20 Ways to Get Boys Away From Video Games

I have a love-hate relationship with video games. Love: They improve hand-eye coordination, teach strategy, and keep my boys out of my hair. Think about a plane trip with two boys and no video games – I felt the shiver that just went down your spine. Hate: The glazed look in the eyes of a boy who’s been vaporizing aliens all morning. Whither my sweet, intelligent, enthusiastic boy? And who left this incoherent, complaining pile of irritating human in my house?

When you’re a mom in 2013, video games are all but unavoidable, and boys get hooked on gaming faster and harder than girls. But there comes a point when enough is enough and you need your boys back in the real world. Here are 20 things my boys usually find more interesting than video games. No guarantees, but they’ve worked for me.


1. Hire them. My younger son is surprisingly motivated by paying work. You can pay your kids to weed the garden, organize the DVD shelf, match plastic containers to lids – all the crap we grownups hate to do.

2. Look at pictures. My kids find their baby pictures infinitely fascinating. They also find fascinating the photos of Grandma before her nose job and me in my 7th grade “aren’t perms cool?” phase. (Consider hiding circumcision pictures, however.)

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3. Bake something. Whether you’re making chocolate chip cookies, brownies, or pie, kids will be happy to help. You’ll have to clean flour and butter out of your navel (and theirs) and deal with the sugar rush, but the process is fun.

4. Do something messy. Whipped cream, shaving cream, mud – let ‘em squirt and slather. Of course, this works best when outdoor space is available for the subsequent hose-down.

5. Find a friend. One boy banned from video games is a whining ball of intolerable. Two boys banned from video games can usually come up with something interesting to do. Just make sure they can’t get into your underwear drawer or your liquor cabinet.

6. Paint a wall. All boys dig the Tom Sawyer thing.

7. Turn on the hose. You’ll be sacrificing your water bill for your sanity, but some days it’s worth it.

8. Dig a hole (you decide where). When they’re done, plant a tree. Drop in their Gameboys while you’re at it. Instant reduction of video game availability.

9. Leave the house. Take them to the grocery store. Whoever correctly identifies the most vegetables earns an extra half-hour of video games the following day. The loser(s) have to make dinner.

10. Hold a contest. Brothers have been pitted against each other from biblical times. Hide the swords and encourage a little sibling rivalry. I always like a good “Who
can get ALL their pee in the toilet?” contest.

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11. Pillows. Throw every pillow you can find on the floor and see what happens. Warning: may end with a visit to the nearest emergency room.

12. Balloons. We once planned a birthday party for 50 preschoolers. It rained and ruined our backyard plans. We cleared the furniture, blew up 400 balloons, and bought several gallons of tequila. Instant party.

13. Make a video. Hand over a camera and tell your kid to channel his inner Scorcese. Again, ensure the little filmmakers do not have access to your underwear drawers. Plan a family film festival where everyone sits down to watch the clips.

14. Lemonade stand. If you like your neighbors, you make the lemonade. If your neighbors bug you, let your kids make the lemonade.

15. Make dinner. Slave labor at its finest. They can tear lettuce, roll meatballs, whisk salad dressing, cut fruit, and set the table. This only works if your tolerance for boogers in your food is fairly high.

16. Do laundry. Boys like machines. Including washing machines and dryers. Don’t expect much in the folding department. Do expect flying socks. Be prepared for questions about why your panties are so HUGE.

17. Wash the car. Wet sponges + buckets of soapy water = boy heaven. Tell them it’s good practice for when they’re teenagers with rippling pecs and washboard abs. Then they can wash the car in the front yard without a shirt on to get the neighbor girls’ attention.

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18. Plant a garden. Sit and sip a margarita while they rake, hoe, dig and water. Save your energy for the following month, when the garden will need weeding and the boys are nowhere to be found.

19. Do a good deed. Send them over to rake your elderly neighbor’s leaves or take in his trash cans. Just make sure you choose a neighbor who can see well enough to tell the difference between your kid and a burglar.

20. “Because I said so.” Actually, you might want to start with this one. Works every time.

About the writer

Erika Kerekes is a working mom whose two boys spend way too many hours communing with their electronic gadgets. She shares family-friendly recipes and obsesses over truffles (the fungi, not the candy) at In Erika’s Kitchen.


MichaelCambridge 2 months ago

Hello I am a student from a class that works with Cambridge Global Perspectives, there we have made a group project about the conflicts that appears between parents and teenagers involving gaming. We give perspective on the teenagers and the parents view on the problems. We also analyze the problems which is the cause of the conflicts and give some insight on how to solve them. It is not completely done but we hope it can be of some use, here is the link to the blog https://parentsngamers.wordpress.com/. It would be very kind of you to check it out, it would help a lot, give feedback if you have the time because this is our first time doing a thing like this. Anyway sorry if i don`t have the best English, our native language is not English.

