The Christmas season is upon us and parents are scrambling to consider what sort of gifts we might bless our children with this year. As Christian parents, we want to not only “make our children happy” but we’d also like to invest in them with the gifts we buy. So, instead of the latest gadget or gizmo, I have a suggestion that has brought both joy and teachable moments to our family: games.
That’s right. Games. And not of the electronic variety. I’m talking about games where you put down the phones, turn off the T.V., sit around the table, and play together as a family. When you give the gift of family games, you are giving the gift of time together. I’d like to offer a few reasons on why this is a great thing for you to do as a family, and then offer some suggestions on games.
Why Have a Game Night
I don’t intend to develop some profound theology of games here. I just want to give you some practical and beneficial reaons to play games with your family.
Our lives can become so hectic that we forget to have times of focused interaction as families. We go to ball games, recitals, practices, and meetings and forget to actually spend time together as a family unit. Game nights can become intentional times of unplugging from the outside world and interacting together as a family.
Game nights offer the opportunity to teach our children many things. Integrity, strategy, teamwork, patience, and working under pressure have all been teachable scenarios that have come up during our game nights that have afforded us opportunities to instruct. And, to be honest, sometimes those moments have come when mommy or daddy had to apologize for getting a little too into it! Games aren’t just about passing the time or mindlessly sitting around the table. They give us opportunities to raise our children in the instruction of the Lord.
Laughter is such a wonderful gift, isn’t it? I love to laugh. I love to make people laugh and to see my children laugh. Family game nights give us the opportunity to laugh together. Every family deals with the stress of life. There are bills to pay, appointments to make, sanctification to undergo…We all need moments in our life where we can just laugh together. Family game nights are the perfect time to do just that! This is not to say that they can’t get a little stressful at times, especially with younger children. But put the whole thing in perspective. Family game nights aren’t about adding stress to your life! They are about spending some intentional time with your family, affording extra opportunities to teach, and laughing a little (or a lot!).
How do you want your children to remember their childhood? Do you want them to remember that your family was either always on the road, or mindlessly glued to the television? Or, would you prefer that they have some fun memories of times together around the table enjoying God’s gift of one another? Don’t just think the “big trips” are what you have to do in order for your kiddos to have great memories of family time. You can also invest in great memories (at a much cheaper cost mind you!) with family game nights.
Suggestions for Games
I still consider myself somewhat of a novice when it comes to games, but I’d like to share some things that have worked for us. Note that my oldest child is just now turning 11 so that means most of the games we’ve selected have been for younger children. These are all games we’ve played together. I will include an Amazon link for each game and an estimated price.
Sorry! – (less than $15)
The key is that you don’t have to read anything with this game so it helps the preschoolers be involved. Obviously, they won’t be able to “keep up” in terms of “strategy” but there really doesn’t have to be that much strategy involved. They will enjoy just being able to participate in a game.
Uno – (less than $10)
Uno can surprisingly be picked up by younger children. They just have to be able to match numbers and colors. Again, they may not pick up on the best time to lay down a Skip or Draw Two, but that’s ok. More wins for you anyway! But seriously, they will enjoy the time with you.
Pitureka – (less than $25)
This game is about finding pictures. The only reading involved is on the cards but that’s easily handled by an adult. The gameplay itself is just finding pictures. It’s actually more fun than what it sounds like just with this description! Click the link to read more.
Yahtzee – (less than $10)
I include this in the Preschool list but must warn you that you’ll definitely have to help a lot with this one. But again, any preschooler can roll dice (even if you have to tell them 15 times not to roll the dice off the table!). You can help them put the score where they need to go. And if per providence they roll a Yahtzee, you’ll think they won the Heisman.
School Age Suggestions
Apples to Apples – (less than $15)
They make a junior edition of this game but I’ve never played it. Also, sometimes there will be cards that are borderline as far as age appropriateness so be aware of that. This game also affords teachable moments about what the card is actually referring to (pop culture, history, what’s scary and why, etc.).
