Video Games & Balance

Updated on January 02, 2013
L.M. asks from Chicago, IL
13 answers

So my son, who is 4, loves video games. Mario, Kirby etc. My daughter, who is 7, can take them or leave them. But my son wants to play them all the time. It's a battle, but I fight the good fight. Limited time, unplug the thing if it gets out of hand. Force him to find other ways to entertain himself. When not allowed video games, he loves puzzles (can do 150+ pieces on his own), but he's always gravitating back to the video games, and asking to play them, instead of finding something else to do that is more creative. He likes building things, but not pretend play, like action figures or superheros.

My husband, who is a techy, doesn't see a problem with letting him play long periods of time. He loved computer and video games when he was a kid (and still does) and had basically carte blanche with them. He did extremely well in school, and is now a Sr. Sofware Engineer who is programming the latest wireless technology.

So I'm looking for some advise on balance. I won't deny him the video games all together, it's what he loves, and he takes after his father, which is wonderful - so if your advise is to take them away or remove screen time altogether, please don't waste your time with this post. But I need some advise on how to show him other ways to play. I've gotten on the floor and played other things. He is just always gravitating back to video games. If your kids love video games too, what else do they enjoy outside of the screen?

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answers from Columbia on

We have a "no video games during the school week" rule.

The kids understand and respect it...and never ask. They know that after chores are done on Saturday, they can play.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My son and husband are also gamers. My son has had a controller in his hand pretty much his whole life! He's a happy, successful college sophomore now.
For me, it wasn't so much about how much TIME he spent playing games, it was more about whether or not it was negatively affecting his life.
As long as homework and chores were done, grades were good, he got plenty of exercise and spent time with friends, I didn't really limit it. He played sports and had an active social life. I made sure we got out of the house every day (park, pool, library, etc.) which is always a good idea, because the more time you spend inside, the more he will will gravitate towards the screen.
Once my son could read he also loved books, and he was an avid Lego builder from about the ages of 5 to 11 or so. But video games always were, and still are, his favorite way to play and unwind :-)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

We schedule screen time. During the school year they are allowed to play after school on Tuesdays for about an hour. They are allowed to play Friday evenings as much as they want. We are busy the rest of the time. On holidays they are allowed to play in the morning for an hour, unless we have other plans. We don't spend a whole lot of time at home, so it is easier to get away from the games. We go to the zoo, the museum, the YMCA, the park, toboganing etc. At least one outing a day. When we are at home they play with Lego, puzzles, board games, army men etc. They watch a movie in the evening. They have friends over. Sometimes when friends come over they are allowed to play video games, but I usually end up kicking them outside after a while.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My oldest (8) loves video games as well. We do exactly what you do - limit them. Although my son doesn't really seem to care when I tell him time is up, so your son may be a little more into them!

I think you have exactly the right attitude - this is what he likes. When he goes to school all day (or day care) and then comes home at the end of the day, 45 minutes of video games is perfectly acceptable as his way to wind down, forget about the day, etc. We all have our thing. Some it may be to watch TV, some it is exercise, others a hot bath. This is his thing. Of course, like you said, everything in moderation.....

I have noticed that when my kids are focusing too much on VG, if we head out and do something together as a family, they no longer even think about or mention the games. Go to the park (yes, even in winter, sled or bundle up and just play!), head to a museum, out to eat, to a relative's home etc. Get his mind off of the games and stimulate him in a different way.

My son at that age loved nerf guns, legos, sword play, anything star wars - buy him some neat interactive stuff (like nerf dart sets with vests for two or more players) and have a play date with one of his friends. Do it at their house so he is not in arm's reach of his own video games.

Good luck mama!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Video games is part of screen time (along with tv) and no more than a total of 2 hours per day.
Sitting more than that is bad for them - turns them into couch potatoes.
They need to be out running, jumping, climbing, making forts in the snow, jumping in leaves, riding a bike, jumping rope, etc.
My son loves the games too, but he knows he has to have all his homework and chores finished and he only gets a very little time to play.
What my son does when he can't play video games is read, or play with the neighbors dog.


answers from Washington DC on

My 5 year old is our video game junkie too. But I guess we live in a technology crazed world now I don't know if I have any great advice.

