Handheld Video Games, Kids And Travel



My kids travel with their Nintendos
I’m not particularly proud of this fact, but that’s because I have a love-hate relationship with video games in general. I love the way they keep my children entertained – sometimes for hours at a time – but I can’t stand the way they keep my children occupied to the exclusion of everything else that’s going on around them.

That said, there is no doubt that in today’s world of over-booked flights, flight delays and other such traveling silliness, I have personally experienced how a good Nintendo game can be a parental life-saver. We were flying from Seattle to Puerto Vallarta via Phoenix. Our two-hour layover became four, then six hours. We boarded and de-planed twice. We shuffled on and off the plane through dinner time and the kid’s normal bed time. They were completely unfazed. CAM, at 10, had a new game for his Nintendo DS. BigB, at six was utterly fascinated watching his big brother play. We just lugged our baggage (carry-on only) on and off the plane and let them at it.

Managing video game use while traveling

The uneasy bargain that I have with my children with respect to their beloved Nintendos and my love of immersing them in new cultures and new places is that I try to enforce a “video games are for playing while we’re in transit” rule. There are subtle nuances to this rule: I’d prefer if they only used their Nintendos on the flights to and from our destination; they’d prefer if they could use them every time they sit in a plane, train or automobile. You can imagine the ensuing negotiations. But, even though CAM once exclaimed “Of all the moms in the world, why did I get stuck with you?” specifically because this particular rule, it does work most of the time.

I have been known to hide the Nintendos once we arrive at our destination. Ssh, don’t tell my kids. They always magically reappear when we’re about to board our return flight. And in the time in between, I pay for my choice by being soundly beaten in Scrabble and Set by CAM but also having many raucous games of Uno or Rat-A-Tat-Cat with both of the boys.

Managing video game accessories while traveling

The games are tiny, the power cords have an annoying habit of being left behind in our rented accommodation and the devices themselves are frequently rescued from pockets just in the nick of time – barely escaping the over-sized washing machines of laudromats all over Europe. (I have discovered that Nintendo games can survive the washer and the dryer and still function quite well).

We’ve lost way too many games while traveling. To me, this is one of those parental trade-offs which we make in the hope of teaching life lessons: if my children are responsible for their own games the benefit is that they will learn to look after their own games. The risk, of course, is losing games and the expense of replacing those games. Unless there’s really special circumstances, if CAM or BigB lose a game when we’re on the road, they chose whether or not they want to replace it out of their own savings or pocket-money. No discussion. So far, consternation and lamentations aside, that’s also worked out pretty well.

I find that game cases such as the CaseLogic Nintendo DS Game Case are a great tool to help your child keep track of his games, his DS and all the other DS paraphernalia while traveling.

What do you think?
Do you have a rant or rave about handheld video games for kids in general? Have you allowed your children to use them at home or while traveling? Do you perhaps allow them for traveling but not at home? And if so, how do you get your child to go along with that??

Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts, opinions and ideas.

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About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

12 thoughts on “Handheld Video Games, Kids And Travel

  1. Kendra

    games seem to be entertaining but the sounds get me annoyed sometimes! And the immersion I agree is somewhat disturbing on occasion. Debating whether I should make a PortaPocket size to accommodate these things — have sizes that may fit some but not all right now…strap ’em on and there won’t be as much loss! :)

  2. Leanne

    We do a lot of road trips and caravanning with our kids (8, 6 & 4). I have a general rule that we are holidaying/travelling so we can spend time together and so haven’t gone down the electronic game route (we don’t own one at the moment). Like you we do lots of scrabble, UNO and other board games. I usually take my laptop (for transferring photos to only – I promise!) that we use for DVD’s if we have prolonged bad weather.

    However, my oldest is getting to the stage where he’s a bit over I Spy and other car games all day, so I can see a time in the not too distant future where a handheld game might be useful. He would play it all day though if we let him, so it would be strictly for travel and then limited, as we’d probably share one unit between the 3 kids.

  3. Bridget Smith

    My son has a very old DS. I love the intransit rule, and I basically implement the same. Mostly my secret to avoid overuse is that he only has one game :). If you limit the games, the obsession lessons. I also find hand helds useful in doctor’s office waiting rooms.

    Mostly I think that hand held video game use needs to be presented as an etiquette thing, it’s rude to play with it in a restaurant, at Aunt Mary’s house, etc.

