Hide the remote and step away from the iPad—it’s National Screen Free Week. This national event kicked off on April 29 and stretches on until May 5th, challenging families to turn off their electronics for seven whole days and turn on some creativity. The thought is that without the distraction of television, video games, mindless web surfing, and beyond, there is plenty of time to play, enjoy the outdoors, read, daydream…or, even, get bored, which some argue is a lost art!

Are you up for the challenge? I’m not entirely sure that we are, but we’re embarking on this adventure anyway. My daughter’s elementary school is participating, and students who successfully make it all week long with no screen time (aside from any essential school tasks that require a computer) are entered to win a pretty cool prize. Beyond some healthy competition, we’ve been talking a lot about all of the fun things we can do after school that don’t involve the Disney Channel and everyone is excited for more board games, some painting time, and a pre-dinner trip to any of our favorite playgrounds.

In general, we’re pretty good about not spending too much attached to and distracted by screens. But when I begin mentally calculating the minutes spent with “just one more show” on streaming Netflix, a few games on the LeapPad, and stolen time on the iPhone, it’s clear that this time starts to add up. And while the kids don’t watch an awful lot of TV during the week, their weekend consumption sometimes borders on embarrassing, even if it is jammed in between dance class, soccer games, and birthday parties.

So, we’re one day into our screen free experiment. As with all best laid plans, we’ve already had a few snafus. The rainy weather has kept us inside and away from the playgrounds and the afternoon campfire at Robert E. Lee park. And an unexpected plumbing disaster in our finished basement has our playroom off limits for the rest of the week (oh, the Legos!). So, now it’s my turn to adjust my thinking cap and come up with some plans to keep the kids engaged and excited to be taking a break from electronics.

Here are some of my plans for the rest of the week:

Robert E. Lee Park
The spring line-up of kid-friendly activities is packed with fun at this outdoor gem straddling the city/county border. In honor of National Screen-Free Week, they are hosting some special events after-school for kids of all ages. For just $2 a person, you can try Fishing on Tuesday April 30th from 4:30-6:00 p.m. or create your own stamp at a Letterboxing session on Friday May 3 between 4:30-6:00 p.m.

Chapter Books
The bedtime hour often gets crunched with juggling bedtimes for an infant, preschooler, and kindergartener. Though we always make time to read, it’s not always enough time to really dig into the longer chapter books that often get stretched out over a few weeks. My goal this week is to pick one longer book and read it start to finish. We recently bought Matilda by Roald Dahl which seems like a good choice!

My kids get so excited when I pull out the play-doh gear that it actually makes me feel a little bad. Is my dislike for cleaning up the squishy goodness that always seems to get tracked around the house that obvious? To add to the fun, we’ll make our own. We’re partial to the Kool-Aid version and always keep a few packets stashed in the pantry for just this reason.

Is it cheating to rely on technology to take a break from technology? In this case, I’m giving myself a free pass. I’ve got an entire board of rainy day crafts full of fun crafty ideas. Now’s the time to break out the water color (or the half-dozen rolls of washi tape I bought last month) and get moving with any one of those.

The City’s Great Outdoors
Once this rain moves on,  we’ve got some high hopes to get outside. Some ideas we’ve talked about include an early picnic dinner amidst the tulips in Guilford’s Sherwood Gardens, an afternoon at this weekend’s Flower Mart in Mt Vernon, and a visit to the farmer’s market in the wee hours of Sunday morning when I’m most likely to cave and turn on the TV in the hopes of another 20 minutes of sleep!

Is your family taking part in National Screen-Free Week? What are some of your favorite ways to spend a day away from the TV, computers, gaming systems, and myriad of handheld devices?