6 Tips for a Great Family Game Night

African family playing card game Rapid Rumble around a coffee table

Even a half an hour or so of light-hearted playtime with your child can lead to significant childhood development benefits, among them stronger family bonds. One way to strengthen these bonds is to establish and maintain open lines of communication with your little one. That’s why we recommend setting up a regular family game night in your home, one where everyone spends quality time learning and playing together.

Below, we’ve put together some tips for planning a great game night that the whole family will enjoy!

1. Put Your Screens Away

Child lying on his tummy on the floor using a tablet

Smartphones are a ubiquitous part of our lives, and although they definitely have their benefits, research has shown that they can lead to a decrease in responsiveness from parents. This “technoference,” a term coined by assistant professor of Human Development and Family Science at Illinois State University Brandon McDaniel, describes the ways in which smartphone use can distract and detract from our relationships, especially those between parents and children. Although parents’ cell phone use around their children is relatively low –– especially while interacting one-on-one –– when they end up using their phones while talking to their kids, adults can become so distracted that their relationship with their child suffers.

This “technoference” can be problematic for childhood development, especially in the early years when children establish and strengthen their relationships with their parents. According to some research, kids tend to question their parents less when they see them on the phone, leading to a reduction in both parties “joint-attention.” When this attention decreases, children’s language development can also be disrupted or slowed.

We know how tricky it is to balance the responsibilities tied to your phone like banking, work messages, and organizing day-to-day life. However, putting your phone out of sight and carving out some true bonding with your little ones will be beneficial to the health and happiness of your entire family.

2. Pick a Game for the Crowd

family playing together during outdoor brunch

No matter the age of your child, there’s a game for every development stage. These fun options range from guessing the animal on Guess in 10 Junior Animal Kingdom cards with your toddlers, to a variety of clever and educational card games for your six-year-olds that involve rolling dice like Rapid Rumble, strategy building in games like Sinking Stones, or fandom-specific games like Guess in 10 Marvel that are sure to excite them. Whatever you pick, make sure you consider your child’s age to ensure the game brings the right level of challenge.

3. Consider the Theme and Pair a Delicious Snack

Family eating popcorn and playing cards in the living room in front of a fire place

An exciting way to engage your child in games and interactive activities is to introduce yummy snacks that tie into the game you’re playing.  Set up a fun and easy snack bar for your child to make a popcorn mix with chocolate-covered almonds, peanuts, caramel corn, mini marshmallows, dried coconut, and fruits. Animal-themed card games like Guess in 10 Junior Animal Kingdom can be paired with critter-focused snacks like paw print cupcakes or a colorful lion veggie tray

You can also choose a creative fandom-themed snack. For example, Guess in 10 Marvel can be paired with strawberries decorated like spiderman masks to make amazing “Spidey” strawberries. You can also make fun ice cream sundae stations where your child can whip up their own creation. This treat will be perfect for game nights after dinner! Involving your child in setting up the ingredients and preparing creative snacks is a wonderful way to teach them about planning and to get them even more excited about family game night.

4. Get Cozy - Matching Pajamas Anyone?

Brother and sister in matching pajamas throwing pillows

Another fun way to make family game night a true “event” is to wear matching pajamas.  After a long day, pajama game night is a sweet way to wind down and get cozy with your kids. Let your little ones construct pillow forts or blanket tents in which to play the games you’ve picked out. Try matching the forts with the theme of the game - from an animal’s hideaway to a superhero’s fortress to let their imagination take over.

5. Introduce DIY Games

Mom smiling down at two sons and making a DIY family game

Introducing DIY games can be a fun and engaging way to develop your child’s motor skills, perceptive assimilation, and sensory coordination. Try out games like charades or pictionary that require nothing but some paper and pens and your best impression skills to create a masterpiece or great performance with your little one. Card games, hide and seek, and musical chairs can also all act as stimulating and silly ways to develop your child’s auditory reception and attention.

Similarly, finding missing letters or making words from a jumbled alphabet is a silly and interesting way to encourage  your child’s creativity. Not only will such activities keep your child involved, but will also help you both develop better parent-child interactions for stronger bonds and creative learning.  

6. Kick it Up a Notch with a Prize for the Winner

family in white clothes playing tug of war at the beach. Mom and daughter on one side and dad and son on the other

Where there’s a game, there’s also a winner! Though not required, prizes can be a fun way to end family game night. They also present an opportunity for you and your little ones to get creative and make your own DIY prizes. Gift the winner with a ceramic trophy you craft together, or let them choose the game the family will play during the next family game night.

We know it can be tricky to balance the demands of life in the digital age with the developmental needs of your little ones, but a family game night is a wonderful way for you to do just that. Put these tips to work and enjoy the good times and memories!