Is family game night at your house fun — or do the games feel like work? Do the kids find your choice of board games boring? Holly Homer, co-founder of Kids Activities Blog and co-author of “101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever!” says, “Family game night is awesome. Choosing games that kids can play with parents, without parents falling into a mind trance, is a good idea.”
If it’s hard to keep your kids — and yourself — focused on the fun, try these tips:
- Turn Off and Tune In
This should go without saying, but “turn off the television and cell phones so that everyone — especially adults — can focus on the game,” reminds Susan Heim, parenting author and blogger. “Give the children your undivided attention during game time.” Emails and social media can wait. And if your kids insist on texting their friends, invite their friends over to join you!
- Make Everything a Game
“I try to make everything a game with my family,” says child health nutritionist and busy mom Leslie Hoglund. “Kids like to be competitive or have a goal they can attain.” The quickest way to “gamify” anything is to award it a points value and decide how many points it takes to win. You can even make it a game to get the game itself set up!
- Take Action
“Keep board game night from becoming ‘bored game’ night by looking for games that involve action and give all ages a chance of winning, such as KerPlunk or Bounce-Off,” Heim says. Twister is the classic among active games — kids will laugh as parents try to twist their bodies to match the colors.
- Head Outdoors
Enjoy a challenging family game of Flashlight Tag in your backyard. Let your little ones team up with a parent so they won’t stumble in the dark. Choose one person to be the seeker. While the seeker counts to 10, the other players hide. The seeker hunts for the other players, tagging them with the flashlight. Those who are captured join the seeker, searching for the others. The first person tagged becomes “it” in the next round.
- Make Your Own Rules
You don’t have to stick to the rules that came with the game, right? Enhance the regular rules, or make up your own. “Encourage kids to make up their own rules or variations on the game,” suggests Heim. “For example, each person needs to make a funny face to signify the end of their turn!” You can also, for example, change the direction of the game board, going counterclockwise or starting at “Finish.” If your little ones have a hard time making up rules, let them pick a category, like funny, backwards, crazy or silly. Then it’s up to Mom or Dad to make up the rules to fit the category.
- Mix It Up
Playing the same game every week, no matter how much fun it is, is bound to turn everyone off to game night. Mix it up! Let kids take turn picking, or choose the game out of a hat. Also change up your usual game selection. “For younger kids,” says Homer, “Monopoly Junior and Cariboo are a good alternative to Candy Land. For older kids, Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan are our favorites.” If you don’t want to shell out for unfamiliar games, check if your local game store or library does rentals or loans, or see if any other parents in the area are interested in swapping.
- Team Up
Used to playing against each other? Sort yourselves into teams. Does your family always divide into the same teams on game night? Switch it up. Better yet, switch teams halfway through the game for a twist on competitiveness! Decide early on how the switching will work so everyone is clear.
- Make Up Your Own Game
Create rules and an objective and run with it. Hoglund says, “We are even known to make up games, like the butt-scooting race we did on New Year’s Eve across our living room floor. The ideas come from the kids and we just champion what they want to do.”
The most important thing about game night, of course, is being together. Heim says, “When kids look back on their childhood as adults, they’ll remember most fondly those times when their parents spent time with them, regardless of the activity.”
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Want more fun activities for your kiddos? Check out these 101 Things to Do When Kids Say “I’m Bored”.
Sandy Wallace is a fun-loving mom who loves game night. Sandy enjoys time with family and sharing tips to help parents find joy in daily life as they make memories with their family.