6 Fun Activities For Kids, Inspired by Popular Smartphone Apps

Kids sure do love their phones, but there are plenty of real-life alternatives to popular apps. Try these fun activities to peel 'em away from their screens.

Toddler standing over a table and tapping at a smartphone that is laying flat

Shutterstock / Ruslan Guzov

Phones and tablets put endless entertainment at our fingertips, but it’s tricky to get face time with kids when they’re distracted by a screen. Ditch the devices for a day and try these fun, tech-free alternatives to apps that kids love.

The app: Angry Birds
Why kids love it: Addictive game play, colorful characters, and subtle complexity keep players hooked.
The alternative: What’s more fun than a virtual slingshot? A real one, of course! Equip kids with a slingshot and head into the yard. Consider aiming for fun obstacles, from soda cans stacked in a pyramid (because toppling things over is fun!) to a target printed with prizes. Hitting the outer ring could win you a favorite candy; a bull’s-eye could mean a special outing for ice cream. (Or learn to make ice cream at home without any special equipment.)

The app: Toca Kitchen 2
Why kids love it: The educational game’s colorful graphics encourage kids to make food in a virtual kitchen, without messy cleanup.
The alternative: Invite kids into the kitchen…the real one! Turn snack time into a game by setting out a variety of ingredients and having them compose their own plates (toast, crackers or trail mix are easy foods to mix and match flavors). Our guide to cooking with kids includes tasks for toddlers to teens.

The app: Facebook
Why kids love it: They can easily share their thoughts with the world, and chat with friends at any time.
The alternative: Instead of wading through a sea of strangers and acquaintances, kids can learn more about relatives by making a family tree. This may help them place value on real-life relationships, and inspire curiosity about distant relatives and your family’s heritage.

Another fun alternative? Try setting your child up with a pen pal. Writing letters to a relative who lives far away can forge a closer relationship. Or consider writing to a kid in another country, or a member of the military. Check reputable sites like StudentsoftheWorld or MilitaryPenpal to connect. The low-tech communication can help kids practice letter-writing skills, and enjoy the thrill of getting actual mail.

The app: Minecraft: Pocket Edition
Why kids love it: In this popular game, players dig for materials and construct entire worlds from scratch.
The alternative: Rather than building a virtual world, kids can whip one up in real life with a set of building blocks. From old-school wood to colorful plastic, the classic toy provides hours of entertainment and encourages kids to explore their imaginations while they improve their motor skills. Parents can get in on the action, too-sit down with your kids and construct an entire village.

The app: Instagram
Why kids love it: Beautiful filters, likes and comments make kids feel good about themselves as they share photos.
The alternative: Take a selfie break and use your kids’ interest in photography as an excuse to head outside. Set up a photography “scavenger hunt.” Make a list of photos everyone should try to get, from literal (something blue) to figurative (something happy). Use a phone camera or grab a disposable camera for old-school fun. Whoever captures the most items on film wins.

The app: Netflix
Why kids love it: A never-ending stream of cartoons and movies is just a click away.
The alternative: Plopping down on the couch with a tablet is easy (and cheap), but it just doesn’t compare to seeing a movie on the big screen with a big bowl of popcorn. Take a trip to the theater to see the latest animated film, or check out your local museums and planetariums-most have amphitheaters that play immersive, educational movies.

Along with getting kids out in the real world, these activities can also inspire creativity and imagination. Best of all, they might convince kids that parents aren’t so boring after all.

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Rory Cooper
Rory was raised in rural New Hampshire before spending a few years in the hustle and bustle of Chicago. Now back in New England, he's stocking up on fishing tackle, amassing an ever-growing collection of crochet hooks and fantasizing about one day living in a cabin.