100 Ways to Avoid TV

This week, we are having a little break from the television.

I have absolutely no problems with TV in general, and I usually let my kids watch daily (though I do try to limit it to 30-60 minutes a day, and we keep it to shows & DVDs without commercials). I think it is quite useful as a break for us all – me in particular! For us, it works to help everyone chill out for a bit when we are having a rough or fussy time, or to keep the kids entertained and safe while I try to get some work done,  shower, or take a mama break and zone out for awhile to work on the blog or other stuff online (I really really need this for my own sanity).

I’ve found that in order to curb the requests for TV, I have to schedule it into our day very carefully – not just toss it in willy nilly – because the kids then think any time might be a good time to watch (and will ask ALL THE TIME). Up until Elsie and Delia eliminated their morning nap (around 20 months or so?) my oldest, Emma, would watch something while I nursed them to sleep. Now, the little ones get to watch too, and its usually after playtime in the morning (breakfast, playtime/get dressed, TV, then outings or other projects) and sometimes also in the afternoon right before dinner, while I cook. Any time I slip up and let Emma watch at a different time (while Elsie & Delia are still napping in the afternoon, for instance, or directly after breakfast), it comes back to haunt me for weeks – she will remember and try to badger me into letting it happen then again.  Stick with the schedule, though, and all generally goes well.

However. There has lately been a bit more whining and angst over who decides what we watch, and a bit too much talk (from my oldest) about all the TV she wants to watch, so I’ve declared a TV free week. It’s going pretty well, though boy do I miss it sometimes! It’s a good exercise for us all, though. I am tempted to stretch it to two, actually.

Here is a list the girls and I have come up with of things to do instead of TV.  We certainly have not tried them all this week, but it’s nice to have a list to refer to!

    twins play a sorting game

  1. draw pictures/color
  2. flubber!
  3. swing on the swings
  4. build a tower
  5. run around outside
  6. run around inside
  7. jump outside
  8. glue magazine pictures (magazine collages)
  9. play with the dollhouse
  10. play a board game
  11. do math
  12. do button math (counting buttons into cups, or using them to add & subtract)
  13. bead necklaces
  14. sort pasta (and pasta beading)
  15. cook something
  16. play with (fisher price) “little people”
  17. line up all the little people in a parade
  18. line up all the plastic animals in a parade
  19. play with animals in the bathtub
  20. felt some soaps
  21. dress up
  22. make a fort
  23. play in the sandbox
  24. take a walk
  25. throw the frisbee
  26. ride bikes
  27. read books
  28. dance party!
  29. go to the park
  30. go to the zoo
  31. work on paper dolls
  32. play with “Suzie” doll (Elsie)
  33. play with dominos
  34. make a checker game (Emma wants to learn checkers)
  35. type on typewriter or computer
  36. scavenger hunt
  37. set up the (indoor) tent
  38. play with instruments
  39. pots and pans
  40. learn to write words (Emma)
  41. write on chalkboard wall
  42. clean chalkboard wall
  43. play with marbles on a tray (with muffin tins,egg cartons & ice cube trays)
  44. marble game
  45. paint with marbles
  46. play with dolls
  47. dress our dolls in new clothes
  48. bristle blocks
  49. fingerpaint
  50. paint with water
  51. play with trains
  52. play with cars
  53. make a racetrack
  54. paint with cars
  55. play with toy kitchen
  56. plant some seeds (indoors in windowsill)
  57. take a bubble bath
  58. play with Noah’s Ark
  59. wash the sink (Emma enjoys this job a lot)
  60. play with water in the big sink
  61. wash toy dishes in big sink
  62. make a card
  63. glitter art
  64. make a book
  65. do sticker books
  66. make a pillow stepping stone track (no touching the floor)
  67. pretend we are going to school
  68. have a tea party
  69. have a birthday party for Bunny Bun Bun
  70. make bubbles
  71. pretend it’s Halloween
  72. ice cube surprises (freezing toys/fun objects in ice for bath, sink or swimming pool)
  73. play in Mama’s bed (Elsie and Delia’s favorite, ha)
  74. Legos/duplos
  75. make a “magic” bottle with oil/water/glitter
  76. play/sort shells
  77. play with “gems” (glass gems) or rocks
  78. collect nature treasures for a nature display
  79. hopscotch (inside with tape, or outside with chalk)
  80. move the furniture and do tumbling
  81. make an obstacle course
  82. (homemade) reading games
  83. look at pictures on the computer
  84. listen to music or books on CD
  85. sew on buttons
  86. make sock puppets
  87. tissue paper collage
  88. work on & play with shower curtain playmat
  89. make felt board pictures
  90. crayon rubbings
  91. stencil pictures
  92. letter stamps (or any stamps)
  93. play “school bus” or “driving in the car” (an E & D favorite)
  94. play with beans (sensory table/bucket/pool)
  95. hammer nails into a stump
  96. play with magnets
  97. roll balls in the hallway
  98. do puzzles
  99. go to the library
  100. invite friends over to play

What do you do around the house instead of TV? Please share your ideas in the comments.


