So there we were. Two adults in a civilised restaurant desperate for hot food and a cool head. There they were. Two uncivilised kids running around as if they were being chased by an animated villain. In a fit of desperation, I gave in and offered them screen-based devices. It worked, of course. But in place of my little roadrunners, I got two zombies instead.

I had similar experiences every time we went outside. Whether it was a family together, a long car ride, a friend’s home or even inside an aeroplane. I wrongly thought that the only means of preserving my sanity on some occasions was to offer up the iPad. As a parent, I hated the idea but still did it. A little part of me died every single time I watched my kids’ eyes glaze over when they were glued to the screen. I could not handle the conflict of this convenience versus what’s right. So I put a stop to it. No more iPods and phones. I did meet with resistance at first. Kids don’t like to be told ‘no’. But Instead, I began to look for interesting, interactive games and books that would hold their attention for a span of time and were easy to carry outdoors. Through trial and error, I curated a list. And slowly got my kids to stop demanding screen time whenever we were in a public space. It took time and patience, but sure enough, my kids eventually adapted to the new regime. 

How to substitute screen-time with engaging activities

  • Have a separate set of toys to be played outdoors.; keep them in the car or locked in the cupboard 
  • Always pick toys, games, and books with varying degrees of challenges; your kid might not always be in the mood to do an intensive puzzle for an hour
  • Don’t choose games that have very tiny pieces which when lost can disrupt the entire game 
  • Always carry a mix of toys and books; kids are highly unpredictable with their choices
  • Don’t pick anything that takes time setting up, your child could lose interest
  • Avoid toys that create a lot of noise and disturb people around you  
  • Don’t carry any devices with screens
  • Also, put your phones away in your bag or pocket; if you can’t stop looking at your screen, how will your kids learn?

1. When the child is playing alone

Here are some fun ideas that keep your child occupied in solitary play.

1.1 Books:

For younger kids:

For older kids:

1.2 Toys:

For younger kids:

For older kids:

  • Brainvita marble game, a challenging activity that can be as addictive as a screen
  • Magic Rainbow puzzle ball, a perfect tool to keep your child engaged while his fingers match colour combinations
  • The smart game jungle hides and seeks with many levels of fun challenges, a child won’t be able to work them all out in one go (this one is fun for parents too)
  • The Memory to the game helps build concentration as your child has to remember the progressing order of flashing colours and repeat it
  • The wooden labyrinth board, a classic maze game to guide a tiny metal ball to the centre
  • Sudoku for kids is as fun as the one for adults; get them a book and a pencil, and watch their little eyebrows go up and down in concentration

2. When your child has someone to play with

Here are some fun family games which you can play with your child or children can play with each other.

2.1 Mental games:

  • ‘I spy with my little eye’, a game that even young children can play (instead of guessing words, you can guess colours)
  • ‘Name, place, animal, thing’, a great game for all ages; adjust the level & variations according to the child’s age
  • ‘Number plate bingo,’ a great car game; a child has to look for last two digits in ascending order, starting from 1, on the license plates of cars on the road around him
  • ‘Point for red cars’, another fun, time-consuming game; 2 points for every red car, only the first player to spot gets the points
  • ‘Alphabet game’ played by choosing a theme, like fruits or colours, and then coming up with words starting from the last letter of the word said by the opposite player

2.2 Toys:

  • Card games like Uno, Phase 10 and Swish are a great way for a family to pass the time while waiting for the food to be served in a restaurant
  • Travel board games like ‘Snakes and ladders’, ‘Ludo’, ‘Four in a row’, and ‘The dog and bone’
  • Jenga played by a group of children can ensure the adults get some quality me-time to themselves
  • Mastermind travel set is a cerebral game engaging kids to put their thinking caps on and forget all about their screens


There’s a treasure trove of amazing games and books available, that keeps your child’s attention span locked in. Choose the ones that appeal to your kid, and carry a set with you at all times. Once your child understands that iPads and phones are not an option anymore, they will learn to appreciate these fun, challenging toys, while giving you some peace of mind.

How to manage screen time when kids are at home? Watch this video to know more: