The Family that Plays Together, Stays Together
The older the kids get, the more we have to make pointed efforts to have family night. Even on our recent wedding anniversary we celebrated by taking the time to just hang out together as a family – and that is no easy task when we have busy teenagers. It got us thinking and talking about some of our favorite family nights over the years, which inspired this list to share with you (and demonstrates our quirky tastes sometimes, too).
Why Kids Need Family Time
Research shows that connected family time, such as sharing meals and having family game night, directly contributes to the overall health and wellbeing of children. Kids are more likely to be better behaved, perform better in school, and develop personal communication skills that will benefit them their entire lives. In fact, in a European study (many nations struggle with bringing families together), children reported that they value family time more than material goods. So let’s listen to our kids and spend some time together!
Great Board Games for Families
Since the kids were tiny tots we have loved board games. There were the classics: Candy Land, Memory, and Chutes and Ladders. We’ve also stumbled upon some new favorites over the years. One of our ways to modify games so we can all play if the rules are a bit complicated for the younger ones is to play by teams, pairing younger ones with older ones.
Apples to Apples – There is a junior version, too, of this fun game that gets everyone thinking and laughing about comparing items. It’s an easy game to have around the house because it doesn’t have any small parts that will migrate to the bottom of the closet shelf!
Zingo – More for the preschool and early elementary years, this game still had me testing my reflexes. It is great for early reading skills, but kids don’t even have to be reading yet because they can just match the pictures. You want to be the first person to call out a match to your card as the “shuffler” reveals two new cards. Instead of BINGO – you’re hoping you’ll be the first to yell, “Zingo!”
7 ate 9 – This fast paced mathematics card game is geared for about 8 years of age and up, as basic mathematical skills are required. It promotes math skills, the ability to think on your feet, and the excuse to throw cards on the table.
Sequence – Again, this can be found in a junior version as well which is perfect for beginner or even non-readers because there are pictures to be matched. One particular power outage during a birthday party had us playing a marathon round of this game – adults included!
Scrabble, Scrabble Junior, and Upwords – The great thing about the junior version is that it is easy for non-readers to play as well.
Other Activities for Family Night
Sometimes we are all itching for a little bit more than a board game, and our family loves to head outside together for a game of ball, a bike ride, or a hike on a trail. We also like to mix it up a little and get creative in the yard.
- Obstacle courses of hurdles, 3 legged races, balloon tosses, and balance activities
- Good old fashioned “Mom and Dad squirt the kids with the hose”
- Kick the Can – a retro game where an empty soda can lies waiting to be kicked, there is one person who is “it” and has to find the others who are hiding (while those people try to sneak back and kick the can before being tagged)
- Flashlight tag
- Bonfires with marshmallows for dinner (breaking the rules together in these small ways can be fun)
- Treasure hunts – we develop maps and hide a treasure in the yard
Sometimes just hanging out together in the living room is the best family night option.
- Go through old photographs and albums together.
- Take turns sharing stories, or playing the game we call “Who Did This?” where my husband and I might describe something one of the kids did as a baby or toddler and seeing if the kids can guess which one of them did it.
- Leave a puzzle on spare table so that spontaneous time together can happen as you merge to work on completing it.
- Watch one of your childhood favorite movies or cartoons. We “wowed” our kids with old versions of Batman and Robin and old western films my dad used to watch when I was younger. Sometimes the kids scoff at the graphics and special effects (or lack of them), but we always have a good laugh.