Don’t Pass the Phone During Chinese New Year:  6 Alternatives to Screen Time

Don’t Pass the Phone During Chinese New Year: 6 Alternatives to Screen Time




Today, it is not uncommon to see iPads or mobile phones deployed as “babysitters”. For some, this may be seen as a threat to learning through play or sensorial experiences, values and behaviours. Especially with the onslaught of Chinese New Year house visits over the past few days, I know it can be all too tempting to entertain your child with screen time. Whether you are busy entertaining guests or preparing a feast in the kitchen, the silence that comes over your child when they are so fixated on their screens seems like an easy fix.

Most parents would be all too familiar with the harmful effects of screen time, but how much is too much, really? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to a total of 60 minutes per day for children aged two and five, and avoiding screen time if possible for children under 18 months.

Feeling guilty? Fret not, here are 7 smart and CNY-inspired ways to keep your children entertained, while still benefitting their development without handing them your phone this CNY. Dive in and give them all a try!

1. “I Spy” and other observation games

Play games that help your child utilize their observational skills to find colors and objects in the environment. For instance, children may observe who’s wearing red in the house or spot for any oranges. You may make lists or use printables of objects to tide them through long house visits or car rides.

2. Pop-up books 

While the movement, bright colors and sounds of screen games appeal to toddlers, three-dimensional books with flaps or pop-ups will engage your child in a similar way and nurture their literacy skills.

3. Involve children in household chores

Whether you are preparing dinner or setting the table, you may like to assign your child age-appropriate tasks. Tasks could range from as simple as wiping the table, laying the utensils, serving guests to even being involved in the cooking of CNY dishes in the kitchen. Invite your child to help mix, pour and stir ingredients. This is also a great opportunity to talk about CNY traditions while creating memories together.

4. Food tasting

Speaking of foods, why not hold a session to introduce your young ones to unusual Chinese ingredients or dishes? Do this by allowing your child to go up close and see/smell/touch the ingredients. Never tasted durian? Now’s your chance.

5. Kinaesthetic items

Make a sock puppet that represents the coming animal, the rat, or make all the different zodiacs prior to a house visit. This will keep children entertained as they can play with them during celebrations or they might even be able to put on a show with the other children at the visit! Furthermore, this serves as a great platform for your child to make friends during CNY and boost social skills.

6. Arts & Crafts

Each year of the Chinese calendar is assigned one of twelve animals. Help children learn which animal represents them. Follow up with a craft that relates to the animal of the upcoming new year. For instance, 2020 is the year of the rat. You may print out pictures of rats for your child to color during house visits or make origami rat head ornaments to be displayed around the house.


No matter how a family chooses to usher in the Chinese New Year, members are sure to find plenty of activities that enhance the holiday’s traditional meaning. Now that you are brimming with ideas, try some of these activities on your special celebration.

Why not download our free CNY printables as examples? You can download the one for older kids here, and the one for younger kids here. Like us on Facebook and Instagram for more of these downloadables! 


Meanwhile, have a happy Chinese New Year!