Bringing Back Family Game Night
Remember the days when families looked each other in the eye, had real conversations with one another and gathered around the kitchen table playing board games? Sadly, that was then, and this is now. Today, most families sit in separate rooms and stare at screens—television, tablets, computers or phones. It’s as though they’re avoiding interacting with one another, the opposite of what families should be doing!
Researchers today are finding that all of that lighthearted play years ago actually led to some serious child development benefits, because board games are rich in learning opportunities. If this isn’t enough to inspire you to drag Monopoly out of the closet, here are some more great reasons to start up a weekly or monthly family game night:
- Brings everyone together. In a culture where everyone is running from one activity to another, family game night offers the opportunity to set aside fun, quality family time on a regular basis. It allows families to bond and get to know each other better.
- Gets everyone off screens. Let’s face it, screens have taken over our lives, and too much of anything is never good for anyone. Family game night is a great way to get everyone to turn off all the devices together. What’s more, soon your kids will discover there’s even more fun beyond their screens!
- Great for motor skills. With a roll of the dice or shuffle of the cards, your little ones are developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. This can lead later to success in playing instruments, writing, sports, etc.
- Can improve grades. Some games can boost specific skills useful in your kids’ academic careers. Research has shown even a small amount of practice playing academic games can lead to improvements in the classroom.
- Can help your kids solve problems. Playing strategy games with your kids is a great way to give them practice at solving problems and making decisions. In fact, researchers from the University of Florida have found that kids who practice strategizing and solving problems with their parents end up having better memory techniques and more success at solving all sorts of problems on their own.
- Teaches good sportsmanship. Yes, the winning-and-losing aspect of playing games can be both a pro and a con when it comes to game night. However, it’s a great life lesson kids will learn while young, and not necessarily one they’ll learn on the baseball or soccer field.
- Games teach flexibility. How? If a game the kids choose is too hard to play, or if the kids find it boring, they can stop and try a different game.
- Game nights are cheap. Going to the movies is expensive! And you can’t interact much in a movie theater. Games provide entertainment, conversation, laughs and fun. You can’t beat that!
To start your own family game night, set a regular day and time each week that will work with everyone’s schedules and write it on the calendar. When game night arrives, turn off the TV and all electronics. Engagement with family members and the game should be top priority. Also, be sure to take turns picking the games each week and make sure they’re games everyone can play. If it’s a long game, be sure to give everyone a short break to allow for brains to breathe a bit. Scientists claim that teens and adults are only able to focus on one subject for around 20 minutes. Avoid boring the younger kids with a board game that drags on forever. Allow them a mid-game timeout for refreshments and bathroom breaks.
Get creative with your game nights! Switch things up every now and then by bringing a game or two with you to the pizza pub or turn game night into a family field trip to the bowling alley, mini golf or the arcade. No matter what games you choose to play on your scheduled family game nights, remember you’re making special memories that will last a lifetime. And most likely, your kids will grow up to carry on the tradition with their own families.
Games that build motor skills: Jenga, Operation, Jacks
Games that can improve academic performance: Chutes & Ladders, Uno, Scrabble, Apples to Apples
Games that provide problem-solving practice: Blokus, Connect Four, Risk, Monopoly, Chess
Kansas City mom and author Gina Klein and her husband relish playing board games with their two daughters (ages 11 and 14) on a regular basis. They love that board games keep the family’s communication flowing and engage their minds in something other than media.