Play dress-up: Remember playing dress-up as a child? From costumes to clothes in your parents' closet, dressing up is a great way to play and learn. Become a cowboy and pitch a tent in the living room. Camp there and tell stories about the Wild West. Make it a (fun) history lesson!
Play a board game: That's right, I said to play a board game. Remember those? No bells & whistles and battery free. Take some time to play a game as a family or encourage children to play with siblings and friends. Board games stimulate the mind and are a great way to socialize and bond.
Take time for charity: While this may not scream "playtime," finding ways to help others is an excellent activity for children and families. Take a day to sort through toys and clothes. Browse local charities in your area online or in person. Let your children have a hand in the decision-making process. Where do they want their old toys to go? A friend? A local hospital or shelter? Maybe the local thrift store? Being a part of the process can help children to be more aware and appreciative.
Read: This might sounds obvious, but reading is quickly turning into a lost art for a lot of children. And don't think you're limited to stories of adventures in faraway lands. Try reading as a family. It's fun to learn things together and kids really like being able to ask questions and see what they're reading about. Grab a book on foraging in the woods. Then take a hike and use your new knowledge to find some food! Are you homesteaders like us? Consider books that will help your children (and entire family) be more productive on the farm.
Get picture happy! Take some pictures. Let everyone take turns with the camera, or pick up a few at a local thrift store (where you often pay next to nothing for electronics). Kids love looking through the lens and seeing their images captured. Help your children learn how to operate the camera, when to use the flash, how to zoom in and out. Make a slide show of the photos and look them over as a family. Your kids will smile in delight, proud of their works of art!
Write a letter: No, I didn't say e-mail (or text). I said write a letter. You know, pen, paper, envelope. Write the address, add a stamp. When you're done, you put it in the mail. Remember those? Good, old-fashioned letters. When was the last time you wrote a letter by hand? How about your children? Sadly, I am aware of many kids that don't know anything about writing a letter. Take the time to put some sentiment into a note and send someone some snail mail. Write a thank you note, a simple hello or I miss you. Your kids will enjoy writing a letter, and even more, they'll enjoy receiving a response in the mail (who doesn't love mail?).
Cook a meal: The average kid doesn't know what goes into making their meals. Try cooking a meal or baking a cake together. It's not only a great way to play, but it's also a great way to learn too! Take the opportunity to teach your children about nutrition, where their food comes from and the time and effort involved with making a meal.
Go to a children's museum: Don't limit your play to around your house. Find a local children's museum and play the day away! Our local children's museum is free and open to the public during a variety of hours, seven days a week. The added bonus of playing here is the lack of clean-up; there's no mess in my house when we're done with the toys!
Take a walk: How often do you actually move? Physical activity is seriously lacking in our society. With everything made to make things easier & faster, we don't get the exercise we should. Take a walk with your family. It can be anywhere - around the block or in the woods. The point is to get moving, get out of the house and spend time together. Talk about the things you see and ask your children questions to keep them engaged. What kind of tree is that? Do you know what bird makes that sound we just heard?
Do you have some suggestions on battery and electronic free play? Please share them in the comments!