Mom-Friendly Alternatives to Screen Time (you need these ideas!)

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Are you looking for alternatives to screen time that let your kids play by themselves, that also give you free time? Check these alternatives that are made for the working mom that need help. As a working mom, you need these: indoor activities, outdoor activities, crafts, and quick solutions for your home.

If you Google “alternatives to screen time”, you will get a lot of articles that tell you to “go on a hike together”, “go bowling and kayaking”, or “read a book together”. These are all GREAT THINGS. We know these ideas are good! DUH.

But, sometimes us working moms need a screen time alternative that does the same thing as a screen (lets the kid play by themselves, gives the mom a break), but isn’t screens, ipads, or video games. We need a solution that lets us keep working, but gives us the mental freedom knowing that our kids are learning and being properly stimulated.

So, here are my favorite alternatives to screen time for working moms and moms that work from home. Keep reading!

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Are you looking for alternatives to screen time that let your kids play by themselves, that also give you free time? Check these alternatives that are made for the working mom that need help. As a working mom, you need these: indoor activities, outdoor activities, crafts, and quick solutions for your home.
Mom-Friendly alternatives to screen time

Why do you need alternatives to screen time?

What are the negative effects of screen time?

I think we all know that screen time is a huge blessing and huge curse to this generation. It can teach so much, but also glue a child’s eyes to a screen, reduce creativity, remove social interaction for social skills, and just give a child a limited view of the world.

Any tablet, smartphone, and even too much tv and laptops, can have the same effect. They can affect your child’s behavior. I love this article that gives the following negative effects of screen time:

  • Physical strain to your eyes and body
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Loss of cognitive ability
  • Impaired socializing skills
  • Weakened emotional judgment

But don’t be discouraged! There are also good habits that can be created with screen time.

How to Develop Good Screen Time Habits

Raising children in a digital world is not easy. With 8-12-year-olds in the US spending between 4 to 6 hours on screens, parents, childhood experts, and GP’s have expressed growing concerns about the effects digital devices have on children’s development, sleep, and ability to focus. When you think about all the online articles telling us to watch excessive screen time with electronics, it’s no wonder we feel guilty every time our children are gaming or streaming videos, especially when the sun is out.

If you’re wondering how much screen time is too much, then let’s look at official guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screens for under-twos and a maximum of 2 hours of screen time daily for older children and teens for years. But since 2016, they have relaxed their guidelines, recognizing that not all screen use is equal.

APA screen time guidelines to limit screen time

  • Don’t throw out the good with the bad. Screens can give them positive experiences too. Say, your daughter might love listening to her grandmother telling her a story on Skype, or maybe your son turns out a surprisingly edible pizza margarita thanks to an online cookery class.
  • If your young child is 18 months old or younger, use screens for video calling relatives or parents.
  • Only let your toddler between 18 and 24 months watch educational shows with you or another caregiver.
  • Are your kids between the ages of 2-5? Set a limit of non-educational screen time to around one hour daily and 3 hours on Saturday and Sunday.

How we use these screen time limits in our family:

I like to think of child’s screen time as any activity. Too much reading without exercise is a bad thing. Too many crafts without reading isn’t great either. Less screen time without creative, independent play, is not that great.

If you want to read my full guide to getting your child to independent play, click here.

So, when my daughter wants watch something I usually ask myself:

  • Has she had creative independent play today?
  • Has she read books?
  • Has she had any physical activity yet?
  • Does she need to do any homework?
  • Does she need face interactions with real people?

If she’s done different versions of all these things, then I think it’s totally fine letting her watch a few kid-friendly shows. I know my daughter, and sometimes it’s really helpful for her to have alone “watching” time to recover from being social and active.

But, let’s talk about those other activities that she tries first – my favorite alternatives to screen time. What does that look like?

Indoor Activities

Portable Bluetooth Speaker for Kids

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My kids got this for Christmas and LOVE IT. It’s the perfect size to hold, and to carry around while they listen to music. I stream music to it from my phone (usually a fun Spotify playlist!), or they listen to audio books!

My favorite way to get free audiobooks, is to use my library card and hook it up to the The Libby App. You can download audiobooks for free! This is great for older and young children.

TIP: Include these headphones for your kids which are our favorite!

Portable Top Loading CD Boombox

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Especially in my kids rooms!

My kids LOVE this thing! They play cd’s all the time – with books on CD from the library, lullaby’s before they go to bed, old music cd’s that I have found in storage…

I usually get one or two cd’s for them for Christmas or their birthday, and their grandparents also love giving them books on CD. This gift is magic to them!

TIP: Get a CD player with Sleep mode. Then you can leave it in their room at bedtime, and it automatically turns off at night!

VTech® Touch and Learn Activity Desk

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I don’t know about you, but my kids love crafts and learning activities. They sit at this desk for HOURS. My kids pull this up to my desk and say “I’m doing my learning, mom. I’ll talk to you later!”

The Touch and Learn Activity Desk Deluxe is an interactive desk and includes activity pages to learn colors, the alphabet, animals, parts of the body, and so much more. As a mom, I’m especially thankful for the writing pad that teaches the correct direction to write each letter. My kids learned so much with this!

If you are looking for a play and learning desk to set up near where you work, I really recommend this Touch and Learn Activity Desk!

(To see all my favorite VTech educational toys for three year olds, check out my post here.)

Playaway Launchpads (at your local library)

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So, have you seen the Playaway Launchpads at your local library? These are so fun! Technically they are a tablet, so they kind of don’t qualify for this article. But, they are an excellent alternative if you don’t want to buy a tablet. They are educational, built for learning, and my kids adore them! They are perfect for a road trip, or just a week-long experience for your kids to be entertained while you work. Totally recommend that you look at your local library!

