How to start a family game night

Family game night. Kind of sounds like just another thing to do, amiright? I’m gonna guess that adding another commitment, another thing to schedule is not on the top of your to-do list.

On the other hand, if you’re anything like me, a schedule keeps you sane and on track. I am a list person. If I have something on a list, it gets done. So I figured, if I’m willing to write down dog poop as a top priority then I should probably throw some family time in there, too. And that means we’re starting a family game night.

family game night to do list

Want to know how to start your own? Just start and take it one night at a time.

Silletto Family Game Night

Our kids are almost 4 and 2, so games aren’t quite “fun” yet. We have our moments but between Turtle putting dice and pieces in her mouth and Buddy being the world’s worst loser, a weekly game night would not be a bonding experience.

We’re calling it Family Game Night with an emphasis on family but it’s a loose title. The expectation that our kids will eventually love Mouse Trap as much as we do.

What it’s not.

I don’t want this to turn into obligatory family fun (although I’m sure 10 years from now, it will be). Instead, it should be a habit of being together and being silly. I don’t like commitments (except for the whole marriage and children thing). And I really don’t like setting myself up for failure. So while I want this to be a thing, this is what it won’t be:

  • A set in stone day/time every week.
  • Fun, whether we like it or not.
  • A games-only event. I reserve the right to throw the games out the window and sub in movie night or some other activity if/when my husband, kids or I see fit.
  • A parent-driven night.

Why bother?

Why bother starting a family game night if my kids are too young and I’m leaving the door open to be a complete flake? Because even though we’re starting slow, at least we’re starting. And there’s plenty of evidence that family game nights can make a big difference in our kids’ lives.

  • Improved executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills are what make us capable of planning, organizing and completing tasks. Researchers have found that these skills may be a better indicator of success than a child’s IQ. Interactive games, like board games, require strategy, planning and a pursuit of a goal. Just like any skill, executive functioning needs to be practiced to be improved. Games are a great way to do that.
  • Learn sportsmanship. Winning and losing gracefully is not an easy thing for us Sillettos. that’s something we’ll have to practice in the privacy of our own home before we set these monsters out into the world to make friends.
  • Family bonding. This may go without saying but setting aside family time is priceless. Studies have shown that children whose parent’s communicate with them regularly and do activities together have better academic performance. Plus, the more often you can get siblings having fun together, the better they will learn to communicate with each other. Games and activities will help them learn how to solve those sibling arguments that come up on their own. And let’s face it, the less I have to be involved in that kind of mediation, the better.

What we’ll play.

As the resident crazy toy lady, I have plenty of suggestions for games. Discovery Toys has TONS of fun, educational options. Here are a few we’ve got on our short list.

For the young’uns (for 3-6)

family game night

  1. Raccoon Rumpus: Buddy got this game as a Christmas gift right after he turned 3 and he loved it! Roll the dice to see how you have to dress your raccoon and find an outfit that matches. It’s great for little ones as they learn to follow instructions, match and take turns.
  2. AB Seas: A fun fishing game to help the little ones learn their lower and upper case letters.
  3. Enchanted Forest: Getting tired of Candy Land? This one is a perfect first board game. As you make your way around the board, you’re looking for treasure under the trees. It requires memory and some strategic thinking as you decide which path to take.
  4. Magic Monkey: The rules are similar to Crazy Eights but instead of matching ranks or suits, you’re matching first letter sounds or words that rhyme. Great for early readers!

The ones the parents will enjoy (for 7+)

family game night

  1. Bazaar: If you’ve got hustlers in your family, you’re going to want Bazaar. Players receive and exchange jewels which can be used to barter for valuable wares. Lots of strategy in this one!
  2. Sector 18: This Chinese-checkers type game combines mathematics, strategy and playing the odds.
  3. Rhyme Out: Listen to 3 consecutive clues and be the first to respond with 3 correct answers – that rhyme. Tricky tricky, right?
  4. Labyrinth: This action-packed game of mystery uses a clever board design to create a series of ever-changing mazes that one to four players must move through. It requires lots of planning and strategy to gain an advantage!

Waiting games for any time!

family game night

  1. Lumps: This dice game can be played with 2-100+ people! There are 4 different types of dice and the goal is to roll as many pairs as possible to earn points. It’s great for learning the basics of probability (you have to choose what pairs to keep) and requires quick decision making skills.
  2. Tricky Fingers: A 1-2 player game that can keep the kids busy! Shake up the case, pick a card and race a friend or the clock to match the pattern on the card.
  3. Tut’s Tablet: If you have Candy Crusher fans, I think they’ll love this one. This one player game comes with 50 puzzle-maze treasure hunts that get harder and harder as you go. This game comes with a board, book and cube that fits in the board. In each puzzle, you’re looking for the secret path to Tut’s Treasure and there’s only one way to get there. It’s perfect for the car!
  4. Pentominoes: Do you love Tetris? This is the 3D version! Stack the unique shapes to match the 75 puzzles.

Want some more help starting your own game night? Download this free printable and make your way through the checklist (I told you I was a list person)! If you’re interested in any of the games above, contact me to find out how you can get them at a discount!

family game night checklist

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Do you already plan a family game night? What sorts of games do you play?

  • This is great! I have wondered about this myself, as our kids are 5, 3, and 1. Your game suggestions are super helpful. And I love this: “even though we’re starting slow, at least we’re starting. ”

    Thank you

  • I love the idea of game nights with the family! My husband and I have game days with our friends, and my daughter is only 1 year old but she has been involved on these days, so I hope she will grow to love playing games!! We have Enchanted Forest in our game closet (great game!) and I can’t wait to play this with her one day 🙂

  • We love game night, we do this with extended family once every few months and have a blast. Getting together and having fun is great for all of us. Host family chooses game and food and we make a night of it.

    • asilletto

      That is awesome! Our family is really competitive so we’re planning on keeping game nights with just our family until the kids grow some thicker skin. Then we’ll send them to the wolves! 🙂

  • Growing up, we had game night every Saturday night! I have such fond memories of that time. We all took turns picking the game and we got a candy bar on Saturday nights, too! Wild, I know! Our oldest is two so we haven’t really gotten the hang of a family game night yet, but I would love to make it a habit that my husband and I play a game after Tera goes to bed at least once a week!

    • asilletto

      My husband and I tried to instill a game night between the two of us but we have so many shows on our DVR that the TV always wins! Hopefully you’ll be more successful and less distracted by shiny objects than we are!

  • Awe I would love to start a game night! It’s just me and my son so it’s a little hard lol. I usually just go over alphabet stuff or read a book. Those games are super cool though! He’s 3 so they are perfect!

    • asilletto

      Two player games with a 3-year old can wear on a gal! Especially when there are a million other things to do. Luckily most of the games for younger kids only take about 15-30 minutes so they’re easy to bail on. You could ease into it with quarterly game nights! Ha! 🙂