Clue – (less than $20)
This is a classic game and there are many versions of it out there. The gameplay itself is suited for kiddos in the 7-8 and above age range, I’d say simply because you have to be able to mark off who you know didn’t do it, etc. And also this doesn’t come up a lot when we play, but the game is about a murder, so you might not find it suitable for your family.
Oregon Trail – (less than $15)
If you enjoy a little nostalgia, here is a card game made from the old computer game. The object is to see if anyone can make it to Oregon without dying. Well, I guess that sounds a little morbid, but we’ve had some fun with this one. The problem is it’s pretty hard to actually make it!
Ticket to Ride – (less than $50)
I know we’ve jumped a little in price, but this is currently one of our family’s favorite games. They make a junior edition (as well as other editions), but we just have the classic game. Your goal is to connect cities with trains and to be the person who scores the most points by collecting various tickets. It also gives you the opportunity to teach a little about U.S. Geography. And hey, Little Rock is on the board so our Arkansas family loves it.
Catan – (less than $50)
Again, a little pricey, but if you’re thinking about Christmas presents, it’s worth the investment. This is another game the Nelsons really enjoy. You build roads, settlements, and cities and try to be the first person to 10 points. There are opportunities to trade and steal which afford quite a few opportunities for some fun interaction. For Christmas this year we bought the expansion pack so that 5-6 people can play. We feel like this will be a favorite around our house for a while.
For Christmas this year we have bought Sequence and Monopoly (don’t tell my kids!). A fun two player game my boys and I enjoy is Stratego. We’ve also done classic card games like Go Fish and Old Maid. We’ve played Jenga. But each family is wired a little differently so find what works for your dynamic. And don’t be afraid to venture out there and try a new game. You might just find your family comes to love it! And more importantly, you will love the time together.
So what do you say? Maybe 2019 is the year you have a few game nights. Whether it’s once a week, once a month, or a couple of times each quarter, I think it’s quite beneficial to you and your family to unplug from the world and enjoy one another! When you give the gift of family games, you’re giving the gift of time together. Those kids won’t stay young forever (so play now while you can still win!). And I’d love to hear suggestions you have for family games in the comments.
I’m particularly fond of games, so my apologies in advance if I end up overloading this comment with suggestions.
I don’t typically play with families, but depending on the ages involved these might be worth checking out:
Concept – a little like pictionary, except you link pictures together rather than drawing them
Codenames – a word game played in teams, with the leaders needing to convey their group of words and not those of the opposing team
Flick’em up – a dexterity based cowboy game
Sushi Go (or Sushi Go: Party) – a card drafting game with cute artwork
Dixit – I think it’s like Apples to Apples, but with pictures instead. Nice fairytale type art
CV – Game of Life mixed with Yahtzee, in card form
Escape: Curse of the Temple – a 10 minute Indiana Jones-esque escape from the temple game, where every madly rolls lots of dice as quickly as they can
Forbidden Island (/Forbidden Desert/Pandemic (in order of complexity) – a cooperative game where players work together to escape an island/desert or save the world from disease
For stocking stuffers:
Love Letter – seems simple enough, but has enough complexity to keep it coming out often enough between games (or to keep you playing til 2 in the morning for just ‘one more game’)
Hive (2 players) – an abstract game (like chess)
The Resistance or Coup (or Mafia) – not my favourites (they involve lying), but with the right group they can be quite popular
Beyond that, ranging in complexity, games which have remained in play over the years include: Castles of Burgundy, 7 Wonders, Century: Golem edition, Lords of Waterdeep, Pandemic (or Pandemic Legacy season one) and escape room games (for example Unlock: Escape adventures, or Exit: The Abandoned Cabin)
A good review site is https://www.shutupandsitdown.com/, and if you like to see games played Table Top is decent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2YUYPDq7gQ&index=27&list=PL7atuZxmT956cWFGxqSyRdn6GWhBxiAwE
Hey thanks for these ideas!