Melastik Bintang 2 years ago

haha.. lucky my son not interested on games.. he only play ipad but not searching for games…

Steven 2 years ago

Many parents tend to believe video games are a waste of time, antisocial, and believe their child will become violent. But most young people, especially teen boys describe video games as fun, exciting, and another way to spend time with friends.

An interesting fact parents should know is video game violence can increase aggression in only some individuals, depending on their personalities. A violent video game study by Patrick Markey, PhD, sampled 118 teenagers and participants played a violent or a non-violent video game and then hostility levels were tested. Teenagers who were “highly neurotic, less agreeable and less conscientious,” are more likely to be affected by violent video games. Participants who didn’t have these personality traits were not affected or only slightly affected.

Mama D 3 years ago

We use a timer! Problem solved. Each kid has X number of technology minutes per day (DS, wii, etc) that they can use in any combination they like. But when they’re gone, games are over for the day. And game minutes are docked for minor infractions, which is very effective!! 😉

    Jessica @scienceofparenthood.com 3 years ago

    I so need to do that… especially this coming summer. It goes off the rails so fast!

lisa 3 years ago

So…does this work for husbands too?

rebows 3 years ago

i haet cloens and i leave my comp open alot lel my sons haet vids none of these werk

Rebecca 3 years ago

These are all wonderful ideas…and I will definitely be trying them out on my GIRLS. My oldest has been hooked since she was 2, and my youngest, now just over 2 can’t get enough of the games on our EPad. I limit the time they can spend on any media (TV, computer, iTouch, smartphones, and EPad) pretty rigidly (15 min for baby and two hours for the 5 year old), but they are still young enough to believe that I am the boss. And my five year old is not yet in school thanks to age regulations where we live (they are both December babies in a province with a Sept cutoff) but she is reading, writing and doing math thanks to my exceptional teaching skills :). Still, I suppose the whole point of this comment, is that I took exception to the assumption that BOYS get hooked while girls do not. I think maybe if girls were encouraged to play the super-awesome video games that boys are they would get hooked as well. None of that Let’s Dress up Dolls junk…

Brenna 3 years ago

I make my boys read, practice their printing/handwriting, and do a choir before they get video games. Most of the time they just can’t be bothered to do it all. On special occasions they get a ‘free’ day. It seems to work very well.

Mercy 3 years ago

No video games in our house. But I have the same kinds of fights with my 5 year old over video-watching. He always wants more.

Roshni 3 years ago

I usually just go with #20! LOL! I’m quite comfortable with video games in the house. They’re fun and it’s another item of play; just not all the time.

Mindy Aisling 3 years ago

I am okay with any form of parenting, as long as it’s working. For me, it’s all about results. I am surprised reading this (and the comments) at how many parents don’t necessarily like or believe in video games – but have them. As if they didn’t have a choice. I have a 10year old boy and we don’t have video games or TV at home. He is thriving. At first when friends (other little boys) come over, they are surprised and perplexed by what to do without video games at our house. However, they end up having a wonderful time playing outside, building forts, playing with toys, doing art, having books read out loud to them, dancing, playing games.. etc. When my son has play-dates and sleepovers at other people’s homes where they play video games the entire time, I find that he comes home short tempered and lazy (complaining) about the things he has to do. This blog is titled “20 ways to get boys away from video games”, I’d say the number one way is: #1. Don’t buy video games. That is my 2cents from a young, hip mom who chooses not to have video games in the house. Not because it’s bad or wrong, but because I can choose to – or not choose to, and I like the results my family has by choosing not to. 😀

    MamaMcCoy 3 years ago

    I agree 100%! While my son is only 2 (almost 3 – yikes!), I have made it very clear to my husband that even when he gets older, there will be no game system in my house. First of all, they are an obscene waste of money, and second of all, kids don’t need to spend hours and hours in front of a TV numbing their brains. When I was a kid, I was sent outside and told not to come back until dinner unless I had to use the bathroom. Kids these days are all diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as soon as they’re able to speak. Perhaps that is because kids these days are not burning off their energy the way kids were meant to. Your kids aren’t ADD. They’re just kids, and kids have energy. Make them do something constructive with that energy, and I bet 80% of those kids wouldn’t even need the meds….

Tamara 3 years ago

Uhh…400 balloons and several gallons of tequila at a preschool party? What?

Lol. Was I the only one who noticed that?

    Erika 3 years ago

    The balloons were for the kids. The tequila was for the grownups! :)

chris 3 years ago

Unless these kids have jobs, they can’t buy these games themselves ! Don’t buy this garbage in the first place and you won’t have to bribe your little darlings to pick up their dirty clothes.

