Screen Free Week, strategies for Screen Free Week, Screen Free Week ideas,

Attempting Screen Free Week April 29 – May 5 2013

I’m not sure why, but our school had a screen free day last month. These screen free challenges are particularly difficult for my kids, hooked as they are to their iPhones, iPod Touch, computer, TV and Wii. Did I miss any? Does the Color Nook and Kindle count too?

Successful Screen Free Day Last Month

I was shocked when my little boy, 2nd grade, burst out of school with a plan to stay screen free. He cooked it up with his 3rd grade best friend Sam. They were going to:

  • Jump on Sam’s trampoline
  • Go inside and eat a snack
  • Play Clue and other board games
  • Go back outside and jump on the trampoline some more
  • Read books (our March Madness school reading competition was still going on)

It was imperative that he go to his friend’s house so his request was happily granted. Three hours later, he came home and announced that 1) We need to buy Clue (I had thrown our board game away ages ago), and 2) Going screen free for the day was not as hard as he had thought.

screen free week, no screens week, Random House Children's Books, books in old TV, books instead of TV,

image from Random House Children’s Book Facebook Timeline

Ideas for Screen Free Week

Given that he’s our biggest screen abuser culprit, I was pleasantly surprised. But now, going into a week of screen time, I realize that to be successful, you need a plan just like my son and his friend did. Screen Free Week has resources and ideas that might help.

screen free week, no screens week, Random House Children's Books

images from Random House Children’s Book Facebook Timeline

I also noticed that going screen free one day was fantastic but nothing fundamentally changed. When we wait at restaurants, you can typically find all five of us on our screens. My other thought was while going screen free for a week is a Herculean goal, it is probably better to make a smaller change that is permanent.

Maybe I am a cop out or maybe I am being pragmatic, but while I am going to try to go Screen Free this week, I am going to focus on eliminating screens while we wait at restaurants. Baby steps!

One day when my husband was thoroughly disgusted with our son’s excessive screen time, he invented this game for them to play instead while waiting for food. It’s called “What Changed?”

Screen Free Week Game for Restaurants: “What Changed?”

It’s very simple. One person makes the change, the rest close their eyes. Now open your eyes and identify the change.

The key to success is making very subtle changes like:

  • Drink 1/2 inch of water from the glass. Do this very quietly (as my son slurped too loudly and gave it away).
  • Turn the bottle by a quarter of a turn. Yes, that counts!
  • Switch the condiments around.
  • Remove 1 napkin from the napkin dispenser.
  • Turn the spoon upside down in the sauce dispenser.
  • This was a tough one. Turn the spoon in the condiment jar upside down.
  • No one got this one. The brown sauce was squeezed into the spout so that it was colored brown from clear. (This is Hoisin Sauce, a Chinese Plum Sauce. See how the spout of the squeeze bottle is clear? The sauce is thick enough to squeeze to the top of the spout such that it will stay there.)
  • This would be impossible to guess. Switch water glasses around.

what changed game at restaurant, screen free week, screen free games


Are you going screen free this week? What are your plans? Please share! We could really use your ideas!!

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Great minds! I have been trying to stop looking at my iPhone while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store. Baby steps…
    Stacey recently posted…Poverty: Long but Please ReadMy Profile

  2. I don’t get the last one. What is the brown sauce? What type of spout is it? I like the idea of “We Changed”! 😀
    Erik – This Kid Reviews Books recently posted…All Hallows Eve Vs. Fantômas Books 1 and 2 by David EveleighMy Profile

    • Hi Erik,
      The brown sauce is Hoisin sauce. It’s Chinese plum sauce. (We are at a Vietnamese restaurant). Did you notice the squeeze bottle top for the brown sauce is clean and empty? The “What Changed?” is that my husband squeezed the sauce so that it was now in the nozzle up to the top. The sauce is thick so it will stay up. That was a hard one. No one got it.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Teaching Poetry at Home To Your KidsMy Profile

