15 hacks to replace screen time with family time #sponsored

family looking out to sea on ferry

Picture: Discover Ferries

Something is coming between parents and their children, a new study shows — gadgets, phones and tablets are getting in the way of family time in day-to-day life.

The study, commissioned by Discover Ferries, the body representing ferry operators, found the average family spends just 3 weeks of real quality time together each year and just 36 minutes on the average weekday. 

Here are more surprising – some might say shocking – numbers from the study:

  • Children stare at a screen of some kind for close to 2 hours and 22 minutes a day
  • 55 per cent of parents don’t feel they get enough quality time with their children. Household chores, homework and long working hours are the biggest impediments.
  • Three-quarters of parents believe they spend less quality time with their children than they did with their own parents

How to create family time?

So how do parents create family time? Two-thirds say holidays and trips away are the only real time they get together. We asked some top family travel bloggers their top tips on creating fun family time on holiday.

  1. Get outside

family on beach in Isle of Bute, Scotland

Fresh air for the whole family in Isle of Bute, Scotland. Picture: Discover Ferries

Going outside creates a change of scenery and sweeps away the digital doziness, whether that’s strolling the deck during a ferry crossing or seeing the sights in a new city. “We go outside whatever the weather to walk the dog,” says Carrie Bradley of Flying with a Baby. “Even it’s tipping it down, everyone ends up having a lovely time plus it burns up energy!” Polly Basak of Ourseasidebaby.com says, “The beach is always a winner…throwing pebbles into the sea is one of my 3-year-old’s favourite activities.” For older kids, Kirralee Baker of Escape with the Kids recommends pushing the boat out, or the boogie board, the bike or the kite for kitesurfing. “It’s the best way to get our kids super keen to explore with us.”

  1. Cook together

This is especially fun using local ingredients while travelling, suggests Kirstie Pelling of The Family Adventure Project. “A fondue, raclette or braserade provides quality French tabletop entertainment, make your own pizza in Italy or paella in Spain. If you’re camping, glamping or hiking, find a forest or lake, make a fire and have a barbecue, although check first for restrictions.”    

  1. Play old-school board and card games

“We always take a few games with us when we travel as a family, and play them together after dinner. Our current favourites are Bananagrams, Monopoly Deal and Dobble,” says Gretta Schifano of Mums Do Travel. “The kids really look forward to holiday family game sessions – as do I – and they happily put down their phones and tablets to join in.”

For older kids a poker night can go down well, advises Pelling. Buy a set with chips before you go or just take a pack of cards and play for Wotsits. 

  1. Do a puzzle

Along the same lines, Elizabeth from Wander Mum brings out the jigsaws “It works great if my daughter is itching towards the iPad. We’ll take them to dinner and do them together.”

  1. Make family meals a tech-free occasion

family eating lunch on Isle of Man

A tasty family meal on Isle of Man. Picture: Discovery Ferries

“We love to have lengthy meals when we’re on holiday. It’s a welcome time-out where the family can sit and talk together” says Anouk Guittet of Letz Fly Away. How to do that? Keri Hedrick, who blogs at Our Globetrotters, has a novel strategy. “When we head out for dinner our electronics need ‘charger time’ so the kids need to pack the activity bag with two items: one for them, one we can all play. Lovely seeing them putting thought into their choices.” 

  1. Enlist conversation starters

These get the whole family sharing, even with older kids who tend toward the monosyllabic. “We play Mad, Sad and Glad – everyone has to tell something that day or that week that made them mad, sad and glad,” says Jennifer Howze, of Jenography. “You’ll hear some interesting opinions and the structure of the game is a great jumping-off point to other topics.” Susanna Scott of A Modern Mother gets her three girls talking with 20 Questions, “although we’ve had to set ground rules about not choosing people as the answer. It’s too hard!” 

