How to Have a Successful Family Game Night

Family Game Night always looks so exciting in ads, doesn’t it? Happy kids, smiling parents, cooperative games………But what if your reality isn’t anything like that? Can you still have a fun evening with multiple ages, sore losers, and little ones who have no clue what’s going on but insist on participating?

Absolutely.

Here are a few ways to make a regular night for family that has lots of play, fits all ages, and won’t end in tears…..at least until bedtime is announced!

Let’s start with the meal.

Your goal is to come up with easy-on-the-chef foods that each family member is free to choose from without pressure or nagging. Top-your-own pizzas are always a hit here. Pasta with their choice of a few toppings – or none. Tacos, with or without anything. Sandwich fixings laid out buffet-style. Fruit and dips? Veggies and dip? Your homemade version of those revolting assemble-your-own lunch items sold in grocery stores (you know the ones I’m taking about!)? You get the picture.

Head outdoors.

Who says that a family game night has to take place inside? Take half an hour and just get the ya-yas out! Fly kites, kick a ball around, play Fire Tag (one person is The Fire and the others have to try to run past them. If they get caught, they join the Fire and it grows with each person caught.).

Light sparklers and draw in the night sky. Build a snowman, play We’re Going on a Lion Hunt and walk around together acting out escaping imaginary obstacles (“Oh no! There’s a tunnel in our way! Can’t go over it……can’t go under it…..we’d better go through it!”) Give each family member a turn to invent a problem to solve. Be as dramatic as you like!

Now for the games inside (or on the back porch, if it’s nice outside).

Obviously, regular card games aren’t going to work if you have a toddler on board, and a tween is going to be too old to play Go Fish all night. The key is to pick co-operative fun. Here are a few favorites at our house (there are 3 kids each 8 years apart):

Play Fortunately/Unfortunately if your children are preschool age or higher. You start off the story with a short plotline that ends with a cliffhanger, for example: “Biff was a mountain man. UNFORTUNATELY, one day he was hiking the tallest peaks of Mount Doom when he slipped on some mud and slid over the edge of the cliff.” The next person has to begin with a solution and end with another problem: “FORTUNATELY, he was able to grab a dangling branch just below the edge. UNFORTUNATELY, it began to break off from Biff’s weight as he hung 300 feet above the sea.” Nobody can use the same plotline twice. This game can lead to laughing so hard that you can’t breathe as plots get more and more outrageous.

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Try a board game that needs a team to solve. We’ve been loving Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game, Once Upon a Time (It says for 8+ plus you could easily play in parent/kid teams to include younger children too) and Cauldron Quest lately. And Shadows in the Forest is on the top of our wish list- you play it by candlelight to keep the gnomes safe!

Wrap up your evening with either a family read-aloud, or a classic movie or show. My kids have loved Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched and Littlest Hobo, just to name a few. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what books (but I will say that if you haven’t explored the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton, you’re missing a treat.) Maybe one last snack and drink while you do so, and then all of you go to bed, parents too.

Happy Family Game Night! Hit us in the comments with your ideas for making it a fun night…..we can all use some inspiration 🙂

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