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Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family Review by Michelle Gibson and Rebekah Teague

Shannon Philpott-Sanders
Adams Media
An Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
57 Littlefield Street
Avon, MA 02322

Would you like to see your kids get creative, stay active indoors on a rainy day, and give back to your community—without the help of technology? Screen-Free Fun, by Shannon Philpott-Sanders, is a 224-page soft-cover book that retails for $16.99 and includes 400 activities for the whole family. This book promises to provide lots of screen-free opportunities that are not only fun but helpful too.


Screen-Free Fun consists of four main sections that focus on embracing your creativity, enjoying the great outdoors, supporting your community, and activities to do while traveling — 100 activities in each section. With this book, you can encourage your child to get creative by turning household products into art, get active by spending time outside, give back by encouraging your child to help others, and have fun on long road trips (or even a rainy day) with screen-free activities.


At first glance, this book was not what I expected. The cover is bright, colorful, and fun with photos of children doing various activities, so I expected to see a list of ingredients, directions, and colorful pictures of the ideas in action. But it’s more of an idea book. Inside, the print is dark blue with red accents. Each page has two ideas in paragraph form with the title of the activity and an age range suggestion and level of difficulty — beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The age ranges are 6-12, 8-12, and 10-12.


While it didn’t seem user-friendly at first, a few ideas caught my eye.


One idea was to “Become a Human Mummy by wrapping a child up in toilet paper and going on a ‘mummy walk.’” We’ve actually done this before during our study of Egypt, but I loved the bonus idea to go on a mummy walk.


Another idea was to “Have Hair Salon Fun with an afternoon ‘trip to the salon.’” This idea leaves girls feeling pampered and pretty. In fact, I like to play a version I call “Betty’s Beauty Parlor” with my daughter. Reading the idea in the book gave me an idea to suggest it as an activity the next time she has a friend over. Her current go-tos when having friends over are making slime, making gummy bears, or baking a cake — depending on which friend is over. So, I hoped she’d take an interest in Screen-Free Fun, but she took one look at it and said, “Only one slime recipe?!” and tossed it back on the bed.


I challenged my 13-year-old son to find a few ideas we could do as a family, and he returned the book full of sticky notes, marking all the ones he wants to try. I loved this! When I am feeling more energetic, I can surprise him with a fun activity I know he is interested in. 


This book puts some unusual spins on old-fashioned fun. For example, in one activity called “Top the Popcorn”, kids get to raid the spice cabinet to create popcorn toppings and sample them out to give each a try. Having popcorn is a favorite past-time of ours, so I thought it would be fun to let them make their own topping creations (in small quantities). My 7-year-old loved this!


Since Ms. Philpott-Sanders wrote this book to the parent or caregiver to implement with their children, it is somewhat overwhelming to a tired mom. Many of the activities either require parental preparation in advance, such as finding or printing pictures for a scrapbook, or they require parental supervision. As written, it feels like it’s my responsibility to get my kids creative, active, and busy—something they do on their own already. For example, “Host Rainbow Wars” requires me to “arm my kids with aprons and play clothes and then prepare to ‘wow’ them with a rainbow of colors.” The book asks me to entertain my children when I’d rather they entertain themselves. To further illustrate this, in “Guess the Weights” it says, “When the kids are bored, grab an unusual household item to entertain them: your bathroom scale!” While I love the potential math application of this idea, I do not want to entertain my kids on a day-to-day basis, I want them to entertain themselves.


Even so, many of the ideas are potential memory makers and those were the ones I enjoyed reading, such as “Host a ‘Just Because’ Surprise Party.” I’ve wanted to have a “Just Because” party, so it was fun to see this idea with suggestions on how to honor a special guest. Again, however, the suggestion requires shopping for balloons, decorations, making a cake, etc. which is more work for mom or dad. Of course, we could “Play the Chores Game” to make up for it and make cleaning up a game, right? So while I love the ideas, I don’t have the energy or resources to carry them out at this time. 


