I remember receiving the original Nintendo system for Christmas when I was about 8 years old. My sister and I played Super Mario Brothers a few times. We then cast the gaming console aside in favor of actual activities that didn’t involve sitting on a couch, immobile for hours. I never felt the pull that sucks so many kids in. I now see some of my son’s friends stare zombie-eyed into the screen and am terrified to lose my kiddo to that same fate. I know video games aren’t evil, but I am holding out as long as I can by providing alternatives to video games for kids that keep his interest. Here are a few that I have tried with much success!
Ok, so your kid likes fight scenes in movies or is constantly emulating John Cena (seriously, my son drew abs on his stomach so he could feel a kinship with the larger than life wrestler-turned-actor). You can engage their love of battle without letting them duke it out in a virtual on-screen bloodbath.
I took my son and two of his friends, ages 6-8, to Medieval Times recently. As we pulled up to the 11th century-style castle, the three boys became buoyant with anticipation. “Is this a REAL castle?” “Is it just a show on stage?” “Are there real weapons?” These questions and about 6 dozen more tumbled from their mouths as they ran to the entrance.
The kids loved posing in the thrones lining the main room.
I recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before showtime to take a tour of the castle. The doors open 75 minutes prior to the start of the show and parking is free. They state that seating is first-come, first-served but they don’t seat guests until about 10 minutes before the show starts. We had the Royalty Package upgrade which included VIP seating to guarantee a good view.
Wander over to the gift shops and looked at the swords for sale. The vendor actually let the boys choose a sword to pose with (standing inches out of the photo frame). Talk about great alternatives to video games- kids can actually hold real medieval weapons (in a very controlled environment, of course). There is also a medieval torture museum that you can view for an additional charge ($2 per person) but there are plenty of weapons for display around the castle.
We also encountered the royal falcon and trainer outside of the show. We were allowed to take a photo with him but without “lighting” (flash).
About 5-10 minutes prior to the show start time, an announcement was made on how to enter the tournament area. We took our seats and watched as the queen was introduced to the audience. Dinner was served as knights were introduced and elegant horses were paraded around the arena. Silverware is absent, making tearing into a chicken with your bare hands a necessity! The four-course meal includes tomato bisque, garlic bread, herbed potatoes, buttered corn, roasted chicken, dessert and non-alcoholic beverages. Of course, alcoholic beverages are available for purchase 😉
The Medieval Times show consists of a 2-hour long jousting tournament complete with real sword fights. The sound of clanging metal and sight of flying sparks assures you that yes- this is real! Make sure to watch out for the falcon as he dips and dives around the arena.
Strategy Board Games
Strategy. Video games are all about strategy, so why not let your child’s mind work during a game focused on this concept? Play Monster sent a copy of Stratego to my house for review purposes. I had never heard of the game before and started asking friends if their kids play it. They laughed and told me that they actually played it as kids! This was pre-Atari, so strategy board games are definitely great alternatives to video games.
I dove into the history of Stratego and its origins date back to 1910 in France. It came to the current form in the early 1940s and arrived in the US in the early 60s. I set the game up (simple to start and understand) and challenged my 8-year-old son. He became HOOKED immediately and we continued to play for the next 45 minutes. He then challenged my husband, and they now play regularly. It is almost a cross between Chess and Battleship. My son is taking chess at school and regularly challenges my dad so Stratego is right up his alley.
Other classic games that involve strategy are Mastermind, Risk and Catan. I alter the rules a bit for younger ages to prevent frustration and *ahem* move the games along. For younger kids, My First Carcassonne is a popular choice. It is designed for ages 4 and up and wraps in about 20 minutes. Labyrinth is ideal for families- it is intended for ages 7 and up and the play time is 20-30 minutes.
According to an article on Psychology Today, kids become addicted to video games because they provide competence, autonomy, and relatedness. These three things are what children need to flourish, and video games satisfy all three. Therefore, finding alternatives to video games must also appeal to these feelings. The arts are a wonderful outlet for kids to explore and experience hard-earned success!
Learn an Instrument
Although this might not be ideal for the parents (the noise), learning a musical instrument is a wonderful way for kids to explore what they can accomplish with practice. Some instruments that are on the easier end to learn are a Ukulele, Keyboard and Electronic Drums.
If kids love gaming, they might love creating stories about characters! The beauty of creative writing is that there are no rules. Kids can pick a topic and let the words flow. My six-year-old started writing her own books in the past few months, and it is a huge sense of pride for her. She received Illustory for the holidays- it is a bookmaking kit that includes book page templates and an envelope to mail out. The “book” is then bound and encased in a hardcover. As kids get older, you can help them actually self-publish their books in a digital format. If they are into illustration, it can simply be a picture book!
My favorite thing to do as a kid was to sneak into my dad’s workshop and use his tools. I remember grabbing a saw, nails and his Dremel tool to make this incredible room partition. The sense of satisfaction I received from creating a useful item out of pieces of wood and tools was immense. I didn’t need anyone’s help, and the screen might have been slightly lopsided and fall down at times, but it was MINE. There are “makery” locations popping up all over the place. My son’s school brings in a company called Bitspace, which helps children learn to use a variety of tools. He now knows how to confidently and safely use a hand saw and created an amazing wooden car. Bring it back to basics with traditional skills that you used to find in woodshop or home ec!
Cheers to finding alternatives to video games for your children- it might take a little extra effort but they will remember them more than getting to the next level in Fortnite.
Disclosure: I received tickets to Medieval Times for review purposes as well as a number of board games for review. This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you purchase through my site. It does not, however, affect your purchase price. All opinions are honest and my own as always.