Over a year ago, my husband expressed to me that he “felt like a bad parent.” He didn’t feel as if he was getting any quality time with our children because it seemed like we were always disciplining them (which, in his defense, we most definitely were at the time!).
This was all taking place when my husband was extremely busy with work, which meant that all of the dinner and nighttime duties became a solo job (mine). I was tired, frustrated, pulling double duty, while he would come home just in time to help me discipline the kids before we tossed them into bed and then tumbled into our own.
In truth, neither one of us felt as if we were getting any real quality time just being with our children.
Something had to change…
It started on the weekends, one game the entire family would play together. We started small with a classic I grew up playing with my best friend – SkipBo. At first, my youngest had to be on a team (he was five years old at the time), but after a few times, he got the hang of it pretty well. This game’s only requirement is counting to 12, so once they caught onto the rules and strategies, it became a family go-to for game night. It’s been a solid year now that we have at least one family game night each week (really, it’s any time of day we find we have time). Weekends honestly turned into almost every night because we enjoyed it so much.
When we started “family game night,” it was done out of a simple need to do one positive, fun thing with our children. We never considered how it would affect our relationships with each other or change our family dynamic.
Before family game night, we struggled with our boys constantly fighting and arguing with each other. However, after we started dedicating one night to playing a game together as a family, we noticed that the boys were playing better with each other. They even started playing most of the games on their own!
No longer did I need technology to keep them occupied while I cooked dinner, cleaned the house, you name it! Suddenly, they could co-exist together without me having to consistently intercede to correct behavior. Not only that, but they were also receiving that attention they so desperately craved from my husband and me, so most of those attention-seeking behaviors started to drift away (they didn’t totally disappear, but they did lessen for sure).
My children became more independent as they developed a sense of self-worth and self-awareness (waiting your turn, following rules, etc.) through playing group games. My husband and I finally felt our own sense of community within our core family as we looked forward to spending that time together.
All of us have learned that we not only want to spend time together, but we really enjoy it! This is something that we hope will carry through these years that the children are with us and give them great memories to look back on.
Another benefit was that even though it didn’t completely remove technology from our lives, it replaced 90% of the time we were using it.
This last year, as we have lived through a pandemic, family game night has truly saved my family. It has given us something to do, at any time without going anywhere, when we needed to be a family.
Our Family Favorites
Skipbo (card game)
Kid requirement: As long as they can count to 12, they can play!
*We love this game! My kids even play it solo all the time now. Great game to help build those counting skills.
Monopoly (board game)
Kid requirement: endless time!
*This one is not my favorite. In fact, I loath the thought of playing endless rounds of monopoly with my children. Especially considering they still need a lot of help with this game. But, it does help them learn money and how to count it. It also teaches them how to manage that money and that everything comes at a price (something they might not learn in Target). Also, there are different variations to keep it fun!
Monopoly Deal (card game)
Kid requirement: basic knowledge of the original monopoly game and be able to read.
*This one is so much quicker, and my kids can even play it solo now! It’s a lot more fun for me as well.
Life (board game)
Kid requirement: must be able to read if you want them to play independently, but otherwise, if you play as a family, you can easily help them out as long as they are old enough to understand the rules (my youngest was 5 years old when we started)
*This is one I prefer (especially over monopoly). It might be a little outdated, but it’s a good game to show your kids the long-term life benefits of going to college!
GoFish (card game)
Kid requirement: none, this game works for all ages!
*This is a great game to start with! It’s so simple for all ages. We have many different sets to choose from that make it fun and different.
Uno (card game)
Kid requirement: know numbers and understand counting
*So many variations of this game, and we love them all! Another game that works with them on numbers and counting.