“Host a Road Trip Paper Clip Game” caught my eye because it’s a fun and easy game I’ve played before where you lose your paper clip if you say the forbidden word. The last child still holding their paper clip wins the round. Using words from the forbidden phrase, “Are we there yet?”, wouldn’t this be a fun game to play on a road trip with older kids?


My husband loves to play quirky games around the dinner table and many of the ideas in the book would fit the bill. In “Play Guess Who?”, you reveal a secret of a sibling, and everyone has to guess who it is. I think he’d like to play the variation where everyone writes something about themselves down on a piece of paper and draws one out of a hat to have everyone guess who. 


Another game mentioned in the book that we already play is “Would You Rather?” For example, would you rather clean the bathtub or clean your room? This is a great game to get to know someone new. We play it, “Are you more?”, but the idea is the same. 


We always enjoy an excuse to “Make Homemade Trail Mix For the Road.” We usually make a simple mix with salted almonds, raisins, and a few chocolate chips, or whatever we have on hand. It’s always fun to have something to snack on and it helps to keep hands and mouths happy on long trips. 


Overall, I liked the ideas in Screen-Free Fun, but for me, it wasn’t the right book at the right time. My energy levels are at an all-time low after a long hard winter and a difficult season of life. I’d need a bit of sunshine and rest before I could recommend this book whole-heartedly because it requires a lot of parental effort. Since it is a book for the whole family, I wish it was written to the whole family.


For the energetic mom, Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family is a great idea book packed with ideas to get your kids get creative and having fun without the use of technology. For the not-so-energetic mom, consider a book written to the child with directions and simple supplies found around the house.

-Product review by Michelle Gibson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May, 2018

Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family

Shannon Philpott-Sanders


Adams Media
57 Littlefield Street
Avon, MA 02322

If you are a parent of a child of any age, most likely you’ve heard these words. “I’m bored.” Or how about those of us who have children who seemed to have a tablet or phone as an extra appendage? I recently had the opportunity to get my hands-on Screen-Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family by Shannon Philpott-Sanders. This is a handy dandy little book filled with all manner of activities guaranteed to appeal to a variety of interests and situations. The book is accessible at well under $20.00 at most retail sites.

Obviously, this is a book that can be used with a variety of ages. It is divided up into four sections. The first is EmbraceYour Creativity. This section features one hundred ways to get messy, crafty or crazy with supplies you can (mostly) find in your own home. The ideas range from creating your own glitter slime to telling ghost stories with the flashlight. My son was particularly excited about the pancake art. There are bathtub boat races and a great idea to celebrate the wrong holiday. Thanksgiving in the summer, anyone?

The next section is Enjoy the Great Outdoors. In my opinion, we don’t spend enough time outside. Here we have ideas for going on a “sound hunt,” hosting a hula hoop contest and creating a human foosball court. There are ideas for all seasons and types of weather.

The Support Your Community section speaks to my heart. Ideas include creating care bags for Nursing Home residents, making cookies for firefighters and simply visiting a lonely neighbor. They can be as involved as planning a community game night or as easy as complimenting a stranger.

The final section tells us how to Put a Fun Twist on Local Travel. This portion of the book might actually change how your family takes a simple trip to the grocery store or walk to the park. There are also ideas for road travel; such as, counting the semi-trucks or road trip rhyming. One of my favorite ideas has to be the Price is Right idea at the grocery store. Classic and so much fun!

I also need to tell you that each activity is assigned a level of difficulty. This is helpful when you have a wide-range of ages and abilities in your house.

This is such a fun and handy book! There are so creative ideas that are out of the box, yet doable. I like that there isn’t a list of extra things to gather up. You can do most of the activities with just a body or some things you might find around the house. The book is also a nice size. I carried it around with me in purse for months and would occasionally refer to it as the need for a bit of extra fun or attention warranted.

Screen-Free Fun is a perfect addition to any family library!

-Product review by Rebekah Teague, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July, 2018