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.)

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.

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.

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.


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    • 3

      Shannon says

      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!

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  1. 4

    Jessica B. Woods says

    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!

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  2. 5

    Michelle says

    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 :)

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    • 6

      Azanath says

      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. :-)

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  3. 8

    Heather @ Kraus House Mom says

    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.

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  4. 12

    Natasha says

    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.

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    • 13

      Erika says

      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….

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  5. 17

    Patricia Mandell says

    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

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    • 18

      Erika says

      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….

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  6. 22

    Jessica, The Debt Princess says

    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.


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  7. 26

    Debbie says

    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,

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  8. 29

    Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense says

    “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….

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  9. 30

    Ariana says

    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.

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  10. 31

    Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson says

    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.

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    • 32

      Azanath says

      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.

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  11. 33

    Anna says

    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!

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