The last thing most kids need for the holidays is another reason to sit around pushing buttons or gazing at a screen.

Last year, I made sure Santa brought things that would prompt my kids to go outside -- mostly because I can't hear the TV when they're inside bothering me. Bikes, skateboards, grenade launchers -- anything to get them off their rear ends and out of the house. It worked for about seven hours or so, spread out over six months. Then it got warm, and I locked them inside the pool area for the summer.

It's an ongoing battle. If I don't always win, it's not for lack of trying. All I want is for these children to go out and play. And I'll spend good money (is there any other kind?) to make it happen.

(Earl F. Lam III/Miami Herald/MCT)

The 4-year-old isn't a problem, because she just follows her two 10-year-old sisters everywhere. That will probably get dicey when they are old enough to date.

No, it's the older two that are the problem. A couple of years ago, I got so fed up with how the television was turning them into mindless drones that I physically forced them into the backyard and locked the door behind them. After about five minutes of trying to get back in, one of them actually came around to my bedroom window, crying, saying she was freezing and she needed to come in or she would get sick.

It was September. It was 76 degrees outside.

Ongoing war

It's an uphill struggle for parents, as the entertainment and gaming industries increasingly come up with riveting things that keep children sitting in one spot for hours. So I let them play video games that have them swinging their arms or dancing. At least they're moving, plus it's terribly entertaining watching them try to dance.

Meanwhile, the bikes, skateboards and scooters are cluttering up my garage. I haven't given up on them, but I can't go back out and rebuy all that stuff this year. I need to be creative.

Maybe I can get them a hang glider. At least they would have to climb something to make it work. The same theory would work with a zip line, though I'm not entirely sure the homeowners association would appreciate me building a takeoff platform on my neighbor's house. I'm sure no one would mind screaming children zip lining across the common area.

I think I just prompted the association to call an emergency meeting. Again.

Hoop dreams

Also under consideration is getting them one of those mobile basketball hoops, even though I know what would end up happening: They'd play for about five minutes, then the next time I had friends over, we'd end up outside, lowering the hoop to pretend we can dunk. I haven't paid off the emergency room bill from the last time we did that.

Boxing equipment would be terribly fun. The kids could slug it out in the garage with their friends, while all the parents sat around, betting on who would win.

Another option might be those kids' hockey sets that can be set up outdoors. That might be fun -- until someone takes a puck to the face. Never mind. Dentists' co-pays can be murder.

We have tennis courts in our complex, which would be a lot more practical than having them take up golf. It's lots less expensive, plus it would avoid the issues neighbors would have with me boring holes all over the common area. Of course, that part wouldn't be a problem if I bought them a portable driving range. Then the kids could get lots of exercise running away from the sound of smashing glass.

Maybe I should just rewrap the stuff from last year. After all, there's a 50-50 chance they don't remember it anyway.

Contact Tony Hicks at thicks@bayareanewsgroup.com, at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks, or at Twitter.com/insertfoot.