city life” time.

One of our best places to go is Cylburn Arboretum. The arboretum is open Tuesday-Sunday 8-8, so it’s perfect for post-school picnics and romping. We bring bats and balls, scooters and the kids can run and explore some of the trails and look for fairy treasures and play tag and just be free. And if it happens to tire them out too, well that’s just an added bonus. (An FYI: the grounds will be closed to the public on May 9th.)

On Friday, May 9th, from 10-10:45, Irvine Nature Center hosts their super popular Tales and Tails program. There’s an animal story followed by, you guessed it, real animals!

spend time with family and friends

This of course is the best reason to unplug! Call and set up a play date with someone you haven’t seen in a while because you’ve been so busy! Interview a family member and write down the answers (grape jelly or strawberry jelly? Spring or fall? Dog or cat?) Write a letter to a grandparent. (They love that kind of stuff.) Plan a picnic (we’ll be hitting Sherwood this week with friends & cupcakes.) Sit down and plan a summer trip (give kids a map, a highlighter, a budget & a time frame.)

There are a million more ideas out there to fill Screen Free Week. But if you’re gonna Google, better do it before you get home from work!