OK, television's off for Turn Off Week - so now what?

No TV Week is here – officially Turn Off Week – and you're scrambling to figure out what to do with the kiddos.

With no DVDs, computer games or other "screen time" to keep them occupied (don't lie, we've all done it), what's there to do?

Now's the time to reconnect with the outdoors, and with each other, organizers say.

This year's theme is "I'm unplugged and ready to ..." Here's a list of suggested alternatives, some you can do together and some kids can do on their own:

– Play outside. (What a concept!). Play tag or hide-and-go-seek, shoot some hoops, play catch, kick that soccer ball around. If it rains ...

– Read a book together. Great for the 5-and-under crowd, and you'll be surprised how much your older children like this, too. Or buy them a great new chapter book they can read on their own.

– Play a board game. Some favorites in our family are Candyland (ugh), Race to the Roof, Apples to Apples Jr. and any Memory game.

– Ride your bike. Don't forget the helmet.

– Go to the park. There's one within walking distance of many Champaign-Urbana homes.

– Build something. Find some scrap wood in the garage, and help your child glue or nail it into something interesting, or even useful (a birdhouse?). Or use recycled Styrofoam, cardboard and other castoffs to make a sculpture.

– Go swimming (indoors, at this point).

– Make art. Get out the paints or markers. Create hand-print drawings, or use scissors to make a simplified version of "papel picado," the Mexican art form that's kind of like making a paper snowflake (instructions can be found online).

– Create yard art. Get out the yard paints and decorate flowerpots, or paint the rocks in the driveway. (Note to kids: Ask parents about this first.)

– Plant a garden. Or just start some seeds in a few pots indoors. Kids love to watch things grow.

– Clean. (Might as well make this useful, right?) What child doesn't love squirting Windex (or vinegar, for a more environmentally friendly choice) on windows?

– Make up a story. Tell it sequentially. Start things off, and let everyone take turns telling the next chapter.

– Visit a museum. The Orpheum Children's Museum and the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures are just two with children's activities.

– Visit the library. An obvious choice, but this time just focus on the books, not the video department.

– Take a nature hike. Walk through Busey Woods, tour the sculptures at Meadowbrook Park, or just see what treasures you can find walking around the neighborhood. Kids love collecting pine cones, sweetgum balls, interesting leaves, even sticks and rocks.

– Write a letter. Surprise the grandparents with handmade cards or those long-overdue thank-you notes.

– Listen to music. Great for those low-sugar whiny times in late afternoon. Crank up some dance tunes and watch the frowns disappear.

Maybe some of those habits will stick after the week's over. Besides: Organizers have added a second Turn Off Week this year, Sept. 20-26.

On the Web: www.ScreenTime.org.


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