Metro-East Living

Here are 10 ways to get kids to put down the device. A local mom's book has 390 more.

Looking for ways to reduce screen time? This Collinsville author might have the solution.

Collinsville author Shannon Philpott-Sanders is the author of "Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family."
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Collinsville author Shannon Philpott-Sanders is the author of "Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family."

Collinsville resident Shannon Philpott-Sanders didn't want her kids watching TV and playing video games all summer, so she worked hard as a young mom to come up with activities that were fun, creative, healthy and educational.

Now daughter Paige, 19; son Joel, 17; stepdaughter Jacilyn, 20; and stepson Josh, 18, are all grown up. That gives Sanders time to share her ideas with other parents in "Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family," a new book published by Simon & Schuster imprint Adams Media.

"I'm not against screens," said Sanders, 43, an assistant English professor and student newspaper adviser on the Meramec campus of St. Louis Community College. "Technology is essential in our lives today. But I also think that it can be very consuming."

The book deal came Sanders' way last year after editors saw one of her parenting pieces online. As a freelance writer, she has contributed to websites such as, Livestrong and eHow. She also has worked off and on for The Messenger, the Catholic newspaper published by the Diocese of Belleville.

Activities in "Screen-Free Fun" range from home do-it-yourself projects to outdoor adventures and easy day trips.

"While technology often offers a quick and easy parenting solution to keep children entertained, too much screen time can negatively affect developmental and social skills, and even lead back to the original problem — boredom," according to an Adams Media press release.

Collinsville resident Shannon Philpott-Sanders is the author of "Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family" (Adams Media, 224 pages, paperback, $16.99). Provided

Sanders gears most of her activities to children ages 6 to 12, but some can be adapted for teenagers, particularly those that involve community service.

Adams Media released the 224-page paperback earlier this month, just in time for Screen-Free Week (formerly TV-Turnoff) April 30 to May 6. The list price is $16.99 on the Simon & Schuster website. The book is being promoted as different than many kids activity books for one key reason.

"There are so many books with activities that require you to get supplies at Home Depot or wherever," Sanders said. "Every activity in this book can be done with things you have at home."

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Collinsville resident Shannon Philpott-Sanders is the author of "Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family," which was published this month by Adams Media. Derik Holtmann

Sanders will lead a Screen-Free Workshop at noon May 12 at Collinsville Memorial Public Library, where she will also sell and sign books.

Here are 10 of Sanders' favorites activities:


Life skills are absolutely necessary for children of any age, but as a parent, you may not always know what types of things your children need to learn. Launch this activity to teach your kids what they want to know. To begin, have your children make a list of things they don’t know how to do, such as loading the dishwasher, operating the washing machine, or even handling a small leaf blower. Once they have a list compiled, write each task on a piece of paper, cut the paper into strips, and put them in a hat. One by one, pull out a task and show your crew how to accomplish the task. Make this a hands-on activity by carefully supervising your children as they attempt to master these tasks.

From Chapter 1: Embrace Your Creativity


If the only sounds you hear are sighs and groans of boredom and frustration, it’s time to change the soundtrack of your day. Just like a scavenger hunt, make a list of common sounds you might hear outside and give each child a copy of the list. As a group, head out into the neighborhood or stroll around the park to find the sounds on the list. Common sounds may include birds or crickets chirping, dogs barking, lawn mowers chopping up grass, swings creaking, or doors slamming shut. If you live in a busy city, listen for sounds such as cars honking, motors revving, music playing, or church bells ringing. Add a competitive touch to this activity by awarding points for the first child to notify you when he or she hears a sound on the list.

From Chapter 2: Enjoy the Great Outdoors


Sometimes people need to be reminded of the positive things in life. Your children could probably use a reminder, too, when they are whining about having “nothing to do.” This activity gives them the opportunity to spread goodwill and get creative at the same time. With a bucket of sidewalk chalk and a few inspirational quotes or phrases, you can send them off to a nearby sidewalk or community area to cheer up area residents. Begin by brainstorming some nice phrases that make people feel good such as “You are beautiful” or “Make today a great day.” Then, have them start writing these messages on public concrete areas of your community for all to see. Make sure that they do not decorate private property or driveways without permission.

From Chapter 3: Support Your Community


Whether you need several bags of groceries or just a few, make the trip much more enjoyable by prompting your children to test their memories and their math skills. Grocery memory math is ideal for tweens who can do some rounding and mental math. All you need to do is shop while your children carefully observe the items you toss into the cart. Let each one see the items and the prices. They should keep a running tally of your total bill by rounding the prices (for example, rounding $2.99 to $3). Once you reach the checkout lane, have each child estimate the total cost of the groceries before tax is applied. The player closest to the price without going over the total wins. Be sure to restrict calculators from this game.

