No-tech, free fun things to do with kids at home

photo xoxoJeff Freeland Nelson, founder and CEO of YOXO toy company and former technical director of the Minnesota Children’s Museum, e-mailed me tips for no-tech ways to keep kids occupied and get their creativity juices flowing (during holiday break and throughout the year. I love them and think they are worth sharing:

Create a maker space. Clear out an area of your home of traditional toys and fill it with “maker” materials: tape, paper, boxes, etc. When creative inspiration strikes your child, they will be ready to create in their own “workshop.”

Issue a creative challenge: Kids often need a push to get creative and surprisingly, scarcity is good for creative play. Issue a challenge like “build the tallest tower possible” and then add a constraint like “using only straws and tape.” It is amazing how quickly kids rise to the challenge.

Host a temporary black out. Turn off lights, smartphones, iPads and other gadgets. When the house goes dark, kids’ imaginations light up. A trip to the bathroom with a flashlight becomes an adventure, and reading stories by candlelight will stick with them more than just another movie night.

Make something together as a family. Whether it’s cooking  Saturday morning pancakes or building an abominable snowman in the front yard, creating something together strengthens connections and promotes a great sense of accomplishment. As Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” When we approach these everyday activities mindfully, it’s all art.

Create an “I’m thankful jar” for 2015: This can be started over winter break and continued throughout the year. There’s nothing more grounding and calming than taking stock of what you’re truly grateful for. Write it down, fold it up, and place it in the jar. Before you know it, the jar will be full to the top. Read the notes together as a family the next holiday season.

More ideas can be found at

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