Do you want to spend more time with your family? Why not try designating one night a week or month as a family game night?
The object of family game night is to bring out the cards or game boards that are fun to play, sit across from one another at a table and enjoy the talking and laughter that follows. The rule is that the television is off, cell phones and computers are off, and music can be played softly in the background. No interruptions, just the family or your friends.
Here are some suggestions for making game night a big success:
- Include the whole family. This doesn’t mean that your teenagers are forced to play Candyland every week just to please your four-year-old. If there are smaller children under age six involved, have them team up with an adult. The smaller kids can still roll the dice, move pieces across the board and handle money or other transactions. It is a great way to learn how to count, add and subtract, with the help of their older partners. Our two kids are adults now, but we still often play as teams, just because it’s a lot of fun.
- Make treats. This can include big bowls of popcorn, pies and cookies, cake, or any other munchies you can invent. If the treats are too messy or sticky to handle game pieces, serve them with a fork or spoon.
- Make drinks. Along with the munchies, make tea, hot chocolate or hot apple cider for everyone.
- Set a time or number limit. We all have experienced Monopoly lag–that time after the first two hours when it looks like the game will never end. To get around this feeling, set a time or number limit for a game. For longer games like Monopoly, make the time limit 90-120 minutes; the winner is the person who has acquired the most or came the closest to the game’s goal. For shorter games, decide in advance on the number of games you will play (best two out of three) or the amount of points you will reach (500 points).
- Take turns choosing. Let everyone get a chance to play a favorite game by taking turns choosing which fun-to-play game gets played next.
If you aren’t sure what kinds of games for Game Night that you would like to play, here are some suggestions for games to look for:
- Monopoly. This is still a family favorite, only now it comes in many themes, depending on your interests. You can play NASCAR Monopoly, Hockey Monopoly, Astronomy Monopoly, Dogopoly, or you can even order a kit that allows you to mark your own game board in honor of your family, hometown, or whatever. One way to make the game move along is what we refer to as “Cutthroat” Monopoly. My family goes deep in debt buying up the board in the first few rounds, and then the wheeling, dealing and building begins. Cutthroat speeds up the game considerably. We’ve managed to finish a Monopoly game in under an hour, with four people playing.
- Triopoly. This is a wonderful game similar to Monopoly, except that you get to use three game boards stacked on top of each other. You deal in gas stations, malls and skyscrapers instead of houses and hotels. You use elevators and airplanes to move from level to level. And life can get pretty tough if you get stuck on the uppermost board where the highest prices are located. Triopoly is definitely one of our favorite games.
- Scrabble. Another old classic. This is a great game, if played by the rules. Unfortunately, we regret to inform you, we have never played by the rules. When we play, anything goes, even names, short sentences, titles and phrases, as long as it makes sense. Or, a player’s nonsensical word can stand if he or she can defend its use well enough. We know, it’s not kosher, but it’s great fun.
- Settlers of Catan. In this game, the object is to build a colony while facing the usual problems a colony can have. The nice thing about this game is that it promotes cooperation among players, because they have to work together to a certain extent in order to succeed.
- Sorry. Another old favorite, along the lines of Parcheesi. Cards tell you what you can and can’t do. Kids are apt to take revenge on siblings, sending them back to start over and over again, so you might have to explain the difference between strategy and meanness.
- Rummy. This is a simple card game for all ages, which uses matching cards and strategy to make the most points. The first person to use up all of his cards stops the game, but may not necessarily be the winner. The winner is the person with the most points. With aces worth 15 points, face cards and ten cards worth 10 points and the rest worth five points, the adding and subtracting is easy, and the points add up fast.
- Michigan Rummy. Another card game, but this one is played with poker chips and a playing board.
- Yahtzee. The ultimate travel game when you are camping, because all you need are five dice and a score sheet. Yahtzee is also fun at home, and this game can handle more than four players. Our classic family laugh involves this game when in the evening during a fishing trip to northern Saskatchewan, a very sleepy Dick threw the dice into the popcorn bowl and dumped the entire works on the table. Mary said, “Nice mess,” and with that, Dick came to his senses and asked, “Why did I do that?” The answer must have involved too much northern Canadian air and sun creating a tired fisherman.
- Constellation. This fun kid game is also a challenge for adults. The object of the game is to answer astronomy questions in order to move your playing piece across the universe.
- Atlas Adventure. Another great kid game, only in this case you answer geography questions in order to earn puzzle pieces. The first player who finishes her world puzzle wins. The questions have three different levels of difficulty, so even 5 to 7-year old children can play, with occasional help from the older players.
- Trivial Pursuit. Because of the knowledge base involved for answering the questions, this is one game best played with teenagers and adults. Trivial Pursuit is the perfect game for know-it-alls.
As in the case of Scrabble above, you can take any board game and turn the rules on their ears. With any game, you can make up your own family rules and create something entirely new and fun to play.
You can also turn family game night into family jigsaw puzzle night. Buy a 300-1,000 piece puzzle, sit around and cooperate in putting the puzzle together, while talking, telling jokes and listening to good music.
Game Night involves family, friends, fun and food. What a great way to spend a long winter evening. Plus, family bonds grow tighter and last forever with events such as Game Night.