  3. Kim // Little Stories

    I love your restaurant game! I’ll be sharing this all around.
    Kim // Little Stories recently posted…10 {Awesome} Book Themed GiftsMy Profile

  4. Artchoo

    Great idea. We’re all so itchy at restaurants- well, pretty much anywhere- to jump on the screens whenever there’s a moment of waiting.
    Artchoo recently posted…100 Days of Play: Making Mini Books With KidsMy Profile

    • Hi Artchoo,
      At first I was fine with screens at restaurants because the kids were quiet and well behaved but then we all started staring at screens, except for eating, which turned out to be the shortest part of the meal. My husband finally got so sick of that. I think the game is working though. It’s more fun than hangman with a 2nd grader who spells unconventionally which is what I was doing before.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Teaching Poetry at Home To Your KidsMy Profile

  5. Great game idea. I also like the idea to take baby steps on the screen free. My son turns 5 this week and so I didn’t want to do screen free the whole week since it’s his birthday. I want him to think being screen free is fun, not punishment. Your son had a great outlook on it– I’ll try to make it like a challenge!
    Jackie Higgins recently posted…DIY Garden MarkersMy Profile

    • Hi Jackie,
      You make a really great point. So many of us take away screens as punishment or make our kids earn screen time that it does send a certain negative message. I would not take away screen time for a birthday week either, especially if he gets gifts that relate to screens.

      I also think little by little permanent changes are better than one huge shift for a week and then back to business as usual, but that is just me.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Teaching Poetry at Home To Your KidsMy Profile

  6. Wow, I thought originally screen free meant TV only. I could do that easily, and the phone as well, but definitely not the computer screen as I need that for my writing.

  7. This is so great and so important. I think for many kids (AND adults) even one day is hard. A whole week is like a personal revolution!
    Nina recently posted…iPhone Diet: Success and SetbacksMy Profile

  8. Catherine

    That game is a great idea. My two like going under the table so we have other issues lol. I’ll see if we can manage a day at least hmm…
    Catherine recently posted…Book Speak – NaPoWrMo Day 30My Profile

  9. Ann

    I don’t now if I am ready for that! I think it would be easier actually these days because if you miss your favorite show you can just watch it next week onDemand, etc.
    Ann recently posted…Maple, Maple, OakMy Profile

  10. Nicole

    I am really bad about whipping out my phone anywhere as well just to pass the time. I have started setting it on “do not disturb” and placing it in my bedroom so that I can actually have real quality time with my family for a couple of hours at night instead of constantly having it with me.

  11. Gaz

    That game is brilliant Mia. It reminds me of a game we used to play as kids when we were traveling on a long trip – I spy with my little eye something beginning with …. The rest of the occupants had to guess the word beginning with the letter given.

    As for the screen free day – that is awesome. Our screens are almost like second appendages to us these days so I imagine to give them up altogether, it’ll be a little like going cold turkey.
    Gaz recently posted…Interesting facts about the earMy Profile

  12. Dee

    We went screen free for a week two years ago and I blogged about it. It was rough! I like the idea of doing it again, but there always seems to be something in the way. If we\\\’re going to do it, we all have to do it, and we need to plan for that. Sounds like your son was in a good spirit about it. I absolutely hate that my son almost always walks into the house and says \\\”Can I watch TV?\\\” The answer is often no, but that\\\’s still his default. Sigh. But then I watched a lot of TV as a kid, and I turned out more or less okay!
    Dee recently posted…#Retrofit: A Week Oneish UpdateMy Profile

    • Hi Dee,
      The first thing my son asks for when he wakes up on the weekends is, “Can he watch TV?” Having toys out that he can build seems to be helping. He gets distracted on the way to the TV and plays with those instead. (Even if I said yes to the TV since I am trying to sleep a little more.)
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Percy Jackson Book Club for BoysMy Profile

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