Front Porch Librarian’s List of Things To Do for Older Kids that Involve Little to No Screen Time!

This Coronavirus stuff, amiright? If you’ve got kiddos at home, and you’d like them to experience time away from a screen, here is my braindump.

What do I mean by “older kids?” Tweens? Teens? Maybe some of these ideas are good for upper elementary? I refuse to provide a number. You know your child! See if any of these ideas apply!

But first: a word about SPACE.

When you’re stuck at home, kids can really feel like they’re going stir-crazy. Encourage them to mix up the space they’re using. Ask them to emerge from the bedroom a bit! Concrete examples of what I mean:

~Slide a comfy chair by the window and read awhile.

~Do you have access to a front porch, deck, patio? Get out there while crafting!

~Throw an old blanket on the back lawn and play a game of solitaire.

~Are there treasures to be discovered in an attic? Or garage?

~Maybe you start using your dining room! Like, actually have a meal in there! Just so there is some (albeit small) change of scenery!

~Get a bubble bath working and add a favorite magazine.

Porch swings!
The perfect escape!

Get Cookin’

Chances are, you’ve already thought about this. Cookies, cakes, pies. But remember: kiddos can also learn how to assemble lasagna and roast a chicken! Pride in making a meal for the family can be huge.

Might your child be in charge of a weekly meal? Breakfast is a nice place to start.

Or, try something entirely new. Crepes? Gumbo? Can you pickle something? Make jelly? Homemade ice cream?

How about perfecting a recipe? Make 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) batches of chocolate chip cookies, noting the differences in each batch and come up with the best chocolate chip cookies ever! What is it that your family loves to eat? How can you enhance that recipe and make it even better?

The freezer is your friend. If you over-bake, most baked goods freeze well, as do many other meals. You can always store some away for another day!

Get Craftin’

Endless possibilities here. Take up knitting, crocheting, and/or calligraphy. Okay, so maybe this will end up with some screen time, but use the ba-jillion online videos available out there to try some embroidery or painting or wood burning.

Don’t have crafting supplies? Hogwash.

Surely you have wine corks or bottle caps or old jeans or toilet paper tubes or newspapers or useless keys or a pile of catalogs or juice pouches or soda cans or duct tape. I mean, literally, go to Pinterest, and type in “crafting with t-shirts” (or any of the items listed above) and a ton of ideas will pop up.

These bottlecaps are just sitting on our kitchen windowsill.
What do you have collected that could lend itself to a craft project?

Think friendship bracelets, birdfeeders, origami, pet rocks, puppets, keychains, bracelets, ornaments, wind catchers, recycled crafts.

Please, please refrain from expecting perfection. The idea is to explore, have fun, lose yourself in the process. Nobody will be addressing wedding invitations after one attempt at calligraphy. Keep it real, y’all.

Now might be a good time to think about people you celebrate. Who has a birthday coming up? Who winds up on your holiday shopping list every year? My son’s girlfriend knitted all of us amazing scarves this past Christmas. I have no idea how long it must have taken, but I can say that if you start early, you’ll be in good shape when that time of year rolls around.

Make homemade cards! (You can get elaborate with pop-up cards, again: Pinterest is your friend.) Have a pile of birthday cards on-hand; create graduation cards for anyone who is wrapping up their senior year. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Or create some just-for-fun cards to mail (because everybody loves an unexpected snail-mail surprise)!

Get Sporty

Maybe baseball practice has been cancelled, but what drills can your child practice in your space, inside or out? Can he dribble the soccer ball in the front yard? Can she throw the softball with you in the back? Can they generally stay in shape with some daily sit ups and push ups? Would you care to join?

Have a basketball hoop in your driveway? Play HORSE. Long gone is our badminton net, but my children will still sometimes grab those flimsy racquets and bat a birdie around.

What’s in your garage? An old punching bag? A Frisbee? A bocce ball set? A hula hoop? Get it out and use it (and maybe clean out the garage while you’re at it).

What’s in the back of your closet? An old thigh master? (OMG, kids think these things are hilarious.) A hackysack? Hand weights?

Do you have a couple of balloons just hanging out in your junk drawer from days gone by? Blow them up and tell your kids to play Balloon Volleyball. How do you play? I have no idea, but I bet they will figure it out.

Who needs to learn how to juggle? Start with bandanas and keep going until you’ve advanced to oranges or tennis balls.

Do you remember the episode of Friends where they throw a ball without dropping it for hours (days?), and Monica even calls in sick to keep it going? Get to it!

Will your child be willing to engage in a raging dance party? I mean, it’s worth a shot. Have them teach you some TikTok moves, if you’re willing! They can use the laugh.

If you want to add in a little screen time, sure – there are loads of exercise videos out there; see if you can find a favorite.


So maybe kids aren’t super duper excited about cleaning out their closets, but older children can recognize it as a necessary evil. Plus, once the wardrobe is cleaned out and they have a pile of clothing donations off to the side and everything nicely organized, it feels so good.