  1. Learn something together

Do challenge activities or learn a skill as a family, suggests Kirstie from The Family Adventure Project. “We recently enjoyed canyon swinging in Austria and a family game of ice hockey in the French Alps with the kids. Just don’t be disappointed when they beat you,” she says. 

  1. Hunt for treasure

“We create treasure hunts or treasure trails where the kids have to find things in a certain time. They love the challenge,” says Karen Beddow, who writes at Minitravellers

  1. Use technology and go geocaching

Make the most of preprepared “treasure hunts” with geocaching. “It’s taken our holidays to a whole different level,” reveals Leah Smileski of Kid Bucket List. You use a GPS device or an app on your phone to find hidden containers practically anywhere in the world. “Our entire family love heading to a new area and searching for nearby caches. It has the added bonus of getting us active as we try to uncover their secret locations,” she says. 

  1. Create photo albums together

Cathy Winston of Mummy Travels turns memories into a family affair. “These days photos are more likely to be stuck on a hard drive or in the cloud, but I still try to print mine out or make photo albums online. Not only do we have a lovely record of our trips, it’s fun to flick through them with my daughter. We start talking about the things we remember, our favourite moments, the bits which went wrong, all the little memories.” 

  1. Set specific holiday screentime that works for your family

That might mean in the car or for an hour of “chill time” in the afternoon. Donna from The London Mum says, “We have a toddler so having him sit still for the full duration of a meal is often impossible, so the phone or tablet makes an appearance while we’re finishing. Otherwise he’s doing whatever we do throughout the day.” Claire Hall of Tin Box Traveller confesses, “We do find screens useful for allowing us a little bit of a holiday lie-in.” 

  1. Put the kids in charge

There’s nothing to engage little ones than the opportunity to take control. That might mean getting breakfast together, picking which place to eat lunch or choosing the day’s big activity. “It could be a museum visit, an attraction or even just a stop at the playground,” says Marta Correale of Learning Escapes. “We also do some reading beforehand to get ready so that becomes family time too.”

  1. Schedule time every day at the pool

If you feel they are glued to their device, use this surefire trick: “We find suggesting swimming will have them drop their electronics real quick,” reveals Sally Lucas of Ours Kids v the World

  1. Make the journey part of the fun

looking out to sea on a ferry ride

Picture: Discover Ferries

From the minute you climb onboard or get into the car, think of the experience as family time. “Once you’re on the ferry, the holiday has begun,” says Susanna of A Modern Mother. “We all put down our electronics and start the fun.”

  1. Explore affordable family breaks

Get away from it all more frequently by taking advantage of affordable breaks. A holiday by ferry is a fantastic opportunity to create family time without spending the earth. You save money by paying a single vehicle fare for all passengers, enjoying no baggage costs and taking advantage of partnerships with accommodation providers and resorts that result in great discounts. Find the best affordable family breaks by ferry now! 

Discover Ferries is the home of ferry travel from and around the UK. Discover amazing places and the ferry companies that will get you there, to destinations such as Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scottish Islands, Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, Isle of Wight, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain. www.discoverferries.com

This post is sponsored by Discover Ferries. All opinions are the bloggers’ own.

Tell us your tricks for reducing screen time and creating family time as well as you challenges in the digital world.


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  1. 15 February 2017 / 17:43

    I blogged this week about why parents feel the need to entertain children 24/7 and their use of screen time to do so, all people need to do is to remember their childhood before internet, mobile phones etc. One thing we always did and still do as a family was to eat together, some of our children’s friends would comment on it when they stayed for dinner, that they never did that in their own homes. We also used to have movie nights and a vote with everyone staying to watch, adding popcorn and fizzy drinks always got the kids attention to want to watch a movie. Now when the kids come to visit, as adults, we play board games, go for walks with the dog, go to the beach and just sit and chat and we still have movie nights.

  2. 18 May 2017 / 23:54

    Lots of great tips! We bring plenty of activity books with us and a drawing pad for the long travel times so we can avoid getting out the ipad.