Family Game Night

by Ashley Wirgau

The sky looms gray while snow falls in large wet clusters. The air is frigid with the chill of January, and despite your very best attempts, none of the family is interested in going outside. So, what is there to do with all these endless hours indoors? With newly extended social distancing restrictions and the unforgiving weather, what is left to entertain your family on these long winter nights?

It’s time to step away from the remote and head for the kitchen table because guess what? It’s family game night.

Team up with a Theme

If you want to get the kids invested in the action, get them excited with teams and themes. First, decide on a theme to bring the whole night together. For example, if Apples to Apples is your game of choice, promise the kids a giant bowl of ice cream and easy apple crisp to kick things off right. Have a house full of Trivial Pursuit fans? Ask everybody to dress up in their most creative “nerd” costumes, and the winner gets to pick teams – because if you’ve ever had game night before, you know that picking teams can ruin a game before it even starts. Keep it simple with the standard “boys versus girls” or “kids versus adults” to help avoid hurt feelings. Or if you are feeling brave, just flip a coin to decide team captains and let natural selection play out. Either way, a little friendly competition does wonders for a dark, boring night.

Dust Off the Oldies

Remember the games you begged to play when you were a kid – Battleship, Yahtzee, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders? Believe it or not, they are still around, and if you look hard enough, you can even find them in their original versions. Your kids might have been brought up in the age of battery operate board games with all the bells and whistles, but you sure weren’t – and you had fun anyways! Bring the simplicity back with a walk down memory lane, and maybe that old dog can teach the young pups a few tricks.

Make It a Marathon

Game night can be an hour-long break in the monotony before bed, or sometimes, it can be something more. To really get the kids interested, block off your calendar and prepare for an entire night of games. Turn off the television, put your phones on silent, and delight the kids with a crazy late bedtime. Stack up the games and try to get through as many as you can before midnight (or 9:30 pm – we aren’t as young as we once were). Be sure to have plenty of party snacks around, both healthy options and a little less healthy, because an hour after dinner, everyone gets hungry again. Should you run out of game ideas or need to refresh your selection, here’s a list of the top 40 board and card games to play as a family.

Place Your Bets

You might have to be 18 to gamble at the casino, but those rules don’t apply around the kitchen table. Everybody gets a chance to play the odds at home, although you might need to get creative with the winnings. Candy goes a long way to excite apathetic kiddos. Betting piles of Skittles or jelly beans always brings a smile, and mini marshmallows suffice in a pinch. Kiddos who are still trying to grasp basic math and currency could even benefit from placing bets with loose change. For the older ones, try throwing household chores out as bargaining chips with losers having to pick up the winner’s weekend chores or take some of the laundry load off of the adults.

Leave It Up to the Kids

If you’ve finally made it to the end of a long week but the kids are begging for a night filled with fun, take the pressure off and let them do the planning. You might be surprised by how much they actually get into it. Let them pick the menu, help prepare the meal or snacks, and decide on the game selection. Put them in charge of keeping score or time for whatever games they choose, and don’t forget to put them in charge of setting it all up and putting everything away afterwards, too. Letting loose on those reins has its perks!

Yes, this winter is long. There are days it seems it’s gone on since March, but rest assured, a much-needed family game night will help pass the time until the sun shines once again. Who couldn’t use a laugh or winning bet to brush off the winter chill and feel a bit better about life right now? And once you have the first game night under your belt, you might as well load them on the calendar for the next couple months. We could all use a light at the end of each week while we trudge through the long tunnel to spring.

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