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Ten ways to get kids off screen from video games

Tips for parents

Video games are addictive. Once kids get started, it is hard to ask them to stop. More and more parents are concerned about kids’ screen time. What is the best way to limit the screen time or get kids off screen? Do you force a hard stop? or do you give a warning? Are they happy to stop? Can you do it without kids complaining?

Here are 10 ways I tried to move my child from games to some off screen activities. I found the key to a successful stop is actually NOT to stop. Instead, try to extend kids’ interest in the game to something else, that is related to the game.    

10 ways to get kids off screen from video games -- summer and holiday breaks are the time kids will have more free time, and very likely, will spend more time on screen. Here are helpful parenting tips in smoothly getting kids off screen with no power struggles, and kids will happily stay off-screen.

1. Create a challenge based on the game he is playing:

At one point, my son liked to play Tiny Tower a lot.  It is a simulation game, where players create and manage businesses in the tower. I actually spent a lot time playing with him and we were a good team managing the “business” together.  In addition to talking about business management in general, I also created some off-screen games for him to practice skills he learned at school (such as math).  All the games are to answer questions about the on-screen game. 

Here is one of the math problems based on Tiny Tower I created.

2. Bring game characters off screen: Angry Birds on Balls

You can either ask the kids draw the characters on paper, or make a 3D model with play dough.  Here are some angry birds my son and his friends made on balls. 

3. Bring the game off screen:

Since the boys like playing Angry Birds, borrowing the idea from Simply Styled Home, we collected cardboard boxes, made two sling shots. The boys had a blast playing Angry Birds for real. 

4. Perform the task in real world:

While playing snowflake, instead of trying different ways cutting the paper on the screen, we took out some real paper, and cut some snowflakes.  Instead of seeing the cut paper unfold on the screen, we were able to unfold them in our hands. Snowflake activity

5. Lead kids to apps that guide outdoor activities:

Apps like stars gazing apps and birds guides will easily take kids outside. My son loves to hold the iPAD up to check for stars he can see at the moment. 

6. Use an app that requires moving:

Fetch with Ruff Ruffman is a math app that makes kids move. You print out the answer sheets and hide them. Kids have to search around to find the answers and scan them into the app to find out if it is the correct answer. It is like a scavenger hunt. 

7. Act out the story:

While reading The 500 hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, my son gathered all the hats he could find in the house, and while I read the book, he acted the whole book. Many games have stories built in now, you and your child can act out the story together. 

8. Search for relevant activities:

After reading the book app about Monkey King, who is a very popular character in China, we did a traditional Chinese craft, monkey paper cut

Monkey Paper Cut

9. Extend app activities:

My son liked Story Wheel a lot. It is like a writing prompt. One project we are going to do this summer is to actually write out the story we created via Story Wheel

10. Use apps that incorporate hands-on activities:

Apps like KidScience and Curiosity School provide guidance on hands on science experiments. Work with your child, perform the experiments by following the instructions in the app.  We made this water wheel based on the instruction in Curiosity School. 

What do you do to get kids off screen from games or apps?

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For younger kids, you may consider use device features to limit the screen time. It is a set up just requires couple clicks. You can find step by step instructions in How to Set Screen Time Limits on iPhone and iPad.
limit screen time on iPad iPhone simple feature
You may also like 10 Art Apps Encouraging Off Screen Creativity and 9 Apps Making Outdoor Science Study Fun.
off screen creativity art apps
app making outdoor science learning fun


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{ 24 comments… add one }
  • JDaniel4's Mom

    I love the idea of taking the characters off the screen.

    • iGameMom

      me too. I think it also helps them understand the original story better.

  • One Mom

    Great ideas here. This is one of the most difficult issues to tackle and you have given some great practical tips. Thank you so much.

  • Irving

    Fabulous, what a web site it is! This blog gives useful information to us, keep it up.

  • Israel

    all are great ideas, here is one more suggestion – a treasure hunt game which is easy to set and gives parents some time to relax while the kids jump between hideouts and solving clues.

  • Edwin

    Everyone loves what you guys are usually up too. This type of clever work and reporting! Keep up the terrific works guys I’ve included you guys to our blogroll.

    • iGameMom

      Thank you, and thanks for adding us to your blogroll.

  • Angela

    Good tips.

  • Lisa Orchard

    These tips are great! I’m going to incorporate some of these ideas! 🙂 Thanks for posting!

    • iGameMom

      I found following their interest works a lot better than simply trying to stop. Hope some of them will work for you too.

  • Nicole

    Great ideas! I’m looking forward to trying them out!

    • iGameMom

      Love to know if they work for you.

  • Canadian Mama

    Great tips, thank you for sharing! I hate the idea of my little girl being addicted to video games when her friends are outside playing.

    • iGameMom

      Hope they will work for you (and your girl).

  • Nicole

    Great suggestions. I really need some ideas for getting my kids away from video games. It isn’t so bad now but when school gets out, we tend to default to games when they are “bored”.

  • Tracie

    I love all the great ideas to take the games into real world play. Good stuff.

    • iGameMom

      Thanks and glad you find the ideas helpful!

  • Evelyn

    Great tips, and a very practical and applicable topic. Thanks!!

    • iGameMom

      Thanks! Hope the tips are helpful.

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