Once upon a time, my son had no idea how a TV or iPad worked. His days were filled with hands-on play, reading books, singing songs, freely exploring the world around him, and zero screen-based activities. Those were simpler times.
Now, as a single child home full-time with two boring parents who have to do things like work all day, there are a lot more screens in his life. The pandemic has forced more hours in the day that he longs for something to do to replace his exciting screen-free days at school. While we try to make sure his days are scheduled with as many hands-on experiences and play as possible, we know there is just no substitute to play with kids his own age as we’re stuck at home. Enter screen-based activities.
As a previous preschool teacher, I’m incredibly picky about what he can do and how long he can be on screens throughout the day. I’m writing this article as a mom of a 4-year old; however, I’m also writing from my experiences as his mom. Please remember every kid is different and develops at different rates. Some of these suggestions might be perfect for your 3 or 4 or 6-year old.
4 Awesome Screen-Based Learning Activities:
Seriously, one of the best things we have been doing since school closed is signing up for random classes on Outschool.com. He has LOVED learning about totally different topics, interacting with new people, and getting to do things totally kid-centric on screen.
I love how affordable these options are; most classes range between $8-$11 each. The pricing was also helpful as we tested the waters. Some classes were terrible, either because it wasn’t a good match for my son’s personality or because the teacher was obviously not used to working with young children. But using $8-11 wasn’t the end of the world when we also found tons of options he loves!
I keep a list of his favorite classes and teachers to rebook similar possibilities in the future. I try to find classes that keep him moving (aka tire him out) such as Ninja Class, Outer Space Yoga, Brazilian Capoeira, Superhero Fitness, and Gymnastics. Some of my favorite teachers he has worked with really know how to keep the play in virtual learning (no skill and drill), such as Ms. Dena, Ms. Straz, Ms. Pamela, and Ms. Jordan.
I’m struggling to find the words to express how happy I am that we found this app. My son comes to life while he codes! The app is super easy to use with a very kid-friendly design. As a beginner coder, he quickly figured out how to tell the character what to do with programming blocks. What I really love is seeing a new way for his imagination to come alive. While he isn’t a huge fan of drawing or painting, his verbal storytelling has endless details. On screen, he can really show the visual story he is trying to tell. I highly suggest the class he took with Ms. Khadija; she really helped each child learn how to push their current understanding of coding.
From their color palette to their supportive response to wrong answers, I love everything about the Khan Academy Kids app! (And I still can’t believe this was free!) You can tell there was a ton of time and intentionality put into this app design. The games are intuitive for kids to play while helping to grow tons of new skills. My son loves the library section, which reads books aloud to him. One of my favorite features is the lack of commercialism. No ads or areas requiring additional purchases to keep playing. Just lots of ways to have fun!
4. Magic School Bus (Netflix)
Oh yeah, parents, Ms. Frizzle is back to teach a whole new generation about science! Besides seeing the joy in his eyes when something magical happens, I love snuggling up and rewatching a classic for me too! Netflix has all of the original episodes plus a new series called, “The Magic School Bus Rides Again.” Same great concepts and flow with new topics that I was amazed to learn about (Agricultural Science, Simple Machines, and DNA, just to name a few.)
I hope your little one enjoys some of these options too! Check out 5 more guilt-free screen time activities from DC-based organizations. What are your favorite screen-based activity options?