12 Screen-free Activities for Your Little Early Riser


Try these snuggly, self-directed, and movement activities for a screen-free early morning

Your little early riser is up at the first hint of sunrise, and you’d rather not turn on the TV today. Maybe you’re struggling with screen-related behavioral issues, you want to limit screen time, or you’re trying to break out of some pandemic-era habits you inadvertently picked up.

We’ve all been there. Stretch your sleepies out, put on the coffee pot, and try some of these 12 screen-free activities for your little early riser.

Snuggly activities

mom snuggles screen-free early riser
How about a snuggle to start the day?

Oh, the sweetness of snuggling up with a little one, tousled and warm from their bed.

Make the most of this quiet time together, before their energy ramps up and they’re ready to play The Floor Is Lava on all the furniture.


  • Playing I Spy is a great way to practice listening skills and review colors, shapes, and letter sounds! Added bonus: it requires zero physical effort on your part.
  • Grab some stuffed animals and make up a scene! As the stuffies talk and interact, you can have them role-play important skills like using the toilet and not pulling the baby’s hair. Or whatever skills you’re working on this week.
  • My littles love the Shine-a-light books by Kane Miller. Grab a flashlight and keep the curtains closed so you can discover together what’s hiding behind each page.

    two kids reading books screen-free activities for your little early riser
    Reading books together keeps all of you off your screens!
  • Have a couple books handy, and read independently next to each other. Model screen-free behavior by reading for pleasure, and you may inspire a love of reading in your own child.

Self-directed activities

Layout these “invitations to play” in a safe place the night before, so your early riser can choose their own morning activity while you work on inserting all the caffeine into your bloodstream. Or buy yourself even more of a lie-in by taking the advice of Janelle Schroy from Adventure Family Journal: put out some bananas, fruit cups or baggies of dry cereal the night before so those tummies aren’t rumbling while they play!

Usborne sticker book screen-free for your early riser
Sticker books are hours of fun!
  • My daughter received her first reusable Melissa and Doug sticker books when she was 3 years old, and she still loves them at age 8. She and her brother (age 5) also love these Usborne sticker books. We’re talking big chunks of time practicing fine motor skills and making up imaginative stories. 
  • If you don’t mind a little noise, playing audiobooks or books on CD can be a soothing way to ease into the day. We borrow audiobooks from our local library and listen to them through my phone, which I hook up to a portable Bluetooth speaker. We also borrow books on CD from the library and the kids play them on a small boombox in their room. (Yes, you can still purchase CD players! Who knew!) Several audiobook subscription services are also excellent options, and make great gift ideas.
  • Have you seen Vox books  at your library? They’re our favorite! Each book has its own recording built right in, so kids can follow along as the book reads itself to them. Check to see if your local library’s children’s section carries Vox books, and if they don’t, request them!

    open-ended imaginative toys for your screen-free early riser
    Imaginative toy sets can occupy your early riser while the coffee brews.
  • Any open-ended toy like Lego blocks or magnet tiles is wonderful for independent play. I love these wooden wilderness animals (or this inventor kit, or really anything from this store!) for capturing your child’s attention and imagination. 

Movement activities

Some littles bound out of bed and ricochet themselves off the walls on their way to wake you up. For those mornings, help them find safe ways to use their energy that won’t disturb any other sleepers in your household.

boy does downward dog yoga screen-free activities
Early risers can welcome the sun with yoga.
  • Say “salutations” to the sun with these awesome Kids Yoga Pose cards! Or check your local library for one of the many yoga flow picture books available. We love this series, but there are lots out there. Kids can make their own flow or follow along with a routine.
  • Let’s practice getting ready for the day! Ask your child to pick out an outfit they would wear if it were rainy, hot, snowing, or windy weather. If your brain isn’t awake enough for that yet, ask them to dress up and have you guess where they’re going.
  • Do you go for a run or bike ride first thing? Invite your kids to join! You’ll all get the benefits of exercise, laughter, and shared time. Or squeeze in a quick workout with a simple HIIT routine, or (my kids’ favorite) unleash their energy with Animal Workout on your Amazon Echo device.
  • If you’re still feeling the allure of your pillows, be the caller for some “follow directions” games. While you lounge in bed, you call the instructions for your kids to play Simon Says, Mother May I, or Red Light Green Light. Better yet, get yourself out of bed, sleepyhead, and play Follow the Leader around the house, picking up yesterday’s toys! 

With a little forethought and very few materials, you too can have children who aren’t glued to a screen at 6 a.m.! These are just 12 screen-free activities for your little early riser. What are some of the screen-free activities your early risers enjoy? 


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