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Family Games Nights Rock!

Monopoly JusticeImage by mtsofan via Flickr

As a child I loved board games. I dissected Monopoly, trying to find the best strategy. I taught myself chess from a book. I loved Sorry, and Life, and eventually Trivial Pursuit when it came out. But the problem was that I didn't have anyone to play with. As an only child, I used to try to play them myself, being two or three different people at a time.

My mother and step-father played with me occasionally, but it's hard as an only child, trying to amuse yourself. Maybe that's why as an adult I have made such an effort to have family games nights with my kids.

When children are little, games are hard because, quite frankly, most kids' games are boring. I could only take Candyland for so long. But as they grow, you can start playing REAL games. Before real games were possible in our house, we often put puzzles together, because that can be fun for the whole family, and at least it's a little challenging for you! Have the kids work on the edge pieces or the pattern pieces while you work on the hard clouds or something.

Boardgames - Settlers of CatanImage by pinkiesblues via Flickr

But now we do games. And not just typical ones, either. If you want the best games, you need to go to a specialty game or toy store. Wal-Mart just doesn't have all the good ones. Some of our favourites are Bohnanza, a card type game that even 7-year-olds can play, but we still play with only adults; Carcassone; Blokus ; The Settlers of Catan; and Ticket to Ride. They're really fun!

Last weekend we visited our former pastor who now heads up another church. He asked my husband and I to come and give the sermon on communication in marriage, and it was a ton of fun. Afterwards we relaxed at their house, talking for a few hours before making the trek home.

And we started talking about communication in families. I made the point that many kids no longer know how to be friends because they spend their lives texting each other rather than talking to each other. The other couple wasn't sure that was the case, since their kids text all the time but are still very socially aware. "But you guys eat together every single night!" I said. "Do you know how rare that is?"

And it's true. Children tend to learn communication skills from sitting and eating at the table. You can then expand that time to build real family memories by making one night of the week a games night, where technology stays off and everybody tries to be home. Some families do family movie nights, which can also be fun, but I strongly recommend a games night, because when you're watching a movie, you don't talk. When you're playing a game, you do.

My husband wasn't the biggest fan of games nights growing up, because his family was very competitive, and he didn't like the stress. As much as possible, try to minimize too much stress for your kids who can't handle it, but I do think it's good to learn to lose. Last night my 12 year old could not get good cards to save her life. Usually she plays very well, but it didn't work out for her yesterday. Yes, she was frustrated, but she still laughed a lot, and it was so much fun to connect.

I know it can be hard to have a games night with older children while you still have younger ones, but you can take turns entertaining the baby or the toddler, or set up special toys they have just for that time when the rest of you play a game. But do have a special night, every week if you can, when you eat together and play games. Family routine matters, and if you decide to make it a routine, it will get done. And then your kids will remember the togetherness, they'll remember the laughter, and they will feel much more connected to you and to each other!

Now you tell me: what games do you enjoy as a family? What works well with little children? What did you like growing up? We want to know!


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At 9:08 AM , Anonymous Melinda said…

We love Quiddler, Set and Five Crowns! Crazy fun!


At 11:15 AM , Blogger Tessa said…

We love The Farming Game. We used to play it all the time (just my husband and I) but my inlaws took it back and we haven't ben able to ind our own copy. Another really fun game is a card game called Bang! Great for 3 or more people. And believe it or not, another great place to buy games is Peavy Mart! I went in there looking for a tractor toy for my son and ended up finding a whole specialty games section!

Any ideas on what to do for a family night with a toddler? We usually just end up snuggling on the couch to watch a movie but it would be great to shut the technology off. It will be nice when sumer comes and we can go outside or to the lake or something. I'm just not sure of what we could do with a 2 year old for a family night.


At 12:15 PM , Anonymous Sally said…

Here's a second for "Set". It's one game kids can beat their parents at every time. :o) And a great opportunity for moms and dads to model losing gracefully.


At 12:20 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

I love Quiddler & Set, too! And you're right, Sally, often the kids win at Set!

What's neat is that it teaches them math and logic skills in a game. So many games are like that: Monopoly teaches math, for instance.

Tessa, as to what to do with a really little child, I'd recommend more active things, like jumping around to music for a few minutes together, or making some funny videos together. Once they're 4 you can do bigger puzzles, assigning them the easy sections!


At 2:54 PM , Blogger Herding Grasshoppers said…

You're so right, Sheila. Movie nights are fun, once in a while, but they don't encourage communication.

My kids LOVE game nights. Their "favorites" seem to change from time to time, but they like classics like Monopoly and Clue (great for logic). We like newer games too... In a Pickle, Loot, Set, and Bang.

Lately we've been playing"Stink Pink" all the time. (It's a fun little rhyming game that involves more grammar than the kids imagine. I just blogged about it, in fact.)

We're still transitioning from little kid games to big kid games. It's been fun trying out new games at our church's game nights.

Once a month we have a pot-luck and game night for all comers. LOVE THIS IDEA! Folks of all ages come - some who love games and some just come to visit. Doesn't require much advance planning and everyone has a good time.



At 3:44 PM , Blogger Berji's domain said…

Our family had a game night regularly. Memories of those times, and eating dinner together are wonderful for me- lots of laughing, teasing, (some competition) and talking.
Add Dutch Blitz to your list of games!


At 11:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

They're not games for little kids (the rules are pretty complicated--but not too much more than Settlers), but we love the Killer Bunnies games.

Nurse Bee


At 1:27 AM , Blogger Deborah said…

I have a friend who despises games--too much time on a Navy ship with nothing else to do, he says--but after we convinced him to play one game of Apples to Apples, he decided that maybe he likes games after all ... it's a really fun card game that encourages communication and usually results in lots of laughter.


At 7:59 AM , Anonymous myfathersdaughter said…

We got a new game for Christmas called "Would you Rather." It is funny because the card give you two different situations- neither one very welcoming- and you have to pick which you would rather have-- and then the rest of the players vote for which one they think you would rather have--but everyone talks about why they think one would be "better" than the is an "older" kid game (requires reading) but works great with our 8 and 11 year old. We love Apples as well and that would always be my 11 yr. old's first pick. My 8 year old likes Sequence for Kids-- I still favor Yahtzee! :)


At 9:27 PM , Blogger The Happy Domestic said…

With a 12 yr old who hates any kind of board games or puzzles, and a 17 yr old who is not big on "family time", I have found a great non-traditional approach to family game time is Wii Bowling. It gets us off our butts and moving, gets everyone laughing and is a fun way to ease our second oldest into the idea that it's okay to lose sometimes.

Personally I love board games, but our oldest 2 kids grew up in very different family environments (foster care) and never learned to like them. In many cases kids already are hooked on video games and avoid family "fun" activities. A Wii that comes with the Wii Sports game is a great way to get back that quality family interaction. (And no, I'm not a salesperson! LOL)


At 9:51 PM , Blogger Cassie said…

our family loved playing spoons. still do. it does get a little hairy at times with the girls nails but it's a ton of fun.
i love games - board games, card games, just not video games.
i'm hoping to have family game night in our family - guess we can start now even though our son is just 3.


At 9:58 PM , Blogger Tiffany said…

We love Settlers and Carcassan! Our son is too young to play games yet, but I look forward to being able to have game nights! I am going to look into some of these games. I love finding new ones!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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