Gather together- for Family Game Night

By Catherine Pritchard 

The family that has fun together is more likely to want to spend time together. 

One way to plan for fun is by holding regular Family Game Nights. 

With a little preparation and imagination, Family Game Night can become a tradition that everyone looks forward to, whatever their age. Games can be elaborately difficult or ridiculously simple. The only requirement is that the players find them fun. 

If you want to plan your first family game night, pick a date and time that works for everyone in the family. Consider added inducements, like serving a favorite meal beforehand or making sure favorite snacks will be available. You can ask family members for suggestions on what to play. Maybe everyone already loves Monopoly or Hungry Hungry Hippos or charades or Go Fish. If so, you’re set. 

If not, or if you want to consider other options, read on. There are loads of fun games to choose from based on the abilities and interests of the people who’ll be playing. If you’re planning to try a new game, you may want to have a second game ready on standby in case the first one flops – or finishes early. 

So what to play? 

Will toddlers be part of the party? They have short attention spans and aren’t great at sitting still. Even so, they can enjoy games like paper airplane races, balloon ping-pong (no table required when playing with tiny children with wild coordination) and Simon Says. You can make up ways to keep score – or not. Just being able to participate makes for fun. 

What about preschoolers? You don’t have to know how to read to use the colored and illustrated playing cards for Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. With Richard Scarry’s Busytown, I Found It, players solve mysteries and find hidden objects as they “drive” down the long game board. Zingo – “bingo with a zing!” –  is a matching game that encourages kids and early readers alike to match pictures and words to their challenge cards. With Monster Bean Bag Toss, in which players use bean bags to try to knock down a stack of plastic cans decorated with funny monsters, adults may find themselves beaten by kids. 

On to games for older kids. 

Did you ever watch the movie “Jumanji”? In it, havoc ensued when kids found an old board game and started playing. Wild animals leapt out of the game into their world and were followed by a game hunter. In the board game named for the movie about a board game, you aren’t likely to see wild carnivorous plants growing up your den walls or rhinos racing through the house but the competition among the players may be fierce. Watch out! 

For a game that will stretch your lips if not your vocabulary, there’s the award-winning Watch Ya’ Mouth. Players wear cheek retractors and speak phrases that their teammates then try to guess. Gales of laughter ensue. Warning: There’s a family edition of this game, with 143 family-safe phrases, as well as an adult version with phrases that aren’t appropriate for younger ears. Choose carefully – and encourage all players to brush their teeth before playing this mouth-revealing game. 

There are word games, like Scrabble, Boggle and Scrabble Boggle, a combination of the two, as well as Wheel of Fortune or, if you want to go low-tech and straight to the show’s source, hangman, played with pencil and paper. 

There are trivia games and brain-teasers – Jeopardy!, Trivial Pursuit, Balderdash, I Should Have Known That and Wit’s End. 

There are guessing games, like Pictionary, Charades and 20 Questions. HedBanz is an interactive game where players try to guess what or who is on the card held to their head by asking yes/no questions. 

There are strategy games of varying complexity – from Blokus to Settlers of Catan, along with games like Risk, Sequence, Dominion and Diplomacy. 

There are all kinds of traditional and new card games, some with alarming names and great popularity. Exploding Kittens, for example, is a card game for “people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats.” It’s a kind of Russian roulette card game, with lots of twists and turns, and it’s kid-friendly. No actual kittens are harmed in the playing of it. 

On the other hand, Cards Against Humanity, which is described by its makers as “a party game for horrible people” and which is wildly popular, is not recommended for children. In it, players compete to give the best answer, using what’s on cards they’re dealt, to a question or fill-in-the-blank phrase. 

You can play Pick-Up Sticks or Jenga, Yahtzee or Bunco, Scattergories or Catch Phrase or Apples to Apples, classic Monopoly or brand-new Ravensburger Labyrinth, or old favorites like Trouble, Sorry or even Operation. 

You can play old-school Clue, and try to figure out if the murderer was Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard or some other colorful character, or one of the many versions of the game that’s been adapted to reflect a popular TV show or movie. There is, for example a Game of Thrones version, with a double-sided game board for two settings – Mereen and the Red Keep. Did Cersei do it? Jorah? What about Littlefinger? 

There are endless possibilities for Family Game Night. Just get going. Be sure to turn off the TV and try to get everyone put away their phones. Good luck and have fun!