The Importance of Offline Family Time During Stay at Home
For many, the coronavirus, COVID-19, has brought families together but in an odd, isolated togetherness. While mom, dad, and the kids are all at home, everyone is online taking classes, working, hosting video chats, gaming, and binge-watching shows.

The result is families are living in front of video screens, rather than building the social bridges needed during this stay at home time.

The fact is the offline family time is critical for healthy relationships during (and after) coronavirus stay at home orders. A study by Harvard researchers shows that high uses of screen time and digital devices can interfere with everything from sleep to creativity. Additional studies note that excessive screen time can also affect vision, language skills, addictive behavior, anger issues (when denied access), social skill development, and other items.

So what steps can parents do to encourage offline activities and interaction while everyone is at home, without the kids flipping out and suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out) on every single video chat and group text?

Here are some ideas and tips for offline family time.

Set an All Offline Time(s)
With work and school obligations, this can be tricky, but their needs to be an all offline time or times during the day.

One of the most obvious times of the day is dinner time, but you can also do a half hour at lunch, evening group time. This shutdown time may require asking family members to turn off or turn in their phones for a set amount of time.

Here is a schedule idea – Lunch 12:15 – 12:45, End of Work & Dinner 5:30 – 7 pm, Evening 8 – 9:30, Phones, Tablets & Computers off after 10:30 pm

Have Flexible Offline Time
Know in advance that there may be an online event, meeting, or gathering that coincides with your offline time, learn to be accepting that one person may still be online while others offline.

Offline Family Time Ideas
Offline family time is not always about playing games, but more about accomplishing a task as a team. Pulling everyone together to complete a task shifts the dynamic and conversions you can share.
Note: Items listed are indoor activities.

1. Board Games

Now is a great time to play your favorite boards and even not so favorite games to mix things up. Here are some of our favorite family board games, in case you are looking for ideas.

Playing board games in person rather than online allows everyone to share the experience, see their emotions, talk about strategy, and have interesting side conversations. Rotate who gets to pick the game you play each night, that way everyone gets to play their favorite.

2. Challenge Games

Checkers, Connect 4, Jenga, Cornhole, and similar games can be considered challenge games where two people can play each other. These games can be played tournament style to crown a household champion.

3. Interactive Games

Even if you have 3 people you can still play games like charades, Pictionary or dance-offs. Have fun acting things out, draw them or see who the best dancer is.

4. Card Games

Often overlooked, cards are a great way to spend an evening, and there are so many games you can play. Uno, Phase 10, Go Fish, Rummy, and Gin are all card games you can play with three people. If you have four players consider pinnacle (need a pinnacle deck), bridge, euchre, hearts, and even spoons.

Cards often provide fun activity and plenty of conversions, and if you have young kids that don’t want to play a card game, consider playing memory match where you flip all the cards over. Then try to match two of the same card value. Easy to play but hard to remember where all the cards are.

5. Family History Night

Pull out photos, scrapbooks, yearbooks, and share family stories and the history of your family. This is a great time to organize family mementos and de-clutter too.

6. Music – Karaoke

Have fun making music, doing singalongs, playing music, and lip-syncing the words or pulling out the karaoke machine to have an entertaining evening. You can even record these, post online and maybe they could go viral.

7. Dance Party – Learn Dances

Play music and hold a dance party. For younger kids, this is a great release and fun as you hold a family dance party. You can teach each other dance lessons too. The kids might know Tik-Tok and Fortnite dances they can show their parents, and the parents can teach the kids the Macarena, square dancing, and even formal dances.

8. Home Movie – Short Videos 

Instead of watching videos, what if your gang considered making one. Have a night talking about making a family movie or short video. Then come up with an outline of the script, costumes and gather any props for your movie. Make the video for grandparents, aunts and uncle, or friends.

This is a fun activity where family members can act, direct and learn about video editing. And if it goes well, post it to YouTube and you could be on your way to fame and fortune. 🙂

9. Family Movie Night

We are approving family movie night, because it is a family gathering. Make popcorn, get the snacks and pick a family classic or just release movie to enjoy at home.

10. Clean Out Your Closets

As winter is wrapping up, now is a great time to sort through clothes and outerwear and determine if you want to keep it or donate it next winter. If there are items that weren’t worn this past winter or no longer fit, this is the perfect time to put it aside so it can be donated next fall.

While each family member might be working in different areas of the house, we consider it a family project because there is a unified goal.

11. Cleaning Projects

My mom always said, “the house doesn’t clean itself,” and while cleaning is not considered fun, it needs to be done. The best way for families to understand how they impact the rest of the family is to make sure that everyone is involved in cleaning. Consider one day a week to do a thorough cleaning of bathrooms, bedrooms, and the kitchen.

You can also have projects that might include the garage, game room, or any area of the house. The added benefit of this might be a cleaner house all the time.

12. Craft Hobby Night

Craft and hobbies offer an outlet to express yourself and work on something you enjoy. This is a great time to pull out art supplies, knitting needles, candle making kit, cameras, or model trains and have fun.

You can share your hobby with other family members or have everyone work on their own hobby. Who know

13. Puzzles

Surprise, puzzles are making a comeback, and they are helping to teach kids that persistence pays off. Yes, puzzles can be frustrating, but they can also be very rewarding and bring families together. Choose a puzzle of a based on a place or topic your family enjoys. If you have older kids, consider a murder mystery puzzle or detective puzzle that reveals clues as to who committed the crime.

14. Cooking & Cooking Contests

You’ve watched Top Chef, The Great British Baking Show, Nailed It, and Racheal Ray, well now is the perfect time to cook at home.  Cook together, teach family members how to cook or challenge them to create something with a limited amount of ingredients.

Cooking is fun and useful skill, plus it can be a great bonding experience. If your crew already has cooking and baking skills, then consider a Top Chef like contest where two members of the family are given the same main ingredients and must create something to eat in 30 or 45 minutes. This can prove to be very entertaining and even a tasty competition.

Not Every Night Needs Family Time
During the stay-at-home orders we encourage families to eat together each night, but you don’t need to hold offline family time each night. Sometimes family members need offline me time, so they can read a book, work on a hobby, write, paint, or even workout on their own.

During this unique time period, each family will find its own balance between group and individual time. The key is not to make family time a chore or to allow some members of the family to completely isolate themselves.

We hope that during these challenging times, your family can create memories that include smiles and laughter. Hopefully, you can utilize some of our offline family ideas and get your family wanting to be offline.

Debra Bradley Ruder, June 19, 2019 – Harvard Research Screen Time and the Brain
Melissa Pandika, Sept. 26, 2016 – Unexpected Effects of Screen Time 

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