    Jenn 3 years ago

    That’s what I was thinking too. If the kids are so addicted to video games, or anything else for that matter, get rid of it. It’s not healthy to have such a strong “need” for anything. And yes I have kids. Three of them. We had a wii but when it got to the point that playing on it was all they wanted to do I took it away and now they find constructive ways to spend their time.

Christina 3 years ago

Thankfully my 14 year old son likes music and sports just as much as video games. He is too busy to play them most of the time. My husband doesn’t play because they make him nauseous (motion sick). But i do remember my brother being glued to the Atari. I just aged myself! :)

Grown and Flown 3 years ago

I have three boys and I think you are right, number 20 is the place to start. Kids are still kids and without the gadgets they will revert to doing what kids have always done.

April 3 years ago

I am so glad I’m not the only one who has a son with an xbox controller attached to his hand at all times. It’s getting ridiculous but yet it’s too cold where we live to send him outside. I think it’s time I teach the kid how to cook :)

Anna 3 years ago

LOL! If only..make a movie? Only if it is about him playing video games..make dinner? it sits on the table waiting for them (my husband is included) to find a “saving place”… arrgghhh!

I totally believe video games were created by divorce lawyers..

though I like the dig a hole idea..I could dig it an either a) bury the controllers or b) their bodies after I kill them for playing so long or c) they could bury my body there after they kill me for taking the controllers!

Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson 3 years ago

My issue isn’t games. It’s the fact that my 13.5 year old NEEDS to use the computer for homework. There are quizzes. And his assignments are online. It is VERY hard to monitor if he is screwing around when he appears to be sitting at the screen so very diligently. I wish wish wish schools wouldn’t make kids so dependent on technology for homework assignments. Believe me, they know what they are doing there. They know how to cut and paste from Wikipedia like pros. It would be great to actually make them take out books from the library.

My son is a stellar student, but this is becoming a bit of a battle in our house as well.

    Azanath 3 years ago

    I agree with you Renee. When my children were around 15, my son brought home an assignment that he HAD to do online. It was for a Romeo and Juliette assignment. He innocently typed in the link that the teacher had given the students to find the information on. I heard a scream that sounded like someone was being killed. My son, shaking in the chair, terrified that the wrath of me would be upon him and pointing at the screen. I look. It was Romeo and Juliette, yaaaaa…porn. I checked the link on two different systems and the same site came up with a scene that made me even turn red in the face. I immediately called the principal at home, gave him the link to check out and the apologies flew like a sailor’s curse words. The thing is, the teacher obviously was not well versed in the internet. Sites that people have not payed the bill on, free time has run out, etc. can be purchased by anyone, if it is a site that gets a lot of hits, like a site a school teacher would use, porn sites will pick up those types of sites for the hits. Scary world we live in these days.

Ariana 3 years ago

3 boys, and the older they are, the harder it is to pry the controllers from their hands. When I decided to get rid of satellite they hardly noticed because the primary use of our 42″ flat screen is gaming. At 21,21 and 17 they are tempted away by their jobs, their girlfriends, their friends, and school.I had a discusssion about it the other day with one of my twins, he just said “mom, this is our world, its what we grew up with and its how we socialize”. Basically told me I’ll never understand, sadly true.

Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense 3 years ago

“Because I said so.” …My favorite one.

On the days he’s allowed to play video games (when he’s had a good day at school), I have to set a timer for my kid. Otherwise I could just relish the peace and quiet and squander the entire evening on FB. It really is a love-hate relationship….

Debbie 3 years ago

Digging a hole. I remember that one, when I was a kids we use to go outside and see how deep we could dig the hole.
Great ideas and parents do need to listen to you, Erika or kids are going to miss out on the real world.
Thanks again,

    Erika 3 years ago

    That’s what I worry about most, Debbie – that by having their heads buried in a fantasy on a screen, they’re missing real people and real conversations and the real world around them.

    Miss Kathleen 3 years ago

    Digging a hole is a great way to meet the neighbor kids, too.

Aileen Alannah 3 years ago

Remember, when your son is kept busy with video games he doesn’t have time to be thinking about girls. Not a bad trade off.

    Erika 3 years ago

    Not sure whether I’d prefer my kid thinking about vaporizing aliens or girls. Don’t you feel like the latter might serve him better later in life? 😉

      Aileen Alannah 3 years ago

      Later in life, yes. But they can really mess up his life early on. And then it’s too late.

Jessica, The Debt Princess 3 years ago

I deal with this every day. Part of our issue is that I’m a single mom and when the boys are at their dad’s there is no limit to video games. When they are here, however there is a lot of limits. Personally, I feel like the biggest issue is the parents. We are all guilty of letting it keep out kids out of our hair from time to time but if you feel like these ideas (all great ideas) won’t work then you need to look at your own parenting.

