1. Your child will benefit from a break in his game routine. Vacation is a perfect time to try new things, visit with family, relax, reset and think about something other than the game.
2. Family vacations are the perfect time for bonding and connecting to family. Your child cannot bond with you while he is bonding to a video game. It is impossible. It is unlike other activities that allow mutual creativity and communication with facial expressions, body language and tone.
3. It is too tempting to use the game as a babysitter if you bring it; your child desperately needs time with you not his game.
4. When a child is allowed to game on his vacation he will likely make poor choices; he will choose to stay in the room with the game and not socialize or go outside and participate in other things. Gaming always replaces other activities. If the game is not available he will fill his time with other things.
5. Mom and Dad… try to limit your media use; put it away until the kids are in bed. Pick one time of day (or night) to check messages so you are not distracted by your device and can be fully available to your family.
6. Children who are gaming on vacation miss the valuable lessons of watching their parents and extended family having fun together. Gaming removes the child emotionally and physically from hanging out with the family and doing relaxing things you do on vacations. Your child needs to learn how to relax by watching you do it. If your child is plugged in he will miss the priceless Grandpa stories about Mom and Dad, his funny uncle’s jokes, and other relaxed conversations. Experiencing new things together makes vacation time fun and priceless.
7. Mom your child will feel more loved without the game. Trust me on this one mom. When you say no to the game on vacation you are telling your child that you want to spend time with him, you love him and you don’t want anything to get in the way of your time together. It doesn’t matter how he responds. Deep down he will feel that you care and love him.
8. You will get to know your child better. Who knows what you may discover about your child when the game is not distracting him! Without the game in the way, you will have more opportunities to dig a little deeper and get to know how your child is doing.
Family memories are not made on a video game.
- Don’t pack the game. Don’t pack any handhelds and don’t allow them to bring their phones. Really, they don’t need it. The primary benefit of not packing the device is not having to limit their use during the vacation. Kids will negotiate for use if they think that there is any availability. You don’t want to manage this at all on vacation since you want all of your energy going into family fun. If it is completely unavailable, it removes all ambiguity.
- Don’t allow gaming in the car. It is good for your kids to learn silly songs together (that may drive you crazy). They are a necessary childhood rite of passage! Plus, if you allow gaming in the car then that means you are bringing the games on vacation. Let John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt , the license plate game, and I Spy replace the game just for this short time. Another idea is to let your kids know they will get a few “surprise packages” to open at certain points along the trip (i.e. the first could be after an hour or 100 miles). They could be small toys or games that are “new” to them. Not only will this give them something fun to do in the car, it will give your children something to look forward to!
- Determine how many movies are allowed for the car trip before you leave the house. Pace them. One movie on the way there and one on the way home works if the trip is over 5 hours. Your kids should be able to go 5 hours without being entertained by media. Bring books for them to read or audio books and a sketch book, and make room for some quiet time in the car. Your children do not need to be plugged in every second of the trip or their lives.
- When your child complains (and he will), stand firm. The more he complains the more trouble he has with overuse. If he says that his game is the only way he can relax explain that he needs to learn how to relax in other ways. Explain that games release a chemical/drug (adrenaline and dopamine) in his brain and his brain needs to rest.
- A final word from one of our readers: “Vacations are the perfect training ground for learning the art of planning. So much of kids’ lives are planned and presented to them. Many kids do not create their own entertainment, but have it spoon fed to them. Every day on a trip there are decisions to be made about which activities to do that day (based on weather/cost/interest level). They will be more invested in the trip if they have helped to plan it. They can’t help to plan if they are using their “down time” in front of a screen and then engaging only during official planned activities. The vacation includes everything (the plan, the journey, the destination/activities, the meals, the stories, the recaps, the line waiting, etc.) It all builds relationships, life skills, patience, and funny family stories/memories. Media takes away the chance to develop your family stories. “
In summary, there is really no room for video games and other electronic/digital time on family vacations. Like putting cheap ketchup on an expensive filet, if you are going to allow gaming he may as well just stay home (and eat hamburger!) Don’t waste your money on the vacation. Your child can’t learn how to swim in the ocean, fish, sight see and hike when he is hooked to his games. He will not be 100% present and make healthy connections with family and nature if he is glued to his device. Mom and Dad, vacations are a great time for you to take a break from your media too. Many families have found that taking a whole week a year with no media does wonders for their family relationships. Finally, don’t forget that family memories are not made in the video game. Go make some memories and enjoy the gift of a fun game free vacation this summer!