I don’t know about you, but when the words “Family Game Night” come to mind, I suddenly get the urge to schedule an immediate tooth extraction. In fact, sometimes I am convinced that I would rather have every one of my teeth extracted one by one (with or without novacaine) than play games with my family. Family game night is often nothing less than grueling.
First, it is an absolute impossibility for the forces of nature to ever line up in such a way that the kids would agree on a game. So fighting ensues immediately. The older ones don’t want to play the “baby” games, the little ones can’t play the games the older kids want to play, the girls don’t want to play the “boy” games and the boys don’t want to play the "girl" games. Then in characteristic Monopoly-like fashion, the fighting continues eternally. There are always new things to fight about: wanting the same playing pieces, one child accusing another of cheating, someone knocking the board over, etc. etc. etc.
Second, there are those games that, honestly, should just be burned or banned. What games? Well, you probably all have your own lists. For me, any game that causes someone to have to go backwards several spaces or lose everything they have worked toward makes the list. Candy Land? Ban it. Chutes and Ladders? Torch it. Race to the Rooftop? I want to know who invented that game, visit them personally and make them play it with four small children consecutively for 24 hours. Luckily, that would only be one game, but maybe, just maybe, they would pull it off the market. I really want to know why these games which seem most suitable for the youngest of players seem to teach the lesson that hey, as soon as you feel like you’re winning in life, SLAM! You have go back 375 spaces! Too realistic if you ask me. What were these people thinking?
Third, family game night always seems to have the same ending. Tears, sobbing, bawling, and screaming fits. And once we as parents have dried our eyes, inevitably, one or more of the kids also seems to end up in the same state of misery.
So, what’s the solution? How do we keep family game night from turning into slow painful agony?
Well, here’s a couple of our ideas. They usually don’t work for us, but, hey, you might get lucky. Give them a shot.
1. Make some games off limits. If your kids want to put themselves through torture on their own time, let them go for it. But if it is a game that drives you insane, opt for sanity.
2. Write all the acceptable family games on pieces of paper and have a drawing to choose. That eliminates the first round of fighting, at least.
3. Split up. Who says family game night has to be everyone playing together? Maybe the older ones can play one game and the younger can play the other. Or the wordies can play Scrabble while the kinesthetic ones can play Twister. Whatever works for your brood.
4. Set a timer. I’m a stickler in our family about finishing things. But when it comes to games with kids, sometimes it is just better to have a set ending time. When we reach that time, the game is over and whoever is in the lead wins. This also works well for the patience factor during those 3 minute long die shaking episodes.
5. Have consequences for bad sportsmanship or rewards for good sportsmanship. Maybe that consists of who gets to pick the next game or some other reward.
6. Focus on your main goals: fun, family bonding. Remind the kids often of this goal, especially the more competitive types (which may in fact be you!) and set up an atmosphere with lots of laughter.
7. Finish with dessert. Food makes everyone feel better and might help dry up some of those tears at the end of game night…even your own J.
So, there are my tips, hope they help! What do you do to have a great family game night?