  4. wandermom

    @Kendra: we’ve used a couple of different brands of cases for the kid’s electronics. I’d be more than happy to try another one :)

    @Leanne: I totally agree with you – traveling is for connecting not sitting around individually connected to separate electronic devices. I do have a friend with children who are similar ages to your and they have recently started using a DS for travel ONLY. So far, her kids are going along with that rule.

    @Bridget: I like the etiquette idea. I may have missed the boat on that with my kids (although I don’t let them use the games when we’re with relatives or friends or in restaurants). Thanks for sharing!

  5. jessiev

    i like it! our daughter LOVES her dvd player. i love that it gives me a bit of quiet to rest up while we’re traveling. i think we need a DS. i implement the DS rule, too, with the dvd player. it just makes sense!

  6. soultravelers3

    We abhor video games and do not own a Nintendo, wii or any such thing as I think they are harmful to kid’s brains and teach kids to be addicted.We have been on an open ended world tour since 2006, so we do have laptops, but put severe restrictions on that for our child ( and us!) We do not use iphone or ipods. We read, play together, talk, cuddle, journal, do art projects etc A LOT as we travel, so see no need for them.

    We do have a dvd player but almost never use that in transit ( sometimes on cargo ships at night for fun) and have family movie nights once a week only ( or may be replaced by a movie together with new friends made while touring).

    Doctors and experts into Waldorf have done a lot of research about how harmful these things are for a growing brain and eyes and I think it has some merit…despite seeing most kids with heavy addictions to these hand held things.

    We love playing board and card games etc together, talking and reading! The less TV, video, ninento time kids have, the MORE they read!! I make sure she has lots of great books about the area we are traveling, so while she is having fun, she is also learning and it helps add tremendously to the travel.

    I think if you need a dvd player or handheld game thing to travel, then you are either going too fast or your kids have never had the opportunity to learn how to entertain themselves ( a VERY important lesson in life!).

    “Grab a book” is a much better & healthier answer!

  7. Debbie Dubrow

    We’re a few years behind you, and I’m sure that the technology will have changed entirely by the time our kids are into video games, but this seems like a great way to manage video game time.

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  9. Craig Holtz

    In response to soultravelers3: While I agree that family time/reading books is important, I think it’s really about striking a balance with your kids and teaching them to have a healthy media diet. I don’t allow my son to play video games all day long, but he is allowed to play games for a limited amount of time each day that we have agreed upon together. Video games can also be a fun way for families to spend time together – my son and I play together all the time! Whether we accept it or not, we live in a digital world and kids need to learn how to balance all of these things on top of being social and excelling at academics, etc. As they get older they need to make choices for themselves. Giving them a balance while guiding their decisions early on only gets them prepared for future decision making. My son has never gotten addicted to games, music or any other form of entertainment largely in part because he has been given direction and parental guidance from an early age and he makes sounds choices as a result. Trust me, it’s not easy, but it is doable.

  10. Victoria

    We usually use DVDs at our destination as a tool for ‘down time’. Our children are 7, almost 5 and just 3 and have grown out of naps, but still get tired if we keep going all day every day. So, particularly in hot places where they shouldn’t be outside during the middle of the day, we put a DVD on after lunch. They sit slumped on the sofa for a while, occasionally falling asleep, and when the sun has cooled a little, they go back to playing. They won’t go to bed for a proper nap, so this is a compromise which works for us.

  11. wandermom

    @Soultravelers3: Firstly, thanks for your input into this discussion – it’s always great to have another opinion. But, I’m afraid I can’t agree that video games are harmful to kid’s brains or their brain or eye development. My two children love their games, but are top of their respective classes at school – my 13yo sat the SATs this year with no prep (as a pre-req for a summer class at the UW) and scored in the 91st percentile in math and above the 75th percentile in the two other categories. Both boys love to read so much I have problems keeping them in books.
    I think the key is balance as @Craig says. In our household, that’s a word I use all the time: balance between playing inside and outside, between relaxing and exercise, between screen-time and non-screen-time. And it does take work, but, like @Craig, I believe that I’m teaching my children skills which they will need as they grow up in this wired world.

    @Victoria: You’re right, sometimes when you’re traveling with multiple children (of different ages) it’s really helpful to have something they can all chill out with together. It sounds like you’ve got a good compromise there!

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