Screen Time

Non-Tech Gift Guide to Reduce Screen Time--Our Top 5 Picks

Most kids have at least one tech gift on their wish list--and we've got advice on how to shop for tech gifts and set them up beforehand so they can be as safe as possible. But we want to emphasize the value of screen-free gifts, so we’ve made a list of our top 5 picks for non-tech gifts.

Top 5 Picks for Non-Tech Gifts

Whether you’re looking for experiential gifts or something more tactile, we’ve got ideas for every budget. Here are our top picks for non-tech gifts:

  1. Experiential gifts that make memories
  2. Subscriptions--the gift that keeps on giving
  3. Toys that challenge the mind and build skills
  4. Games (not the video kind)
  5. Books we love

1. Experiential gifts that create memories

It’s become very popular to give experiences instead of material items. And for good reason! Experiential gifts

  • keep clutter at bay,
  • create memories,
  • often teach new skills, and 
  • usually support local businesses.

Here are our favorite experiential gifts:

  • Camps or Lessons Does your child have an interest they haven’t had a chance to explore yet? Sign them up for a camp so they can get a taste for it. These days there are camps for almost anything--horseback riding, sports, music, cooking, baby-sitting, crafting, sewing, martial arts, dance etc. If your child already has a deep interest in something, consider giving them a year of lessons as a gift.
  • Day pass or annual pass The possibilities are endless here--trampoline parks, water parks, theme parks, gyms, YMCA, climbing gyms, pools, museums, escape rooms, axe throwing, etc.
  • Day out with mom or dad/grandparents Find something your child enjoys and go out to do it together! 
  • Tickets to a live show Find a play, concert or performance that your child would be interested in--or maybe even one that will stretch them to learn something about another culture.

2. Subscriptions--the gift that keeps on giving

Subscriptions are also gaining popularity--and we love them because they’re full of surprises all year long! Here are some of our favorite subscription ideas:

  • Little Passports A monthly play-based science and geography kit. They have different kits for each age group.
  • Universal Yums Each month, Universal Yums will send a box of snacks from a featured country, plus a 12-page booklet on that country. This is a fun (and yummy!) way to learn about other countries.
  • Kiwi Crates You can choose from various age groups and interests including science, art, geography, and early learning. A monthly crate will show up with age-appropriate projects.
  • National Geographic Magazines For kids ages 3-6, subscribe to National Geographic Little Kids which includes 6 bi-monthly magazines and 6 early-readers. For kids 6 and up, subscribe to National Geographic Kids which includes 10 issues in an annual subscription. And for teens, the regular National Geographic magazine is great!
  • Brain Defense: Digital Safety Give your kids ages 8-12 a gift that will serve them their entire lives! Brain Defense: Digital Safety is an engaging, video-based program that teaches kids the digital defense skills they need to stay safe from predators, pornography and bullying online. And in January it will be available as a subscription for a low, monthly rate. Don’t want to wait? Buy now for a one-time fee and have lifetime access!

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3. Toys that challenge the mind and build skills

If you’re looking for a more tactile gift, you’ll want to check out our list below. We chose these toys because they require critical thinking and build motor skills.

  • Marble runs--we especially love the Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 by MindWare
  • SnapCircuits Kids learn about electrical circuits by building their own circuits. The challenges get increasingly more difficult as they go.
  • Magformers This is a fun building toy that uses magnets to hold everything together.
  • Legos These building bricks continue to be popular with kids of all ages--even teenagers!
  • Stomp Rockets Kids of all ages love sending these rockets into the sky.
  • Craft Kits There are so many to choose from and they come with everything you need to make the item so no extra trips to the store to get something to finish it off.

4. Games (not the video kind)

Although kids may get plenty of video game time in, a good board or card game is still a great gift and another way to keep kids off screens--plus they encourage social interaction, which is always a plus!

Here are some of our favorites:

Ages 4+

  • Zingo! A game that teaches reading skills.

Ages 6+

  • Qwirkle Wooden tiles are used to create sets--players build off each other’s tiles.
  • Roller Coaster Challenge A one player logic game where players go through different challenge levels to build model roller coasters.

Ages 8+

  • Guesstures Like charades.
  • Mastermind 2 players--Players create patterns for the other player to guess.
  • Azul Strategy/pattern game using tiles to create mosaics
  • Ticket to Ride Strategy board game that teaches a little geography along the way
  • Headbanz Players wear a headband with a card on it so only the other players can see it. They ask yes or no questions to figure out what picture is on their card.
  • Kingdomino A twist on traditional dominoes where players use tiles to create a small kingdom
  • Throw Throw Burrito A dodgeball card game--it gets a bit wild so make sure you have a good space to play it in, but kids and teens (as well as adults) love this game!
  • Labyrinth A strategy game in which players have to collect items on the game board--but the board changes with every person’s turn!
  • Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza A twist on slap jack. This one gets a little wild sometimes, but is lots of fun!
  • Flash! A dice game that’s like a simplified version of Yahtzee.
  • Codemaster One player game that teaches coding in which players go through increasingly more difficult challenges.

Ages 10+

5. Books we love

Last but not least, we’ve got books on our list. A book is always a good gift. Although digital books are quite popular and convenient, we find that most kids we know actually still prefer reading a hard copy of a book. And with all the time spent on screens for school and leisure, it’s a great way to work in a screen break! Mix it up with both fiction and non-fiction.

Not sure where to start? It was so hard for us to choose, but here are a few of our favorites:

Picture Books (ages 1-5)

Books for younger readers ages 4-8

Books for middle readers ages 8-12

Fact Books

Kids will spend hours looking through these books! Here are some of our favorites:

Note: We haven’t read every single book in each of these series. Please look at reviews of each book to determine whether or not they are appropriate for your child.

Giving those tech gifts is sure to bring a smile to your child's face--and you can do so in a safe way, but be sure to balance it out with some of these non-tech gifts so that they have plenty of reasons to get off those screens!

Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition

"Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent

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