8 Low-Tech Activities for High-Tech Grandkids

Creative ideas for them to unplug and use their imagination

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Playing tag

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(This article appeared previously on Grandparents.com)

Grandkids are easy to entertain. Just put them in front of a computer or TV screen, or hand them one of those portable electronic game devices that can be found in nearly every household with young children. But what if you want them to "unplug?"

In their book, 101 Offline Activities You Can Do With Your Child, Steve and Ruth Bennett suggest creative games and activities to help kids turn everyday objects into imagination-inspiring fun. Whether you're hanging around with toddlers or teens, the Bennetts have an offline answer, and now they're sharing eight of their favorites with you:

1. Tic-Tac-Tongs

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Like tic-tac-toe, but not exactly.

All you need for this nutritious take on the classic game are four chopsticks or wooden ice cream sticks, barbecue or salad tongs, a placemat or plate and at least nine pieces of cut-up vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots or celery. Instead of drawing Xs and Os, kids use vegetables as playing pieces. The challenge: They must move the pieces with the tongs, not their fingers.

If one player drops his veggie on the way to a square, the other player gets an extra turn. Another option: when a piece drops before reaching its target, place it in the square closest to where it lands. If there’s already a piece in there, return it to the other player.

2. Noodle Maze

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There are worse things than getting lost on a plate of pasta.

This is a great activity to occupy kids while you’re putting the finishing touches on dinner. You’ll need strands of cooked pasta, a chopstick and a plate (optional). Ask kids to arrange spaghetti in one path from beginning to end, cutting pieces as needed. They can use a plate to make a circular maze.

When it’s ready, set the timer and see if you can get from the beginning of the maze to the end before the buzzer goes off, using a chopstick to make your way through the noodle pathways. Dinner still not ready? Add sauce to the maze and eat!

3. Adventure Treks

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Watch out for snakes!

Kids love a challenge, and navigating the house without touching the floor definitely qualifies. Kids use towels, throw pillows, couch cushions, old clothes and even sheets of paper to make stepping stones they must use to keep them from sinking into “quicksand,” getting eaten by “snakes” or swallowed up by a “crevasse.” As they make their way through the house, kids can extend their path by adding or moving “stones.” Beds, chairs and sofas can also be considered solid ground.

For added fun and a boost of creativity, encourage kids to make up a story to go along with the game. They can tell you the story, or they can put crayon to paper and make it into a drawing or book.

4. Blindfold Toss

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How good is their aim? Cover their eyes and see.

This game will challenge even the most athletically minded child. Place three or four pots or bowls on the floor and assign a point value to each. Blindfold your grandchild and have him toss balls of socks or beanbags in the direction of the targets. Whether the goal is to get all items of the same color in one basket or to get the most points, it’s harder than it sounds. Join them and see.

5. Blindfold Dress-Up

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Putting on clothes was never so much fun.

Have your grandchild put on a hat, coat or glove, or even try tying his shoes, while blindfolded. It won’t be easy.

6. Crazy Street Signs

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Yield … to silliness.

When a long drive or a traffic jam leaves kids restless, encourage them to put their brains to work by substituting a word on street signs to give them a whole new meaning. Tell them they can change only one word, and that it must start with the same letter (for example, Men at Work could become Martians at Work). For even more of a challenge, have them substitute rhyming words: No Barking Zone!

7. Blindfold Drawing

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Put their creativity to the test.

Abstract art takes on a new meaning when you blindfold kids, then hand them paper and crayons. Ask your grandchild to choose something to draw, then, while they draw, ask him or her to describe the colors they are using and what parts he or she is working on. When done, remove the blindfold and surprise your grandchild with the results.

8. Real…or Not?

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A learning game that doesn’t feel like one.

Turn to the dictionary — and your imagination — to come up with a list of funny-sounding words that may or may not be real. Ask the kids to guess which are ringers, and which are bona fide words. To take the game a step further, have them guess what the words mean. Would they ever imagine that floccinaucinihilipilification has to do with helping hippos take care of their teeth?


By Steve and Ruth Bennett
Steven J. Bennett is a professional writer who has penned more than 35 parenting, environment, and business management/computing books. After studying Far Eastern science and technology at Harvard University, he founded and is director of the Bennett Information Group. Ruth Bennett, an artist and writer, has collaborated with her husband on numerous parenting books.

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