What can they help you with around the house? Clean out the game cabinet? Weed a flower bed? Attack the gutters? Power wash your front sidewalk?

Maybe you can pay them for their efforts, either in cash or in rewards like a favorite meal or a promise – when this is all over – for you to take them to the movies with a friend.

Get Musical

Have a piano? Play it.

When they cleaned out their closet, did they unearth their recorder from 4th grade music? I think some “Hot Cross Buns” is definitely in order.

I’m almost certain that somewhere in my house, we have a slide whistle and a kazoo lurking about. You might, too. Actually, we have guitars and ukuleles and a clarinet. The sax, sadly, is in the band room back on campus. Sigh.

Pull these instruments out and use them.


Old favorites, new hits, or make original music.

Do you have a karaoke machine collecting dust that needs to be used again? There are some apps and websites that offer karaoke entertainment without needing the whole set-up, too.

Get Pretty

Is there a kiddo in your home who would enjoy a homemade spa day?

Do nails, blow dry hair and try a new style, play with make-up. (Just don’t cut your bangs when you’re stressed.)

Concoct some bath salts and relax in the tub.

Figure out all the features of your camera and take some in-house glamor shots after the make-over.

Get Writing

Sure, most of our peeps don’t sit down and write poetry or short stories for pleasure (although if you have such a person in your house, encourage that creative flow, absolutely).

But how about lists? Wish Lists – what ‘I’d Like to do This Summer’ or ‘Movies I Still Need To See’ or a good old fashioned Bucket List.

And letters! Everyone loves mail. Email and texting is super and all, but receiving something in the mail is special. A penpal! Or, suggest they write a note to someone, just because. Better yet, thank-you notes to people like teachers who are working so hard to revamp their classes. Someone serving in the military, volunteers who help the homeless, community helpers in your world.

Who would love some mail? Write to them!

Keep in mind those who are older and younger – a grandparent, an uncle, perhaps or a young cousin or the kids they babysit (and while they’re at it, pop in one of those freshly constructed friendship bracelets).

Find some sticky notes and encourage everyone in the family to write kind or meaningful notes to one another and post them on bedroom doors, bathroom mirrors.

Keep a journal. Start a scrapbook.

Get Kind

Brainstorm Random Acts of Kindness your child might be able to do. As previously mentioned, sending someone a nice note is a delightful notion. Is there a neighbor who could use her lawn mowed? Can you leave a couple of sticks of sidewalk chalk out for young passerbys? Want to mail firefighters some giftcards to the local sandwich shop? What else?

Get Reading

Read, read, read. I’m a librarian, so of course I recommend reading.

Might I remind you, however, that reading what you want them to read isn’t what I’m after. Let them just read. These kids are going through a ton. Their lives changed overnight and they’re stuck at home…with us. Reading will allow them to escape. Reading will allow them comfort. Let them read what they want.

Don’t be surprised if they “dip down.” They might pick up an old favorite or tackle Harry Potter all over again. They might be seeking some predictability, happily already knowing how this story ends since things feel so off. You might even suggest they re-read a book you recall them loving; it might be the comfort they need right now.

Besides books, think newspaper (what a great time to start their Dear Abby addiction), magazines, catalogs, cookbooks, cereal boxes. Just read.

Get Gamin’

Board games! Play them!

Card games, too! Hop online and find new forms of solitaire to learn, so gaming doesn’t always require a partner. Aside: learn how to shuffle cards. Very useful and attractive life skill.

Puzzles! Put them together! My daughter and I recently put together a puzzle and then glued it up so it can be a splash of color on her dorm wall. See if you can find a puzzle for your child that can double as wall art.

It’s all glued together – and with a Command hook, it’ll hang well on her dorm room wall!

If you look at your game stash and feel like you’ve played them all so much lately, come up with games of your own. Charades can be a blast. Have someone in your family put together a scavenger hunt.

Get Practical

What are some things you think your child should know how to do? Make a list and teach them one or two of these skills a day. Sure, if he ever needed to change a tire, he could find a video on his phone, but it is still handy to have some practice nonetheless.

Would you like for them to know how to iron a shirt? Boil pasta? Do a load of laundry (necessary if they’re headed to college, now is a great time to learn)? Sew on a button? Fry an egg? Make a perfect margarita? (Just kidding, y’all. But as long as we’re at it, I 100% give you permission to figure that out for yourself.)

And then . . . ask your child: is there anything they want to know how to do, that you can help them with? Understand how a credit card works? How to use mom’s sewing machine? Unclog a potty? Make a perfect margarita? (Kidding again.)

Well, friends, that’s all I’ve got in me for today…

It has been YEARS since I’ve blogged, and they’ve updated everything so I’m feeling a little lost. Please forgive typos and the like. I’ll try for better pictures and such next time.

But for now, stay safe, wash those hands and keep reading!

Contact me at fplweb (at) frontporchlibrarian dot com

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