Canada is celebrating Screen-Free Week from May 1 to May 7, a time for families to make a conscious effort to unplug and get away from our computers, smartphones and televisions for a little while.

Technology has become such a big part of our lives, from day jobs that require nearly non-stop computer time to fun activities for our kids based around computers and videogames, it can be hard to separate from our favourite gadgets. Research from around the world shows, however, that too much time in front of screens can be bad for our health and may have serious impacts on our growing children.

So take a break from screen-based activities and try to incorporate more hobbies into your lives that can offset the negative effects all that screen time has on your family. While there are innumerable ways to enjoy your time without all that tech - here are five ideas that can help get you started:

  1. Enroll your kids in a team or active club. Keeping kids engaged and curious is essential for their developing minds. Kids who don't have enough to do will wind up bored and unchallenged, which may cause them to default to sedentary activities like browsing the internet or watching too much TV. Canadian Family has recommended parents enroll older children and teens into active programs geared toward their age groups. Team sports, dance classes or hiking clubs could all give your children a much-needed outlet to keep them on their feet more often, while also teaching them valuable life skills like sportsmanship, commitment and discipline. This can even help you stay more active yourself as you help your young soccer star practice running sprints and kicking a ball around in the backyard, or getting on the ice with your hockey player. 
  2. Read a book together. From ebooks to online magazines, many traditional forms of media are now gaining traction with screen-based readability. Take a step back from your digital gadgets and grab a hardcopy book. Go with your the family to the library or a local bookstore so everyone can pick out something for themselves to read. If you have young kids, work together to find them something they'd like you to read to them or that meets their skill level so they can read to you. CBC Parents compiled a list of great books for children that you can check out for your little ones. Some studies even suggest that reading on paper helps us better retain information, according to The Guardian. 
  3. Go camping. Whether you head out for the weekend and really rough it in the wilderness, or you just spend an evening in a tent in your own backyard, getting the family together outside is a great way to take a break from your screens. Keep your phones off and your tablets in the house as you spend time hiking, cooking over camp fires and enjoying the fresh air. Just be sure not to forget the essentials, like sunscreen, first aid kits and extra flashlights, reported Today's Parent. 
  4. Make crafts. Kids are creative, so why not indulge that instinct by setting up craft stations in your home? Bust out the water color paints, construction paper and glitter glue and let your children create whatever inspirations they have, or guide them through specific projects to help them build skills in following instructions and goal completion. Surprise your better half by helping your children make gifts for Mother's Day or Father's Day from this Huffington Post Canada list, like a picture-frame vase. You could also learn how to knit, needle point or sew. You'll gain a valuable skill that you can dive into any time you want without needing the glare from a screen to do it.
  5. Experiment with new recipes. Cooking in the kitchen as a family can be a fun - and beneficial - activity. So why not use your screen-free time to try out a new recipe that can challenge and excite everyone? Perhaps you've always wanted to finesse your frosting-piping skills to decorate cakes, or you want to see what all the fuss is about over spiralized vegetable dishes. Whatever trend or technique is striking your fancy, take to the kitchen together and work on something new.
Spending too much time in front of a screen impacts children's development and awareness.

The dangers of too much screen time
Spending our days staring at one screen after another can have negative effects on families' health and development. Our eyes can become strained from gazing at back-lit screens, the tints of which can disrupt our sleep patterns if we use electronic devices too close to bed time. 

Using screens also typically means that we're being sedentary. Though we're all guilty of trying to walk and text and the same time, we know that most of our computer and TV viewing is done while we're sitting. As the Heart and Stroke Foundation reports, even working out at the gym a few times a week can't completely offset the heart disease risks that come from spending most of out days sitting. 

Not only does our physical health suffer with too much screen time, but studies show that using electronics too often can negatively impact children's cognitive growth. When kids rely on screens to learn and play, they miss out on important social cues and environmental understanding, National Post reported. It can cause children to become detached and miss out on learning the nuances of personal interactions.

Screen-Free Week looks to stop those developmental hurdles by encouraging schools and families to unplug for a week and learn about the ways they can limit their screen time on a regular basis.