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Dreaming Big Living Small

Going off the grid: Family-friendly activities without electronics

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Technology has infiltrated every part of our lives. Sometimes that can be a good thing. For example, this article you are reading. But there are lots of times it can be a horrible influence on our lives. Just think of all the people sucked into addiction. And not just pornography. Addiction to screen time and games is very real.

A few years back, I saw a commercial on TV from an internet provider explaining how their services were fast enough for anything you needed. And the example they gave was different camera angles around the home showing different family members all talking to each other and completing online activities through their devices. One of the scenes showed the family around the dinner table together texting each other. That really stuck with me. The modern family is so disconnected from each other they text instead of talk while in the same room.

Lukas & Alex playing chess
Lukas & Alex playing chess

But if our goal is to step back from the modern world, shouldn’t we find ways to unplug more? I remember growing up as a kid not having nearly as many devices. Cell phones were not common, did not come with games, and were large. Evenings could be spent in front of an older tube TV watching a movie as a family.

Over the past few months, since moving out of our trailer, we have not had a TV. This simple change has caused me to revisit how we spend our time. How our kids are spending their time. And I honestly think it has been a good thing. Now we probably won’t go TV-free forever, and we still have other devices. Yet, it was worth it to see how things would go.

But what are we doing without devices?

Family Game Nights

We started family game nights off and on before we moved from the trailer. The kids each enjoy getting to play a board game with us. Lately, the three oldest have been obsessed with trying to beat me at chess.

I imagine if your family is like mine, you have collected various board games over the years. For years many of these games collected dust in our house. Or the kids would pull them out, play a time or two, and leave a mess behind.

Skyler, Hunter & Ashley building Legos
Skyler, Hunter & Ashley building Legos

As we have worked on shifting our lives to use less screen time, though rather unintentional in some cases, it has provided us with more time together to play the games we tucked away so long ago. And the kids soak up the extra attention from us, which is a win.

Building Legos

I don’t know about your home, but ours is constantly covered in Legos, both big and small. The younger kids drag the Duplo Legos around everywhere. We bought a kit a few years back that turned the Duplo into a marble track. It was a big enough hit at Christmas that we ended up purchasing a second set so they could have more parts to make bigger tracks.

Little Legos as we call the older kids Legos are just as much entertainment for the kids as they are for us. With some of the Technic sets, using gears the kids can make things that move. Now they are learning mechanics while playing. But it’s just as much fun building a plain old house or setting up the train set.

I think half the time is always spent finding the elusive piece you need. But we can all sit down as a family and build together.

Reading Time

Kaylee & Hunter reading together
Kaylee & Hunter reading together

While it can take a little coaxing at times, our family likes to read. We have amassed a collection of books, both for the kids and ourselves, that are fun to read or teach new skills. Our family also has library cards, and we visit the library every few weeks to check out books.

Our youngest being a year and a half at this point loves to pick up a book and look at the photos. Even more, he loves it when someone reads to him. Books, even as fiction, are a great source of learning. You learn more words in your vocabulary, and it can be a lot of fun trying to guess the ending plot.

We try to have our kids sit down and do quiet reading time for a block each day individually.

Another thing we do as a family is read the scriptures. There is a time set aside before bed to read the scriptures and discuss our reading as a family. This study time collectively brings our family closer to Heavenly Father and makes us stronger in the gospel and together.

Family Trips & Camping

It’s not uncommon for families to split and do everything separately. Mom handles the shopping, Dad works and gets home later, kids at tons of outside activities. This is where family trips can come in. They create a time when the entire family is together for more than just a meal.

While it might seem odd to most people, our family is pretty much always together. Both Ashley and I work from home and the kids are homeschooled, so we are always together at home. When it comes time to do the shopping, everyone goes. I often remark as we travel through a store that I have a tail. But that is our normal life. Shopping might not seem fun, but by taking our kids, they get a say in some of the foods we purchase.

Family trips don’t have to be to the store, however. You can take a family trip and go for a drive. Something we do each Christmas is take a drive to look at the lights on people’s homes. Sometimes we don’t find many, but it’s fun for the kids. It’s a fond memory from my childhood and I enjoy passing that on to my children.

During the summer, you can take a scenic drive in the county. Talk and enjoy each other’s company.

Something we don’t get to do enough of, but I want to change, is going camping or hiking. Ashley & I both enjoy hiking and spending time outdoors. It’s a great way to connect with nature while connecting with your family.

Plan out a few weekends a year to go for a family walk in the woods. Or be really adventurous and take a camping trip. And I am talking really camping, not trailer camping. Pack up the tent, get the gas stove, and go camping. You can even extend that camping trip into a hunting or fishing trip.

Camping can also be a great way to grow your off-grid and primitive living skills. You can plan in time to teach your kids outdoor skills that will help them be more prepared for the future.

Everyday Tasks

It might seem funny, but some of your everyday tasks can be turned into entertainment. For us, cooking can easily fall into this category. Getting the kids involved in making cookies, or planning meals gives them involvement and we often have fun as a family doing so.

During the holidays, we bake goodies and share them with family and friends. Our kids enjoy making the various doughs or frosting the cookies. And we enjoy the help in getting a large task completed.

Recently our family worked together on creating baby blankets for the baby we are expecting in spring. We took a trip to purchase fabric, and the kids got to pick their favorite ones. Then each child got to make a blanket. I am sure when our newest baby comes along, she will cherish each blanket.

Take a couple of tasks that might seem boring and work out how you can involve the whole family. You might be amazed at how you can all work together and find joy in doing so.

Where our devices fit our lives

Besides daily work, there are a few places where devices still fit into our lives. Most often this takes the form of children’s schooling where they learn typing and basic computer skills. But there are a few other places I want to share with you.

Tablets

Our older kids each have a tablet. However, they do not get them daily. Instead, we give them tablets when we go on long car rides, such as down to visit family. Another time they often get tablets is at markets for our businesses. This helps them sit through a long day stuck behind a table and they don’t have their business to run. When they get to take their business items, they don’t get the tablets.

MP3 Players

We purchased each of our older kids an MP3 player to allow them to listen to music. They get only a few hours a day at most, and not every day. But they have music they enjoy listening to, and I don’t always want to listen to kid music.

Phones

Until our children are old enough to pay for their phone service, they will not have a cell phone. If the need arises and they need to travel alone, we can send another phone we keep as the family line with them.

Some of our family movies
Some of our family movies

On Ashley’s and my phones, we set timers for distracting activities. This allows us to focus and avoids getting sucked into things such as Facebook which can have a negative effect on our health.

Family Movies

While not something we do every night, we do have a collection of movies and will sit down as a family and watch them. When we lived in the trailer, we would do movie nights during dinner. We also had a subscription to Discovery+ and would turn on cooking shows, or similar entertainment.

Conclusion

I hope this article has given you some ways to bring your family back together and to spend more entertainment time away from electronic devices.

While not everything electronic is bad, it’s all about moderation. If you are spending 8 hours a day working, 5 hours watching TV, and another 4 tied to a phone, while your kids are plugged in all day, it’s just not healthy. We have seen family members go that route, and it becomes such a strong addiction they never spend time doing anything else.

When crap does hit the fan in the future, we likely won’t have all this electronic entertainment at our fingertips. So why not slow down and stop some of that now?

Like this article?

Picture of Alex
Alex
Husband to Ashley & father to our four children. I love hiking, camping, and working on small hobby projects. I also spend my days running our web design business.

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