From Chapter 4: Put a Fun Twist on Local Travel


If you’re finding Matchbox cars all over your home, take those little toys outside and create a racetrack to entertain your kids. You don’t need expensive equipment or huge plastic toy sets to host a car race when you have small cars and sidewalk chalk. After gathering up enough cars for each child, have your kids choose an area of the driveway for their racetrack. Using sidewalk chalk, draw solid lines to mark the straight lanes, preferably on an incline to gain speed. After the racetrack is drawn, host races with the Matchbox cars. Little ones can bend over and physically move each car down the road while older children can use remote control cars to navigate the track. Host a race or let your kids make up their own challenges.

From Chapter 2: Enjoy the Great Outdoors

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Collinsville resident Shannon Philpott-Sanders is the author of "Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family." Here, she demonstrates some of the activities with her niece, Persephone Jaenke, 6. Derik Holtmann


While small acts of kindness toward strangers is often the norm, you can show your kids how to value their siblings too. Start by sitting down with your children individually to discuss ways they can assist and surprise a sibling. For example, your older child can vacuum your younger child’s room or pick up toys in the playroom, while a younger child can sneak into an older sibling’s bedroom and make the bed. Have your kids secretly put together goody bags for each other to enjoy at snacktime. During the school year, siblings can also put kind notes in each other’s lunch boxes to show they care. While the kind gestures may not squash all sibling squabbles, these acts can teach your children how kind gestures can brighten their days.

From Chapter 1: Embrace Your Creativity


Dealing with tired or bored kids at breakfast on Sunday? Get your children involved in preparing the meal while also entertaining them by turning a routine morning meal into a decorated treat. Mix up your favorite pancake batter recipe, and then arm your children with spoons, spatulas, and toothpicks to begin creating works of art. Pour a small amount of batter into a pan away from the stove or onto a griddle that has not yet heated up and have your kids form shapes with the batter. For instance, they can use a spoon or spatula to shape the batter into letters or animals, and they can use a toothpick to add small details such as eyes, a nose, and a smiling mouth complete with teeth. Fire up the stove or griddle and cook the piece of art for your children.

From Chapter 1: Embrace Your Creativity


Your house probably has loose coins hiding out in pockets, couch cushions, and at the bottom of bags. Send your children on a scavenger hunt for loose change so they can surprise someone in need with a donation. Before you begin the hunt, make a list of charities of interest to your kids, whether it relates to animals, the environment, or education. Set a target goal for the amount of money you want to raise. Then, send your little ones off to hunt for loose change in the couch cushions, near the washer or dryer, or even on the floor of your vehicles. Your older kids probably have some change lying around in their rooms that they can add to the collection. Once the change is gathered, take the bags to a coin machine to get crisp dollar bills before dropping off the funds for a good cause.

From Chapter 3: Support Your Community

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Collinsville resident Shannon Philpott-Sanders is the author of "Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family." Here, she demonstrates some of the activities with her niece, Persephone Jaenke, 6, and nephew, Aiden Freeland, 10. Derik Holtmann


While taking in the scenery on a long drive may occupy your children for a short while, this activity keeps them busy and entertained for a bit longer. Encourage your kids to imagine what it would be like to live in another area. As you are trudging along on a road trip, ask each child to guess what it would be like to live in the cities you pass along the way. Have each child start the sentence with “If I lived here…” and then allow them to finish the sentence with activities they would engage in or have them point out a home along the route they would like to live in. Discuss the attractions in the area and let your children detail the type of friends they would meet or the jobs they would take as adults if they lived in each city you pass.

From Chapter 4: Put a Fun Twist on Local Travel


Are the kids bummed because it hasn’t snowed yet? Even if the temperatures are warm, you can create a winter wonderland—with paper. Start by having each child crumple up sheets of newspaper to form a ball. Use tape or glue to keep the ball secure if the pages are not crisp enough. Once you have plenty of balls ready to go, divide the group into two teams. Have them build a fort out of cardboard boxes so they can hide their “snowballs” and their bodies once the snowball fight begins. Once the forts are ready, let the snowball fight begin. See just how many each child can throw to the other side. You can even create rules for the game where children are tagged out once they are hit with a “snowball.”

From Chapter 2: Enjoy the Great Outdoors