Melissa & Doug marks its 35th anniversary this year, and in honor of that noteworthy milestone, we’re celebrating throughout 2023 in all kinds of ways!
As champions of open-ended, imaginative, and screen-free play for babies, toddlers, and kids since the very beginning, Melissa & Doug strongly believes in the power of play: that every kid deserves to have the space, opportunity, and resources to discover their own favorite ways to play.
A gentle reminder to parents and caregivers: Don’t stress out trying to find some mythical “perfect” toy for your child, because there is no one-size-fits-all, perfect solution when it comes to play opportunities for kids—they’ll discover and nurture their own talents and interests with your encouragement and engagement.
To help parents and caregivers make those unforgettable memories with their kids, we’re serving up 35 screen-free play ideas—in recognition of our 35th anniversary—for you and your kids to help discover perfect-for-them play patterns that will help them develop the skills they’ll need for school and beyond.
35 Years: 35 Screen-Free Play Ideas for Kids!
Screen-Free PRETEND PLAY for Kids
- Make space in your living room, family room, or basement and set up the coziest indoor campout ever—no tent required! Sing songs, enjoy stories, feast on s’mores—whatever your imagination can come up with.
- Stock a dress-up bin, then see how many characters you can come up with
- Enjoy a pretend family picnic on a blanket—indoors or outside depending on the weather
- Play wild safari with stuffed animals
- Build a fort with blankets or Jumbo Cardboard Blocks
- Build the biggest wooden train route ever
- Hire your tiny contractors to build a block tunnel for their play cars
Screen-Free CREATIVE PLAY for Kids
- Create fashion designs
- Build paper airplanes or other paper crafts
- Draw a sidewalk chalk mural
- Create, color, and mail holiday cards, or make homemade decorations
- Get crafty with our selection of stamps & craft kits!
Screen-Free FAMILY PLAY
- Create a play calendar—kids can draw pictures of how they played (or plan to play) each day/week
- Set up an obstacle course (indoor or outside!) with a tunnel, cones, and other items to climb over, under, and around
- Start a family collection: seashells, pretty pebbles, bottle caps, leaves, cool stones, marbles, stamps, coins, etc.
- Create a time capsule and bury it in the backyard
- Build a tiny town in the dirt or sandbox
- Go on a nature walk, collect treasures & make a collage/album
- Start a family garden
- Create a comfortable, cozy, well-lit place book nook for reading and story time
- Put on a family show at home: sing, dance, showcase a talent, stage a puppet theater…sky’s the limit
- If you’ve got a play kitchen, doctor’s office, restaurant, grocery store, create imagination stations with pretend play prompts to kick off your kid’s creative imagination
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Print tongue twisters and have everyone try saying them—a favorite travel activity!
- Read aloud from a classic for the whole family
Screen-Free MINDFUL PRACTICES for Families & Kids
Share thanks, a compliment, or positive news
Schedule a one-on-one date with your kiddo
Kids love looking at pictures! Instead of scrolling through digital photos, pull out your old photo albums and boxes
Make a storyboard together: Your kiddo tells you a story, you write key phrases on index cards, then have your child draw those scenes
Support a cause & spread kindness
Cook a family meal together
Screen-FREE OUTDOOR FUN for Kids
Get Outside: There is no better way to connect with kids than through nature! Just look at all the fun, screen-free things you can do outdoors without a device:
- Climb a tree
- Jump in puddles
- Make mud pies
- Chase butterflies
- Watch the sunset
- Explore the night sky
- Look for 4-leaf clover
- Watch birds in your backyard
- Plan a real picnic
- Take a bike ride
- Blow bubbles
- Play hopscotch
- Jump rope & learn classic rhymes
- Fly a kite
Looking for more inspiration for screen-free play ideas for kids? Check out these other great blog posts from Melissa & Doug!