These are great ideas I’m going to print them off and post them on the fridge to remind myself when I get stuck and just say “yea sure, play the Xbox/Wii/DS.


Allen@Funny Baby Videos 3 years ago

In our home the question is: How to get DAD away from video games?

By the way, I’m dad :)

    Mercy 3 years ago

    Make your wife hide them.

    rebows 3 years ago


Patricia Mandell 3 years ago

This is hysterically funny! I have only one boy, but that one ran me into the ground! He also learned to boot up Windows at age four, called 911 at age two, and made two trips to the E.R. before age five. So yes, I let him play video games. And we had many arguments. Contrary to received wisdom, they have not made him a violent person. He is just as sweet as ever!
None of these would work on him now that he’s a teenager :((.
Rock on!!!
Pat M. Rockport MA

    Erika 3 years ago

    Oh, don’t get me wrong, I do let my kids play video games. I just get to the point where I’m like “OKAY, ENOUGH ALREADY, you’re done.” And then the whining and bargaining commence….

Jessica Cobb (@DomesticPirate) 3 years ago

Can you make a list for husbands next? :-)

Becky 3 years ago

Love all the suggestions. Both my boys are the video gamers, so is my husband. So typically #20 is my go too, but I will try the others.

rebows 3 years ago

None of these work with my 13 and 16yo’s.

Natasha 3 years ago

I’m going to have a heck of a time with my son and video games. Only because I know that my husband is addicted as well. And my son loves the wii remote, nuf said.

    Erika 3 years ago

    A couple of people have mentioned husbands. I never thought of that, actually, because my husband doesn’t like video games at all. Interested to hear the strategies for getting husbands away from the controllers. Although I suspect the one-two punch of good food and lingerie might work on most….

Jenny From the Blog at The Suburban Jungle 3 years ago

I love this idea anything to distract. I’m guessing TV doesn’t count, right?

Heather @ Kraus House Mom 3 years ago

My husband is a bigger problem than my son right now. As long as he doesn’t get fat and lazy I’m ok with him playing. I have already taken away his controllers for not cleaning his room.

    Miss Kathleen 3 years ago

    Love it!

    Melissa 3 years ago

    Your husband or your son? Lol!!!

Susan Dorsey 3 years ago

I love this post! (And I needed it today – guess what the five year old is doing right now!)

Michelle 3 years ago

My son is so hooked on video games. I have to bribe him to do homework, eat dinner and shower. I finally just took the plug away and I only give it back after he does everything he needs to do. And in the warmer months he does prefer to play outside so I don’t feel as bad in the winter months when he plays. Its insane on any given saturday he can play for hours without even stopping to pee. He has ADD and I believe it helps him to focus on something at times too. Its been an ongoing struggle for me, let him play or don’t. Thanks for the info :)

    Azanath 3 years ago

    You are very right, Michelle. I am also ADD and 41 years old. Sitting still for me is almost painful. I have always been a fan of video games but can also walk away when I need to do other things. For me, it’s like multitasking. Both of my hands are occupied, I have to pay attention to at least 50 different things that are going on around me in the game. Keep so and so healed, keep this or that mob controlled, it’s an endless list. It’s also the changing scenery, colors, textures. I play World of Warcraft the most. Lot of characters which all play differently. Keeps my attention so that I’m not feeling overwhelmed. Without something to keep my mind occupied, I do feel overwhelmed and even scattered in thought process. Don’t get me wrong, I do other things too. I have plants indoors. I have an affinity for anything that is a puzzle. TV is very hard for me to sit through so are movies at a theater. I’ll be asleep in less than 10 minutes. I also do a lot of graphical art and painting. I also play WoW with my now 22 yr. old son. We live in different states and this is one way we stay connected. He is also dyslexic, although you would never know it now really. I used Final Fantasy games to teach him to read. Yes, he still writes some of his letters backwards but I will never complain about it because I can decipher that it is supposed to be a b and not a d, he has come a long way from not being able to read at all. I can live with that backwards b. :-)

Jessica B. Woods 3 years ago

Love this! I just have one boy, but most of these would tempt him off the couch, just not the ones where he actually ‘does’ food, lol! He told me once he’s an eater, not a cooker! Typical guy!

Kari 3 years ago

My three boys are 12, 14, and 19 and spend way too much time on video games. I sometimes curse the day we ever brought Xbox into our house, LOL!

    Shannon 3 years ago

    Same here, Kari! My step sons are 13 and 14 and my son is 9. All they want to do is play the xbox. My oldest says he is going to be a professional gamer, oh geez!

Beth 3 years ago

I do not look forward to the day when one set of grandparents or another buys a video game console for my son. I know it is probably inevitable, though!


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