You can find Kristin over at Intrepid Murmurings, where she writes and photographs her attempts to embrace motherhood, nurture creativity, and maintain sanity while raising twin toddlers and a preschooler.

About The Author: Kristin

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You can find Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings, where she blogs about embracing creativity, urban homesteading, dairy-free cooking, twin-parenthood, and three amazing girls every day.

13 Responses to 100 Ways to Avoid TV

  1. Tabatha

    We loved making a house for barbie out of lego’s. Lincoln logs. The cleaning game!

  2. Catherine N

    I have 2 girls (2&5) we make menus, set up a little table with dolls and stuffed animals and play restaurant, make homemade playdough, trace shapes with cookie cutters, bake, decorate with window markers & crayons then use the squegee to clean the Windows, have an indoor picnic, take a walk in the forest preserve, draw the week’s grocery list, make our own bubbles and hop in the tub, and one of their favorites: record the girls singing and playing music and then listening and giggling to the playback. My older daughter just started using an old tape recorder to sing songs and make up commercials like we hear on the radio. 🙂

  3. M. J. Joachim

    crochet, cook, garden and read…unless I’m playing cards or games with family members, of course:)

  4. Felicity

    When my twin sons were small (from the age of about 18 months until they were about 3), I used to set up a painting area outside on our back deck. I usually did this when it was warm so I could strip them down to their undies (they loved this!) and not worry about the mess. We used water-based paints and I just hosed the area down afterwards. Sometimes I hosed the boys down too! They had a ball, painting each other as much as they painted on the paper!

  5. Karla  

    We do Rock Thoughts(www.rockthoughts.com)! A great way to not only entertain little (and big) ones but it also helps stimulate their creativity and encourages reading and writing. It’s been a lot of fun.

    • Kristin  

      Wow, I love those Rock Thoughts, what a neat idea! We enjoy painting and decorating rocks but I love the added collaboration and storytelling component! My older daughter would love this!

  6. Cinders

    We have the TV on a lot in our house, but its my husband and I who its on for. We just grew up with it that way I guess, but my little girl spends a lot of time playing and ignoring the TV. She has a couple shows she will stop and watch but other than that she loves playing with playdough, containers, pipe cleaner activities, coloring, painting, legos, and her favourite game is tucking her “babies” in for naps all over the house lol

  7. Betty

    Playing hide and seek inside the house is one of our favorite things to do. Another favorite games is playing catch!

  8. Anne Lipuma

    My son n I spend all this time building a crazy mini city, we use all of his Lego duplos (sky scrapers), wooden blocks as town houses- Lincoln logs for the country side n we add a farm n animals, we make a zoo out of his dinosaurs we using the lids of the Lego n block containers for “cages” we use hot wheel trackes as roads or make our own….n I can go on n on, but once were finished I yell out oh no the monster man is coming then he roars n stomps and starts tearing through the town like Godzilla, I get to play all the little people n cars n animals running for there lives no one gets hurys Cuz he is a nice monster he always tells me, I just eat buildings Cuz thats what big monsters eat, they eat big things, only lil monsters eat little things and people. Anyway we have a blast n then we can do it all over again! But the town never looks the same.

  9. Jean Perks

    simple. get rid of the television. We never had one as children, they were unheard of. My children did not have one, I refused to have one in the house. We did all of these things in the list and many more with lots of time out in the garden and the fields around us. Playing with friends is a vital past time.

  10. amanda

    sometimes people ask me how we get by without a TV.
    we have netflix on my laptop – and once in a while my kids get a show to watch – but that’s about it. and it’s a special treat for them.
    without the option of on demand TV, my kids have become very creative and active at 3 & 5.
    it’s been good for all of us.
    thanks for your post. i will use some of these excellent ideas 🙂

  11. Maggie Kalm

    I like these ideas but the times I’m using the TV as an activity are like the times you listed at the beginning of this article – making breakfast, showering, doing something on the computer. All of these activities seem to require my attention since I have a 17 month old and she has no siblings. The TV is a distraction while I do things she can’t do with me. I was hoping, after the first two paragraphs, these were ideas that would entertain just my child. I know how to play with her when I’m able to.

  12. Kristin  

    Hmm, Maggie, I suppose this list is more geared to older kids and those with siblings, which is what my experience was when I wrote it. Though my oldest did do some of these things on her own for periods of time when she was a young toddler — I was on bedrest with twins (and later nursing them around the clock, gah!) so she did not have me to play with her much of the time. I also made a lot of toddler activity bags and did toy rotations, so toys and activities were novel and not something she saw everyday — that seemed to grab her attention more.

    I like the idea of letting kids learn to be with themselves (not literally, but in terms of not being entertained and played with by a parent all the time), but I know it can be a challenge with an only child. It was a necessity for us, so my eldest learned, with plenty of fussing at times, but not TOO much sadness (though yes, I did also do quite a bit of TV at that time, too, and that was okay too!). I am an only child and know I learned pretty well how to entertain myself eventually, but I admit I have no idea how I was when I was a toddler!