Should Your Kids Play Video Games on Vacation?

Don't let video games steal time for making family connections and vacation memories.
Melanie Hempe
Vacations are perfect for experiencing rich family connections and memories that your child will miss if plugged into technology.

When you hear the word “vacation,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a break from routine, loosening the reins, indulging in fun activities (and food!) of which you normally wouldn’t partake in the day to day regime?

For a child, it means “Mom and dad are not working and they are paying attention to me.” It’s true, your kids crave time with you — conversations, rich family connections and being present. These are great goals for your family vacation but these goals can easily be derailed if video games find their way into the suitcase.

Before you check in to that vacation spot, unload the car, set up your lounge chair and dive into your summer book, you’re probably going to hear those words…

“Mom, can I play my video game?”  

“Dad, can I have the the wifi password?”

“Mom, we (all my cousins) want to play video games!”

We have a simple response for you.


We understand this may sound contrary to all things vacation mode, but stick with us to learn …

8 Reasons Why You Want to Leave Video Games at Home over Vacation!


1. Young brains need a break!

Your child’s brain will benefit from a break in the screen routine. Vacation is prime time for kids to try new things, visit with family, relax, reset and give the mind permission to connect with nature, real life, real people and rest instead of fixating upon the virtual world of a game. Remember, the game is not a “relaxing” activity for the brain, rather it jump starts an overproduction of dopamine and activates their fight-flight center causing anxiety, stress and irritability … not characteristics I typically want to see in my child on vacation.

2. Vacations are perfect for experiencing rich family connections and memories.

Don’t mess up one of your best opportunities to connect as a family because of video games! Your child cannot bond with you or their siblings while being glued to a video game even if it’s a video game everyone's playing together. Family activities allow mutual creativity and communication including facial expressions, body language and vocal tone. It is impossible for video games to build such social skills. While co-play is better than isolated play, non-game time is much better developmentally than staring at a screen together.

3. A game-free vacation removes the “babysitter” temptation.

We know how tempting it is to use the screen as a default babysitter when all you want is a little down time yourself. Try having a quiet time for everyone at the beach from 2-4 p.m. By that time of day everyone needs a break, including the adults. Grab something cool to drink (plan a different fun drink every day) and head to your bunk with a “beach book” (or magazine) that was brought specifically for this purpose.

Using this time to teach your kids how to be alone without a screen in their hands is one of the best things you can do for your kids. They don’t like books and puzzles? Resist the urge to let them turn on YouTube or the TV during this rest time. Teach them how to play solitaire instead. If they doze off that’s OK, too! The late night events are a little easier to handle after some needed down time.

4. Limiting game time on vacation can open the door to creativity and exploration.

We know that game time is often a child’s first choice when it comes to entertaining themselves because it's a low-effort, high-reward activity. And because of the addictive nature of video games, they likely choose to stay in the air-conditioned room with their screen instead of meeting new friends, digging for crabs, fishing or going on that family hike or bike ride.

Give your child/teen the gift of unstructured time by not allowing the game to come on your vacation. If not available, they will find other things to do and explore. Consider getting them a new journal or sketch pad for the trip to keep a travel journal. If they are really into taking pictures, consider one of the new Instax Mini cameras. They can take pictures of things that excite them and tape them into their book. They will be less concerned about posting that beautiful sunset for all their friends to see and actually get to enjoy it without the screen distraction. Encourage them to make creative choices and break the habit of choosing the screen over new life experiences.

5. Your child will get more exercise and vitamin D.

Without a video game to distract him or her, your child can get more movement and more real rough and tumble play which is critical for growing brains. Instead of being curled up on the couch with a blanket on the game, how about a real pillow fight, a blanket fort or a game of hide and seek, or catching fireflies and playing flashlight tag.

6. The gamer is deprived of making memories.

Gaming socially, emotionally and physically removes a child from hanging out and relaxing with the family. Your child needs to learn how to relax by watching you do it. If your child is plugged in, he will miss the priceless memories that simultaneously happen with relaxation.

For example, what a shame to miss out on the stories grandparents share about Mom and Dad, Uncle Karl’s funny jokes, interesting family conversations and guaranteed laughter. Experiencing new things together makes vacation time fun, priceless, memorable and surprisingly healthy.

7. Your child needs to feel the love.

Parents, your child will feel more loved without the game. Trust me on this one. 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 time together. It doesn’t matter how he responds. Deep down, he wants you to pick him instead of packing the game. Deep down, he will be happy that you left it at home; most kids know they need a break.

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 or her. Without the game in the way, you will have more opportunities to dig deeper and really get to know your child.

Family memories are not made on a video game. If your child has a meltdown because the game is left at home, then they likely have a balance problem. Check out Dr. Dunckley’s book, "Reset Your Child’s Brain."

For more tips on building family connection and balancing digital media in your home, visit Families Managing Media.