Each year, we invite the authors from our Screen-Free Children’s Booklist to contribute to our blog, to illustrate why unplugging from screens is important to them! In this post, republished from Lawley Publishing with permission, Treasure Hunt author Stephanie Wildman offers some awesome screen-free activities and discusses how she uses the book to inspire creativity! Also be sure to check out Stephanie reading Treasure Hunt here and additional resources for use with the book here. Treasure Hunt is illustrated by Estefania Razo. También en español (squeda del Tesoro).

by Stephanie Wildman, author of Treasure Hunt


Screens are everywhere in modern life. From television to smart phones to computers, children see us engaging with screens. Naturally, children want to know what screens are about and want to watch, too.

Treasure Hunt character Luis holds up clues to his younger siblings.

Doctors have found that too much screen time is not healthy for cognitive, social-emotional, and overall development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting digital media use to no more than 1 hour a day for ages 2 to 5. A Journal of American Medical Association 2019 study showed screen time adversely affects brain development in pre-school-age children. (Find that article here: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2754101).

A 2022 study by the same authors in Scientific Reports further reinforced concerns about brain structure and functions, even while recognizing that the use of screens has continued to expand. (Find that article here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-20922-0#Sec1).

We all understand that the screens are here to stay. When used judiciously, they can provide a kind of downtime for children and parents. Nonetheless, we all want to avoid overdoing the screens for our children and ourselves. We want kids to read books, not just stare at screens. We want them playing outside, moving and being active, and engaging indoors with puzzles, board games, cards, baking or cooking, as well as reading books. We want them to search for the treasure in every day, not just spend time glued to a screen.

Providing an alternative to screen time can be challenging. In this post I want to share some activities my family developed. These ideas, generated during the pandemic, led to the story in Treasure Hunt, illustrated by Estefania Razo, where Luis, the older brother, creates a fun substitute for his twin siblings’ screen time using empty toilet paper rolls and a cardboard box.

Crafts with Empty Toilet Paper Rolls and Cardboard Boxes

When parents worked from home on screens and the oldest of my grandchildren attended school via zoom, I spent a lot of time with the youngest, who would otherwise have been attending pre-school.

He and I created puppets out of toilet paper rolls. We wrote a story using the puppets about a little boy who saved the rainbow after overhearing someone tell a child to “eat the rainbow.” With the help

of a wise wizard, the boy in the story travelled to all the rainbow colors’ houses to warn them of the danger. At each home, the boy found delicious fruits and vegetables in the gardens that matched that rainbow color. It turned out that “eating the rainbow” meant fashioning a diet full of these colors – the rainbow wasn’t in danger after all! We drew illustrations for the gardens and created a puppet theater out of an old cardboard box to put on a show for the family.

Websites with ideas for creating puppets out of toilet paper rolls abound, findable with a simple search. Results will include YouTube videos and puppets ranging from simple birds and animals to copyrighted movie characters. Encourage your children to tell you a story with puppets or make puppets to fit a story.


Treasure Hunting

Whenever the grandkids came to my house for a sleepover and I had bought them small gifts, I would hide these items throughout the house. Searching for these gifts was just as much fun, if not more, than opening the gift itself.

Because of their age difference, I had the grandkids hunt as a team, as Luis does in the story, so that the oldest wouldn’t automatically win every time. Each person finding the treasure (usually the oldest, but not always) would stand in the center of the room without revealing the location of the hidden object.

Only when all searchers met in the middle could the hiding spot be disclosed by the one who had found it first. They especially delighted in hunts where grandpa joined in and the kids found the treasure before he did.

Craft supplies (like the ones Luis hid for the twins), stickers, and pens are all fun objects to hide. To minimize wear and tear in the house, we had rules like “it’s in plain sight, so you can’t move anything” or “you can only open cabinets below your chin” or “no closets.”

With the found treasures, in addition to puppets, you can create a blank book with paper and staples for stickers and drawings. Have your child draw and use stickers to tell a story. You can add words if the children aren’t writing themselves yet.


Write a Poem

If your child isn’t drawn to a story, try a poem. Yes, really! You can create a “fill-in-the-blank” poem template like the one below or make up your own. For this example poem, give the instruction to write about “your important person” (mother, father, grandparent, aunt, caregiver). Note the last line should end with the important person’s identity like “She is my mother.” The first line should be a descriptive noun, like “protector,” “influence,” “comfort,” or “encourager.”

She is my __________________.
When I am as sad as ever,
She _______________________.
When I go crazy like a bucking bronco,
She _______________________.
When I go to a friend’s house,
She _______________________.
With the rising sun I see her _______________.
And as it sets, I see her _____________________.
I see her talking on the phone,
and I feel __________.
I want to tell her I love her.
She is my _______________.

Another fun idea for older children is creating a reverso poem, where the first half of the poem repeats in reverse as the last half of the poem. Picture book author and poet Marilyn Singer offers this example in her blog post on the topic (which you can find here: https://www.readbrightly.com/reverso-poetry-writing-verse-reverse/).

A cat
a chair:

A chair
a cat.

In a reverso, the poet changes capitalization and punctuation to make the words meaningful.

For a tour de force of this genre, I recommend Amah Faraway by Margaret Chiu Greanias, illustrated by Tracy Subisak, about a child’s visit to a grandma and the grandma’s visit to the child.

Read, Read, Read

Reading books with children, of course, provides a non-screen focus with wonderful time together.

Many of the books available through Lawley Publishing have educational materials available, which you can do as an activity after reading the book. For example, the extensive resource guide for Pigs Dancing Jigs by Maxine Rose Schur, illustrated by Robin DeWitt and Patricia DeWitt-Grush, includes activities aimed at Pre-K through first grade that cover every letter of the alphabet, even X! (Find it here: https://lawleypublishing.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/pigs-dancing-jigs-learning-activities.pdf ). You can find the educational material under the “Resources” tab at the top of the Lawley Publishing website. Activities, including coloring pages, for Treasure Hunt can be found here: https://lawleypublishing.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/treasure-hunt-resource.pdf


Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies


  • 1 stick Butter
  • 1/4 c. Apple Sauce
  • 1 c. Honey
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Dark Baking Cocoa
  • 2 ½ c. Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 1/3 cup quality Chocolate Chips (I favor Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, cream together butter, apple sauce, and honey. Beat eggs in a separate bowl and then mix in.
  3. Add cocoa, flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt and stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips
  4. I use two spoons to create balls on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Baking should also work with parchment or a greased sheet as well.
  5. Bake for 9 -13 minutes, depending on your oven.


Sometimes I add 1 tsp. of mint or vanilla. You can also use this recipe to make 6-8 giant cookies.

So skip the screens; read some books; write stories and poems; bake some cookies; and search for treasure in every day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Wildman is the author of Treasure Hunt (illustrated by Estefania Razo; translated into Spanish as Búsqueda del Tesoro by Cecilia Pópulus-Eudave) and Brave in the Water (illustrated by Jenni Feidler-Aguilar; translated into Spanish as Valiente en el Agua by Cecilia Populus-Eudave).