Outdoor Activities

Outdoor activities are difficult if you have to work. But sometimes kids just need to be outside. Let me show you how to have an outside play station.

Outside Play Station

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Even if you only have a small balcony, you have room for a water table or makeshift sandbox. This is the perfect play station to give your kids entertainment. I set up my lawn chair and work while they play. Let me show you how to make it!

Water Table: I really love our water/sand table. It is the ultimate example of how creativity is worth the storage. We use the water table for water games, sand games, bubbles, animals and toys, watching bugs…everything!

Sand Container: If you don’t have room for a real sand box, I have the solution for you! Just get a big & shallow plastic box that has a lid that attaches. Fill it with sand and sand toys – and it will last seasons! If you are looking for my favorite kinetic sand for inside and outside sand play, we love this one called “Beach Sand”!

When you set up all these toys, make sure you add a chair for you! This could a camping chair, beach chair, or just a chair you dragged from inside. This will enable you to…

  • work
  • make phone calls
  • hold babies
  • eat a snack
  • drink coffee
  • encourage independent play!

The Original PlasmaCar

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If you do want outside toys that your kids can play with actively while you work, here are two of our favorites. They hold my kids’ interest for years, and are great “independent play” outside toys.

Our garage is full of bikes, scooters, and other riding toys. But this PlasmaCar is by far my kids’ favorite riding toy HANDS DOWN. It is perfect for all ages – from 2 to 8 year olds. My kids as three-year-olds love it the best. It is easy to ride, and has no pedals. It is FAST and my kids love spinning out with it. It is great for inside or outside. My kids take them to the park, and every kid there wants to play with them.

If you are looking for a riding toy outside, the PlasmaCar will be their favorite!

Stomp Rocket The Original Ultra Rocket Launcher

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My daughter asked for this Stomp Rocket toy for years before we bought it. We finally gave it to her as a birthday present, and my kids still play with it years later. It’s a huge neighborhood cul-de-sac hit, and is the most simple surprising toy for kids. We have also given this as a birthday present many times to younger kids and it’s a great present for an old girl birthday party. We love this outside toy and it’s one of my top picks for gifts!


My kids LOVE crafts and art activities, and they could spend countless hours playing with these while I work. If your child is easily amused by stickers, paint, and crayons, try these options for PARENT-FREE FUN with no mess.

Melissa & Doug Scissor Skills and Tape Activity Books Set

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This scissor skills and tape activity book from Melissa & Doug is so fantastic. My daughter got this when she was three, and she keeps asking me if there are more of these activity books. They far surpass any coloring book or “preschool activity book” that we have bought. The scissor activities are so clever (cut out a pizza and all the toppings!) and the tape book is amazing to sharpen any kid’s fine motor skills. You can use markers and crayons with these, but you don’t need them. They come with all the scissors and tape you need. This pack is also the best gift idea for kids!

PAW Patrol Super Sticker Fun! (Paw Patrol) Paperback

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My daughter is obsessed with sticker puzzle books. They are activity books where the child places stickers in a puzzle background to show the full picture. They are so much more fun than regular sticker books!

We have bought at least 5 sticker puzzle books, and this Paw Patrol Sticker Fun book was the best by far. The stickers aren’t too small for three-year-old, and are exciting to put together. Amazing for fine motor skills!

Activities that aren’t toys

Cleaning chores for kids

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I HATE dusting. But these Swiffer Dusters make dusting so easy! Instead of using microfiber cloths or old socks, We use one of these for the whole house. It works perfect for tall shelves, low-to-the-ground baseboards, and every nook and cranny.

I give these to my kids, and they can dust almost the whole house! It’s a great way for kids to be involved, and clean without adult supervision. You can also pay them per room so they can earn some spending money. Totally recommend!

Dance Parties

We are kind of obsessed with dance parties at our house. We have a Facebook Portal device in our kitchen that plays Spotify, and we listen to SO many kids and Disney songs. We play the music loud, add some dress-ups, and dance loud! Here is our playlist for our favorite kids dance music!

Honorable Mention

KiwiCo Subscription Boxes


I am including KiwiCo because we’ve used it for years for both our kids. But, it definitely requires adult supervision – so it’s just honorable mention.

Every month my kids get an age-appropriate activity box that has 3-4 craft/activities that uses the STEM process (science, technology, engineering, math) to give you smart, hands-on activities to do with your child to promote imaginative play. They have awesome boxes that are age-appropriate for all ages.

You can even get just ONE BOX (no subscription necessary.) Just purchase one box and put it under the tree! It’s the perfect holiday surprise that your kids can create by themselves.

I also love keeping all the previous boxes so I have a supply of activities I can rotate year-round. I keep all her old activities in an organized plastic box and pull out one or two a week. (“Do you want to do your doctor kit or dinosaur matching game this week?”)

Kids LCD Writing Tablet

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This is an honorable mention only because my kids don’t use their LCD writing tablets very often. But they are awesome little light-up drawing tablets that are so fun. I totally recommend them, and know a lot of parents that adore them. They look a little like a tablet, but are super fun drawing experience!

My Advice To Parents for alternatives to screen time

Know your family. Know your kids.

Do what’s best for YOUR kids!

Don’t let the internet, your friends, or even some child official doctor person tell you what’s best for your kids. Do you need more screen time? That’s OK. Do you want a screen-free house? That’s ok too!

Think about what your kids needs, and find a solution that fits you.

You might also like:

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Why limiting screen time for kids is easier than you think

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Oh hey there!

I’m Ginny and can’t wait to meet you! I work 50+ hours a week. Mom my two kids. And strive everyday to spend more real time with my husband and kids.

All I want to be is a good mom who works hard. That’s not too much to ask, right?  Come hang out with me and do more than the bare minimum.


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Mom-Friendly Alternatives to Screen Time (you need these ideas!)