10 Ways to Get Away From Those Screens For National Unplugging Day

Can your family go screen-free for 24 hours? Take part in the challenge March 4 and 5

By Macaroni KID Chicago February 20, 2023

The National Day of Unplugging has new meaning in this time of COVID. Kids are using technology more than ever before. Can they turn it off? 

Can you?

National Day of Unplugging is an awareness campaign promoting a 24-hour respite from technology. It is annually observed the first weekend in March.

The organization behind National Day of Unplugging, Unplug Collaborative, says more than 135,000 people have participated in events hosted by over 1,000 schools, religious institutions, and businesses worldwide over the last 13 years.

The 2023 challenge takes places March 3rd through March 5th.

Want to take part ... but not sure how to get your family to fill those hours without technology? Check out our 10 ideas to go screen-free as a family:

1. Get outside

Take a hike, visit a park, or hit the slopes. Get outside and enjoy nature together! Take a bag or container with you and look for things to bring home and incorporate into art projects or sensory play! Pinecones and leaves can make excellent stamps and paintbrushes if you let them and rocks are great canvases.   

Favorite spots to get outside: our own neighborhood, Lincoln Park - especially the area around the Lily pond and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, McKinley Park, Morton Arboretum and Chicago Botanic Gardens.

 Kichigin via Canva 

2. Play

This sounds simple enough, but it's surprising how little time many children have most days for open play. Let your children run wild with imagination by giving them free hours to just PLAY!  

If the weather pushes you back inside to play and you need a little inspiration to get started - check out this list of suggestions for indoor play. (Yes, sometimes we need a little nudge in a direction to get the open play started)

3. Host a friendly competition 

Gather the family for a board game bonanza! Break out the family favorites or introduce a new game or two. Our family is on a monopoly kick and to make it more inclusive for the younger family members we often play in teams. 

Other favorites in our home are: Klask, Bugs in the Kitchen, Sorry, Yahtzee and Uno.  Need a game refresh?  Check out the great selection at Play Toys and Books which has locations in Logan Square, Lincoln Park, Andersonville and coming soon to the West Loop!

 Getty Images Signature via Canva 

4. Build

Build with cardboard boxes, LEGOs, blocks, toothpicks, or whatever else you can think of! Hold a family building competition or work together to create an epic project.

5. Read

Crack open those book and cuddle up together on the couch for a reading marathon. Or start a book together as a family!  

Some favorites we have shared together as a family include classics like: The Phantom Tollbooth, Swiss Family Robinson or the Three Musketeers. I have also found the kids snuggled up sharing favorite picture books (The Questioneers Series is a FAVE!) and graphic novels like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate and Garfield together.  What you read may just help inspire what you do with suggestions #4 and #9!  Want to pick up a new book or two?  Check out on of the 70+ branches of the Chicago Public Library or one of Chicago's local bookstores

 Getty Images via Canva 

6.  Encourage sensory play

This is perfect for either indoor or outdoor play with Littles! Sensory play is satisfying - even to adults who don't always get ample time to engage all of their senses during the day.  We love a little Kitchen Creativity (yes, even slime!) and these great Sensory Bins from fellow publisher Emily Papa.

7. Clean

It's never too early to begin spring cleaning! This is a great time of year to declutter, sort, and donate. Your kiddos can definitely help with the process and feel great donating some unwanted items to those in need!  To make cleaning fun we sometimes play "The Cleaning Game" together.  The rules are fluid with your goals, but the key is to have a reward for a job well done - trip to the park, pizza or ice cream party are a some of our favorite rewards.  Now assign the tasks and award points as each task is completed. Over the years we have refined our personal game to include different levels and if you make it sound exciting it feels exciting.  
"Wow!  You picked up everything off of the floor! 20 points and you get to move up to the sweeping/vacuuming level!"  

Make it silly.  Keep it light. Make the effort the goal over the precise execution and always deliver on the reward.

 Kzenon via Canva 

8. Discover a new hobby together

From knitting to playing an instrument, and everything in between — Do your kids have a hobby or interest that is unfamiliar to you? Ask them to share it with you and in turn you can share one of your interests with them! What have you always wanted to learn, but haven't? Now is the time! Older kids might want to participate as well — a great way to connect with your kids as you learn together.

 Denis Kuvaev via Canva 

9. Create art

Consider not giving your child a craft or end goal — just let them create! This is called process art, which is open-ended art making. The goal is to give the child the freedom to self-direct, make choices, and give them the freedom to discover and create without expectation. With process art, the end product is always unique — and likely not what you expect! The goal is the creation of the work, not the outcome.  We have a bin where we toss odds and ends collected over time and this is a great time to pull it out and let the kids do their thing!

10. Visit one of Chicago's museums!

Chicago is home to so many wonderful museums and each have something wonderful to explore right now.  We've tested out a few recently and our top picks include:

Who knows? Maybe you and your kids will have so much fun going screen-free you might decide to make it a regular event for your family. Happy unplugging!