25 screen-free activities for your family this winter

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Home for the holidays with nothing to do? There’s plenty of simple, free or low-cost things you and your family can do to avoid the trap of endless hours in front of the tv or video games. In fact, we’ll do the work for you and give you a list of 25 activities you can do as a family. Unplug this holiday season and check in with your most important followers. You’d be surprised how powerful a truly wireless connection can be!

1. Go for a walk
Take a stroll through your neighborhood or check out any one of Mansfield’s 19 parks. Click here to find the one nearest to you. It’s a great way to work off all that turkey and pie.

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2. Read a book together
Introduce your kids to your favorite classics or let them share what they’re reading with you. Reading together is not just educational, it’s a great way to bond and gain new insight into your kids’ budding personalities.

3. Bust out the board games
When was the last time you had a family game night? There are plenty of new games out now that you can learn together. But the classics like Sorry and Chutes and Ladders hold up really well. You just might discover a new family favorite

4. Cook together
Teach your kids a treasured family recipe or search the cook books together to find something new. Kids are more likely to try something new to eat when they helped create it.

5. Build toothpick and marshmallow towers
Let the creative juices flow! You would be surprised what sort of sculpture everyone can come up with using just a bag of marshmallows and a box of toothpicks. Even better, make everyone a cup of hot cocoa to dunk your finished creations into when you’re done.

6. Teach your kids a card game
Go beyond Go Fish and try a new game with an old deck of cards. You can hold them Texas style with gumdrops as your poker chips, play classic Rummy or Blackjack or just how the kids how to play Solitaire outside the app. Click here for more card game ideas.

7. Go on a treasure hunt
Everybody loves an old-fashioned scavenger hunt, and you’ll have just as much fun leaving clues as they do finding them. You can follow a theme looking for items that start with the same letter or add up to a bigger message, or make it totally random and silly. After they find the treasure, encourage your kids to come up with a hunt of their own.

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8. Take a family bike ride
If the weather is nice, take a ride through your neighborhood or along the Walnut Creek Linear Trail. With miles of lighted concrete, it is a safe and family-friendly route, especially for slower riders.

9. Build a puzzle
Pick out a new puzzle together at the store or pull out a family favorite from your shelf. Puzzles are great to leave out and let everyone work on it at their own pace.

10. Make some music
No matter how much musical talent your family has, everyone loves a sing a long. Make your own musical instruments or band on pots and pans. You can also have your own name-that-toon contest or American Idol showdown.

11. Try a crossword puzzle
Crossword puzzles are great brain teasers and can be surprisingly fun to do together. Perfect for car rides, airplanes and event to bond with Grandma while you wait for the turkey to cook. You can pick up books in any theme at the dollar store, Target, and other stores, or check out sites like this where you can make your own crossword puzzle! Free to do, just make up clues and print.

12. Go to the library
The library has more than books. They’ve got a huge selection of magazines, DVDs, audio books and more, making it an affordable way to add in some new entertainment. The Mansfield Public Library also has a great array of toys in their children’s section, so everyone can have a few moments of quiet play out of the weather and out of the house. Check the website for holiday hours and events or programs offered during the next few weeks.

13. Make playdough or slime
You might be sick of slime, but your kids’ obsession is teaching them a ton about science and math, plus helping the explore their creativity. Sit down and make a batch together and learn what they love about it, or blow their minds with a new recipe, like this one for edible playdough.

14. Make a fort
Make it a *Fort Night* in your living room with the old-school classic. Break the rules for one special night and bring out all the chairs, pillows and blankets you can find to build tents, tunnels and more together. It’s an  easy mess to clean up but totally worth the memories you’ll make.

15. Play hide and seek
Whether you’ve got two bored siblings or a house full of cousins, hide and seek is simple and free with no supplies needed, making it the perfect option to fill short windows of time. Try something new with the variation called Sardines, where one person hides and everyone seeks. As the seekers find ‘it’, they join them in the hiding spot until there is only one seeker left. That person becomes it once they find the other players crammed like sardines into a tiny hiding space!

16. Bake cookies
Let the kids help ease your holiday baking load. Depending on their age, they can measure, stir, roll dough or decorate, all of which teach great skills from dexterity to math. You might even get them to open up a bit as they work and share some great conversation.

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17. Go to the playground
Seems like a given, but many people forget the appeal of a classic playground, even for bigger kids. Sometimes they just need to stretch their legs and be silly! Mansfield has a ton of great playgrounds to choose from, you can visit your favorite neighborhood park or try a new one to mix it up.

18. Make paper airplanes
Stuck at grandma’s house with no toys or games? You can have a paper airplane competition with nothing but a few sheets of stationary! Include prizes for distance flown, decoration, design and more, and let the whole family get involved.

19. Camp in your backyard
Get the experience of camping without the pain of sleeping on the ground! Pitch a tent, check out the stars, even make s’mores over a fire pit or in the microwave before heading back inside to sleep. It’s safer and much easier (hello, indoor plumbing!) but still packs so many of the same happy memories.

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20. Explore birds and other local wildlife
Got a nature enthusiast? Check out a wildlife guide from the library or download the iNaturalist app on your phone to help identify the birds, bugs and plants in your own backyard or nearby parks. It’s like Pokemon Go for real life!

21. Make an obstacle course
Burn off steam with a backyard obstacle course that can be as simple or elaborate as you want. Lay down a ladder, make rings with a hose, stack flower pots to jump over or run around…the options are endless and your kids will have just as much fun setting up the course as they will running through it.

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22. Go for a hike
Grow your kids’ sense of wonder and adventure with a family hike. It can be simple, at a park like Mansfield’s own Oliver Nature Park, where the paths are all gravel and mostly flat but still offer lots of wildlife to explore. Or, you can try a nearby park like Fort Worth Nature Center, with 20+ miles of hiking that includes hills, cliffs and more for a truly adventurous expedition.

23. Put on a show
America’s got talent, so surely your home does too? Hold a talent show and let every member of the family show off what they’ve got, no matter how obscure. Be sure someone records the show for prosperity!

24. Have a picnic
Something about taking a meal off the table makes it that much more fun, especially to kids. Even better, it’s a way to keep them out of the kitchen while you set up for big holiday meals. Throw a blanket on the floor in the living room or backyard, or load up the food and go to the park for some peaceful, quality mealtime together.

25. Explore your hometown
It’s easy to treat your guests like toursits, but have you ever explored your hometown for yourself? There’s probably a ton of stores, restaurants and more you’ve never tried in the daily routine of life. Mansfield’s Historic Downtown is a fun spot to shop and eat, and the Visit Mansfield website has a great listing of museums, entertainment venues and more to check out.

 

The holidays are all about family time, and you don’t want to waste those precious moments with everyone staring at their own screens. If you’ve got suggestions for more unplugged activities, we’d love to hear them! Visit Mansfield Parks & Recreation on Facebook to send in your ideas.

 

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