11 Screen-Free Family Activities to do Before Bedtime

It’s important for everyone to unplug at least an hour before bed, especially for children. Multiple studies have shown that screen time at night significantly decreases the quality and quantity of sleep for kids and young adults.

Fortunately, there are plenty of fun screen-free activities that families can do together before bedtime to help wind down for the day. From board games and puzzles to drawing and yoga, these 11 screen-free family activities offer memorable experiences that will bring everyone closer together while entertaining kids (and parents) alike.

1. Read a book

Reading a book before bedtime is one of the best ways to end your day. Not only does it help you relax and decompress, but it can also foster an appreciation for literature in children and adults alike. Reading together as a family is especially beneficial because it allows everyone to share their thoughts on the story and bond over common interests. Need some ideas to get started? Check out this GoodReads list of the best books to read together as a family.

2. Listen to an audiobook or podcast episode (no true crime!)

Listening to audiobooks or podcasts with your children can be enriching and enjoyable. You can open up a whole new world of learning and imagination for your kids by sharing audio-only stories. Not only are audiobooks and podcasts entertaining, but they also help develop listening skills and encourage kids to think critically about what they are hearing. Plus, when you listen together as a family, it fosters a sense of connection between everyone involved. Common Sense Media has some great family podcast recommendations to get you started.

3. Listen to calming music together

Think: classical music, nature sounds, and lo-fi playlists. Listening together isn’t just a great family tradition. It also helps create a peaceful atmosphere and encourages relaxation. Calming music also has physiological benefits such as lowering heart rate, reducing stress levels, and promoting better overall health — which makes it an ideal choice before bedtime.

4. Color or doodle

Coloring books are available with all kinds of designs, ranging from simple shapes to intricate mandalas. So, everyone can find something they enjoy coloring. It's also easy to create your own doodles if you'd like to draw something more abstract. Taking some time each night to color or doodle before going to sleep has many benefits: not only does it provide a calming end-of-day ritual, but it helps clear your mind and prepare you for restful sleep. 

5. Working on a puzzle

Working on a puzzle together as a family not only gives everyone something fun to do, but it also helps sharpen problem-solving skills and strengthens communication between family members. Puzzles come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of difficulty, so there’s sure to be one that will fit your needs. Working on puzzles can help reduce stress while providing an opportunity for everyone to work together towards a common goal. Plus, when you finally finish the puzzle, you have something tangible that represents how well you worked together as a team.

6. Make (decaf) tea or cocoa and chat about your day together

Making tea or cocoa together can be a great way to end the day as a family. It creates an opportunity for everyone to take a break and relax, while also giving you the chance to chat about your day. (Make sure you reach for decaffeinated tea or cocoa, though.) lus, making  tea or cocoa is simple enough that even young kids can help out in some capacity. 

7. Meditate together

Meditating as a family before bedtime is an excellent way to end the day on a positive note. Taking time to sit together and practice mindfulness can help strengthen your bond with each other while also calming everyone's minds and bodies. Not only does meditation provide an opportunity for you all to slow down, but it can also give kids the tools they need to better manage their emotions and cope with stress in healthy ways. Plus, studies have shown that regular meditation can lead to improved concentration, reduced anxiety, increased resilience, and more restful sleep — all of which are essential for children’s growth and development. 

8. Develop a nighttime yoga routine

Doing yoga before bedtime can be an excellent way to relax and de-stress, as well as help improve sleep patterns. Plus, it’s a great bonding experience that will strengthen relationships within the family. Not only does yoga offer physical benefits such as increased flexibility, strength, balance and coordination, but it can also provide mental benefits like calming and focusing the mind.

9. Help prepare breakfasts or lunch for the next day

Preparing breakfast or lunch for the next day as a family has multiple benefits: it’s a great way to bond as a family, it saves time in the morning, and you’re teaching children valuable life skills. It’s also a fun activity that can add some variety to your meals the next day, whether you’re making hard-boiled eggs, overnight oats, pickled vegetables, or salad ingredients. By planning ahead and setting aside some time each night, you can make sure that everyone starts their day off on the right foot with nutritious meals ready for them when they wake up.

10. Spend time with the family pet

Whether it's snuggling up with the dog or waving the feather dancer around for the cat, spending some time with beloved animals can provide an easy and calming transition into sleep. Not only will your children have fun bonding with their furry friends, but they'll also benefit from the comfort of their presence as they drift off to dreamland. It also helps keep your pets from feeling bored or ignored. (Budget in some extra time to unwind so your pets (and kids) can settle down after playing, though.)

11. Play with toys and games

Playing with toys before bedtime can be a great way to relax and help your child wind down for the night. Not only does it provide an opportunity for creative play, but it also helps kids develop their motor skills and practice problem-solving. It's important to keep in mind that playing shouldn't be too stimulating or overstimulating, as this could interfere with sleep. Instead, choose quieter activities like building blocks, LEGOS, checkers, or chess.

The bottom line

It’s tempting to unwind at the end of a long day with your favorite television show while your kid watches videos on their phone or tablet. But if you’re tired of feeling wired from watching screens before bed, you can promote better sleep quality — and spend quality time with your family — by shutting off screens about an hour before bed. Try a few different ideas and see what works for your family, and don’t be afraid to switch up your nighttime routine. What matters is that you’re spending time together (and getting some better shut-eye while you’re at it). 

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