I try to get my kids to help with meals, house chores, outside play, etc. We have two gaming systems in our basement, but also a regulation sized air hockey table, an arcade type game with baseball and basketball (they shoot or throw the balls, like the competition kind), another basketball hoop up on one of the doors, and tons of toys elsewhere. All 3 of my kids LOVE the computer. They each have their own in our office. They normally play things like StarFall or other educational games.

I guess my thing with video games, is my kids are learning from them. They are also up and moving. They don't sit down (too often) to play the Wii or Kinnect. So I don't think it's a bad thing, but definitely keep doing what you're doing and pulling him to other things as well.



answers from Atlanta on

My daughter loves games and she is 4 as well. My husband and his family had a video gamje store, I see games being a good thing, kids can learn alot, such as the seaseme street games aka learning games etc. I just find other things to do with my daughter such as go to the park, etc. also she does chores. If all her schooling is done, I have her write her site words, she gets 1 new word aday and she writes it about 10 times, then we also go over her other words that she has learned. after thats all done she can play until whenever. I do make her stop to eat. As long as i have other things she gets done i will allow her to play.



answers from Cleveland on

Maybe you could try to find some activities to do outside of the house. I find that we watch an awful lot of tv (my fault, not my kid's), so I try to get us out of the house so that isn't an option. Once every two weeks or so, we go to McDonald's so he can play there, we have a church in our area with an indoor playground, I take him to my parents' house, play at a friend's, or go to the Y. We even just recently joined a local group of 'walking mommies.' My son doesn't play video games yet (he's just 3), but when he does, I bet I'll have the same issue!!



answers from Boca Raton on

Does he love Legos as much as my gaming son? If so, I would encourage lots of Lego time with friends . . . maybe start a little Lego club.

Both of my sons love and use technology frequently. It's part of life now. But I do think it's good to encourage activities which nurture their creativity.

I always tell them "Don't sit back and let others create everything that you do or need. Create some of it for yourself."

I can empathize - good luck.



answers from Portland on

Some of the smartest kids I know, who are now preteens or older, are gamers. That said, I agree with trying to find a good balance between games, regular play, reading and outside time. I'd limit him to 30min of gaming time per day if you can. Maybe he can play longer with Dad on the weekends, so it's more of a social thing.

Also, try games that foster creativity, like Little Big Planet. Your daughter might enjoy that one too. They can make their character and create game levels. Might be challenging at his age, but he sounds like he loves a challenge!



answers from New York on

I have a very strict schedule for my son's "screen time." He gets about 2 hours on Friday nights, and that's it. But I still recommend a schedule, even if you don't want to limit them that much. Just tell him, "video games are available from [time] to [time]. When that time is up, we do something else. Just make sure it's no more than 2 hours per day. If he knows they aren't available, he'll come up with amazing, creative ways to occupy his time.



answers from Tampa on

I think your idea on having balance is great. If you don't already, I would recommend having a "schedule" for his video games. That way, he knows that he has a certain time when he is allowed to play. I find that it cuts down on the "pestering."

As for other activities, I would try things that complement the fact that he "likes to build things." What about Legos or marble runs? We had my nephew and niece over for Xmas and all the kids had a blast with a "kid" tool set we bought for my daughter. Just basically a "peg" board with plastic screwdriver, wrench, and "drill" with multi color bolts. I would also recommend Snap Circuits. Since your husband is a techie, he'd probably love to do them with your son, and your son gets a built in science lesson!

And, of course, my kids love to just run around with other kids. Video games seem less fun when there are 3 or 4 kids running around chasing each other.....maybe just get him out to the park/play area/bounce house.



answers from Detroit on

I am smiling because your son reminds me of mine. Though I didn't want to fight we don't have any video games in the house and never will. He can play when he goes to a friend's house if that's what they want to do (note he's a few years older), or a bit after-school at his daycare, where it's very limited since they have to take turns. Just not in my home!

I can't help thinking that staring at a screen at such a young age is not healthy...and think of the things he could be doing instead! Mainly, physical activity. Puzzles are good, too.

Since I've never fought that fight (I have a teen family member who plays 24/7 and is flunking out of school), I can't really say what I'd do. But personally I'd get rid of the games and system you have completely. Then, you don't have to worry or fight the fight!

Because we don't have any electronics in the house for the kids, we've always done extended hours at preschool and lots of activities outside the house. I do need to keep them busy!

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