March 23, 2017

Tips for a Successful Family Game Night at Every Age & Stage

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One of the best ways to get in some quality family time is playing games together. In today's world, where we compete with 24-hour digital streaming and video games with jaw-dropping graphics, sitting around the table playing board games can seem old-fashioned and quaint. But there's a reason why tabletop gaming isn't going anywhere. It's a tried-and-true way to get people together that never becomes obsolete with the latest update.

Family game night is a wonderful way to spend a fun evening with your kids. Playing games is important and meaningful for many reasons beyond just having fun together. It promotes bonding between parents, children and siblings. It's a means to spend time together without outside distractions. Games help develop important skills kids need for academic success, such as motor skills, patience, math skills and problem-solving. And especially in the tween and teen years, it provides parents with an outlet to communicate with older kids who may seem too busy or disinterested otherwise.

I learned pretty quickly as a parent that there's a big difference between the family game night I had envisioned and the one that actually occurred whenever we sat down to play. In my head, my children sat sweetly around the table for hours, eager to play and happy to be gathered as a family. In real life, our game nights involved silliness, turn-taking that would make a sloth impatient, fights, unfinished games, and tears ... sometimes all in the same evening. All of these things are teachable moments, of course, but they also make you want to haul all your games to Goodwill and invest in a bigger television. My advice? Play anyway. Your kids will not remember that game night often felt more frustrating than fun for you. They'll remember that you made the time to sit down and play.

That being said, there are a few things you can do to make family game night more fun and less frustrating. Here are a few that have worked for our family:

  • Take a break half-way through and have a fun snack.
  • Keep an eye on the clock. Preschoolers and younger elementary-age kids only have a certain amount of patience for sitting around the table taking turns. Shorter games (20 minutes or less for preschoolers, 30 minutes or less for elementary-age kids) work best.
  • Remove distractions. Background music is okay, but having the television on or phones at the table makes it hard to connect and pay attention.
  • Take turns picking the games for sibling fairness and parental sanity.

Here are a few suggestions for your next family game night organized by age. We've been playing games together for over ten years, and these are some of our family favorites. 

Preschool (3-5)

Preschoolers love feeling like big kids who are old enough to play real board games. The key with this age is to avoid complicated games that take too long.

Elementary (6-8)

Longer attention spans make way for games that are a bit more involved (and enjoyable for all ages, we've found). 

Tween (9-12)

Welcome to the golden age of family gaming! Tweens are learning to think strategically, opening up a whole new world of fun games. Bonus: they still love spending time with you.

Teen (13+)

This age is tricky, but also one of the most rewarding. Group games can get reserved teens out of their shells, and longer strategy-type games will provide valuable face time every parent craves.

Have you learned any tricks over the years to make family game night a success? What are some of your favorite games to play together?

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