Can your children survive a week without their favorite TV shows, computer games, and videogames? More importantly, can you? According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, children who spend less time with the TV, computer, and videogames do better in school and have more time for creative play and interaction with caring adults. For this reason, the group advocates for Screen-Free Week from May 2nd to May 8th.
We have suggestions for activities that can make the week not just bearable, but great fun. Bonus: Because your family will burn extra calories during Screen-Free Week, we’re making daily dessert suggestions too. Take these with a grain of salt. Or a spoonful of sugar.
Monday, May 2 — A Different Kind of Screen Time
Instead of going cold turkey, ease into Screen-Free Week. At the Discovery Cube science museum in Santa Ana, children can get screen time at many interactive exhibits. And young fans of the TV show “Dora the Explorer” will appreciate the Cube’s new “Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore!” exhibit. Parents will appreciate that their children are burning energy. www.DiscoveryCube.org Afterward, how about heading to La Petite Sourie in Santa Ana for a delicious French pastry? Oui, oui!
Another way to ease into Screen-Free Week: Bowling! Children can stare at the screen which shows their scores. We like Saddleback Lanes in Mission Viejo. It’s open from 10 AM to midnight on Mondays, but call ahead for lane availability. saddlebacklanes.com Afterward, reward yourselves with warm donuts from Krispy Crème in Mission Viejo. www.KrispyKreme.com
Tuesday, May 3 — Learn About the Dark Days Before Videogames
If your kids are complaining about their screen-free status, remind them that not so long ago, TVs, computers, and videogames didn’t even exist. Prove it with a trip south to tour the Mission San Juan Capistrano, www.MissionSJC.com, or north to explore the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, www.nixonlibrary.gov. Special events at the mission for May 3rd include a swallow’s nest exhibit and “curiosity carts” of branding irons, horseshoes, pottery shards, and other historical items. Though the Nixon museum is undergoing renovations, many areas of the complex are still open and ticket prices are reduced to half the regular amount.
Wednesday, May 4 — Screen-Free and Cost-Free
On Day 3 of Screen-Free Week, your wallet may need a break. How about a trip to Laguna Beach? Yes, this area has some of the priciest homes in Orange County, but its tide pools are free. Find your favorite one here: www.visitlagunabeach.com/things-to-do/outdoors/tide-pools/ Once you’ve had your fill of hermit crabs, sea anemone, and limpets, it’s time to eat. Get a jumpstart on Cinco De Mayo at Laguna Beach’s Avila’s El Ranchito restaurant. Kids eat free on Wednesdays. avilaselranchito.com. Then chill at Laguna Beach’s Gelato Paradiso. gelatoparadiso.net
Thursday, May 5 — Fun with Animals
Take a trail ride at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center. View nature, catch a sea breeze, and buddy up to a horse. www.hcpec.com Then wash your hands and scoop up some shaved ice at Bahama Buck’s in Huntington Beach. www.bahamabucks.com
Horseback riding not your thing? Spend the day at the Irvine Regional Park in the city of Orange. You can visit the Orange County Zoo, stroll through the pretty trails, have a picnic, take a short train ride, and sip hot cocoa at the Train Station Snack Bar. www.ocparks.com
Friday, May 6 — Mommyyyy, I’m Tiiiired
After an exciting four days, it’s time for a quiet day at home. Quiet, but not boring. You and the kids can make a lunch bag kite, a clothespin airplane, a bright pasta necklace, or other simple crafts. www.happinessishomemade.net
And try a reading fest. Children’s books about going screen-free include Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino, Zeke Meeks vs. the Horrifying TV-Turnoff Week by D.L. Green, and Blackout by John Rocco.
For dessert, bake and decorate sugar cookies with your children and let their inner artist show off their great taste. We won’t tell if you cheat and use a bag mix (shhh, we like Betty Crocker’s)
Saturday, May 7 — Kids’ Choice
Day 6! To reward your screen-free children, let them choose today’s activities. You could spend all day at the International Festival in Aliso Viejo, eating food from around the world, visiting exhibitors’ booths, and hanging out at the Children’s Play and Art Area. www.soka.edu. Or spend the day at the Children’s Museum in La Habra and check out the new Creepy Crawlies exhibit. www.lhcm.org Junior geniuses may be participating in the Parenting OC Spelling Bee in Anaheim. parentingoc.com/spelling-bee/ For dessert and more, your children might like a tour and tasting at the Choxco chocolate factory in Irvine. chocxousa.rezgo.com
Sunday, May 8 — Mom’s Choice
There are two reasons it’s Mom’s turn to pick today’s events: One, it’s Mother’s Day. Two, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Art-loving moms may want to go to the Sunset Beach Art Festival, where 150 artists and craftspeople will display their wares. There will also be live music, food, beer, and wine. www.sunsetbeachca.org
Angels’ fans are in luck because there’s a home game tonight. losangeles.angels.mlb.com
Head to the Irvine Spectrum and buy yourself something for Mother’s Day and for surviving Screen-Free Week. While you’re there, enjoy luscious ice cream sandwiches at Cream. www.shopirvinespectrumcenter.com
We hope you enjoy your week without screens—or at least appreciate your screens more once the week is over.
by Debra Garfinkle