Thursday, December 1, 2011

Best Family Games

Recently our family was having a grumpy day.  Some kids were pouting. Others were being snippity with each other.  And even my husband and I were starting to fall in with the negativity.   The saddest part about it, was that it was Sunday, a day when those feelings should be far away.   

A walk outside took the edge off, as did some dinner and dessert.  But we still had a long ways to go to get in the right frame of mind again. 

So after dinner we pulled out a new game my daughter had gotten for her birthday (Pit).
Look how excited my family is...
(In case you're not familiar with my humor, the excited comment was sarcastic)

 Playing games has been an important bonding experience in our family over the years and so it shouldn't have surprised me that it didn't take long before the negativity had dissipated and everyone was laughing again.  It may sound weird, but I felt like that spontaneous game night helped bring the spirit back into our home. 

I've been thinking about that night and how playing board games truly is a part of our collective family memories and so I  decided to write up a post sharing some of our favorite games and a few tips for making game nights a successful experience. 

Tip #1--Keep it light-hearted.  We are all pretty competitive in our family, so it's easy for us to start getting cutthroat.  The kids will take their cues from the parents, but we've noticed that when we keep our frustration in check, they do better as well.  Additionally, we have found that a  little self-deprecating humor is a good tension diffuser.  

Tip #2--Focus on the positive.  Complement good moves and even positive attitude.  In the Pit game above, one of my daughters was having the worst luck, never winning a single round.  We made it a point to complement her positivity and held her up as an example of being a good sport.  That example helped us in a lot of future games..."Remember when Cami had negative one-hundred and forty points and still had fun and kept a smile on her face?..." 

Tip #3--Be sensitive to building frustration and try to nip it in the bud.  In our family, a little silliness goes a long way in diffusing these situations.  We'll start bragging about the bad hands we've had and reminisce about the time we lost the game in grand style and in general just keep reminding everyone that we all win some and we all lose some.   If worse comes to worse, end the game night early (without blaming anyone) before bad feelings erupt.  Better to have a mostly positive, albeit short game night, than one that turns into tears and fighting. 

Tip #4--Involve young children even if they're too young to actually play.  Young children love to feel a part of the family dynamics, so we try to include them whenever we can.  Make young children the button pushers, bell ringers, dice throwers, card distributors, game piece movers...whatever they can do to feel a part of the game without actually playing.   Often we'll let the little one(s) choose which "team" they want to be on, then have them do all of the "work" except the strategy.   Usually they'll lose interest after a while and I think that just being in the room with a family that's having fun will make it a good experience for them. 

Tip #5--Mix things up.   My family often gets in the mode of playing the same game over and over again, but I find it helpful to make sure we mix things up with our game choices.    It seems like after a while of playing the same game, one person starts to feel like they always lose or that so and so doesn't do it right, etc.  When we change games, it gives other kids a chance to win and to play on their strengths. 

And here is a list of our favorite family games, where {almost} everyone in the family can play:

Ticket To Ride
The purpose of this game is to collect colored track cards and build train tracks from destination to destination.  It's great for basic geography skills and it's a pretty easy game to learn.  And my kids love the fact that they have an equal chance of winning as an adult.  Ages 8-Adult. 


This classic game takes 2 minutes to learn and was one the whole family loved.   It's pretty lively and definitely more fun with more people (3-8 players).  Beware, it can get loud. 

UNO Attack!

It's the same as Uno, except when you need to draw a card, you press a button and the machine spits cards out at you....sometimes 1 or 2 and sometimes 7 or 8.  The only problem with this game is that my kids enjoy pressing the button so much, that they never want to win, which can make the game very long.  :)


This one takes some simple strategy skills, but I've found that kids can pick this one up pretty quickly.  I usually end up helping the younger ones when they get stuck, but it is a fun one for kids and adults (2-4 players).


This lively game is great for big groups.   A variation on charades, the whole team acts the clues out while one person guesses.  Much laughter and silliness ensues whenever we play this game.

Blokus Classics Game

I'm not usually that good at games that involve good spatial skills, but this is one I can occasionally win, although I do get beaten by my 9-year-old pretty regularly.  The box brags about all the awards its won and that it promotes good brain it's a game that makes you smarter while you're having fun. 

We also enjoy playing Scrabble, Boggle, Chess, and Settlers of Catan, but find they're mostly for the older kids or adults. 

What about you?  Does your family enjoy playing games?  What are some of your favorites? 



karen said...

loved playing PIT growing up. We used to try to do it quietly if my parents were napping. This involved holding up fingers to try to trade. We also love Settlers of Catan, Acquire, Blokus, Chutes and Ladders and Don't Tip the Waiter.

Mercedes said...

Very nice post!! My family and I have game nights like this quite often. I definitely agree with the set of rules you've set for the dynamics of family game night. My husband and I wanted to mix it up too and actually saw some great Lottery Wheels online. We're planning to have some sort of trivia night with little prizes on Christmas Eve, just to get in the holiday spirit! Maybe this could be another game you and your family try! Thanks for the great read and Happy Holidays to you all!

Melissa said...

We are huge fans of the Cranium games. I picked up one at DI for a few dollars and we have played it more then any other game in our closet. We have a young family but it is great for any age or age range.

Luka said...

I loved playing PIT as well. I had forgotten what is was called, so I was overjoyed to see it here! My family and our extended family enjoy games as well. One game I love is CRANIUM (it's a newer game), but it is a mix of word, trivia, charades (several forms), and pictionary. These are the 4 categories and there are several types of games within each category. It is really exciting.

Some others are Mad Gab, Guesstures, and Taboo. After learning how to play taboo, you could even make up your own cards, and describe church related words. My 5-year old wanted to think of some important words he learned in Church and we did that (he always guesses), but even coming up with their own words can be a FHE on it's own.

Thanks for all your awesome ideas!!!

Anonymous said...

Our family loves Rollick! It's the only game the kids ask for. We've had to limit it to 1 FHE per month. Who would have guessed the kids would be this excited about Family Home Evening.