Making the Case for Family Game Night

family game nightDoes your family do a regular game night? I know my family is a little different — we’ve got an overload of toys and most of them are not put away. My house is a giant mess, but it does make family gameplay a regular and spontaneous occurrence. I definitely wish my home were tidier, and I don’t recommend that you have more toys than you have places to put them like we do. But I do think having regular gameplay as a family is important.

There are so many benefits to gameplay for children, from developing motor skills to learning math and spatial reasoning. Just as there are countless games, the developmental benefits of playing them seem endless. Gameplay doesn’t just support kids developmentally, adults benefit, too. Creative problem-solving skills, physical fitness, and stress reduction are just a few of the good things adults get from playing games. Not to mention, everyone has a good time.

Playing games as a family can help build resilience and emotional maturity (yes, even for the adults!). Games elicit a wide range of emotions — think, the anticipation of seeing what number the dice land on, the disappointment of landing on a chute instead of a ladder, the elation when you win! In this low-pressure atmosphere, families can name and discuss different emotions and learn to have feelings while managing their reactions to them.

Taking turns and active listening are necessary skills for most games and for life. Playing together as a family is a low-pressure environment where everyone can practice. Many games require communicating and working together, and if there’s a dispute over rules, games can provide an opportunity for conflict resolution.

Board games encourage kids to communicate with their caregivers, and vice versa. Yes, even the adult typically glued to their phone or the monosyllabic pre-teen opens up and starts talking during board games. And tabletop chat isn’t just about finding out the details of their lives — the more our kids have positive experiences with us, the more they will be willing to keep a communication channel with us open when it really matters.

All of these things are really important and benefit each member of the family. But to me, the real reward of family game night is just having fun together. My goal as a mom is to have a family unit comprised of humans who genuinely enjoy each others’ company. This is built, I believe, by creating positive memories and plenty of shared fun moments. Those moments don’t always have to be big, they can be as simple as sitting at a kitchen table with a handful of dice.

Make Family Game Night Happen

Here are a few tips to get started playing games as a family:

  • Make sure all adults in the house are on board.
  • Consider picking a quick-play game and leaving it out to encourage spontaneous play.
  • Or, put a regular weekly date on the calendar for game night.
  • Avoid the temptation to let younger children win. If you have “sore losers” or overly-competitive children, choose collaborative games.
  • Keep a variety of games in your home — take turns letting a different family member choose the game.
  • If you don’t already have favorite games to play, take the whole family shopping together to pick out a game.

Do you enjoy family game night? What are some of your favorite games to play?

Theresa Duncan
Theresa is a recovering fake adult and is now proudly a child who refuses to grow up. She spent a decade developing and facilitating enrichment programs for at-risk youth. Through this work, she saw firsthand the power of play in the growth of emotionally, physically and mentally healthy children. The pressure of pretending to be an adult finally became too much, so in 2014 she and her father Todd (also NOT a grown-up) opened Villa Villekulla Neighborhood Toy Store on Amelia Island. Her two children, Adrian and Francine, often exhibit more maturity than she does and are, therefore, the ones in charge both at home and at Villa Villekulla. When she isn’t playing with toys, learning about toys, or talking about toys, she enjoys dance parties and listening to live music with her husband.


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