Planning the perfect family game night? I’ll tell you right now that the best family game nights are the ones that happen organically and without prompting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead to plan an awesome game night. There is, after all, no right or wrong way to plan the perfect family game night. Family activities are the ones your kids will remember most when they’re older, and it’s the simple family competitions and fun that bring out the best in everyone.
Before you start planning your perfect family game night, remember that perfection is absolutely subjective. What you consider perfect is not what your kids consider perfect. The goal is not to aim for a perfect evening. It’s to aim for the kind of evening that becomes a core memory for everyone around the table (or the court or the net or whatever). You are planning a game night to spend quality time together, and perfection does not equal quality. Have fun, enjoy, and just relax. It’s just a game, but these moments are anything but little.
The number one rule for family game night is understanding your limitations. Not all kids are created equally, and not all kids are going to play the same way. The night you plan depends heavily on the ages of your kids. If they’re all older and closer to the same age, family game night is going to be a lot simpler than if your kids are little, unable to read, unable to follow rules, and unable to comprehend the games. That said, here are a few great tips for planning the perfect game night.
You Need Games
First and foremost, this might seem like the simplest concept, but let’s talk it through. No game night works without games, does it? But what kind of games? It depends on several factors:
- The age of your kids
- The comprehension level of your kids
- Your kid’s ability to read and understand rules
- What you are all in the mood for
There is no right or wrong game to play, so let me throw this one at you. Does game night have to be a board game? What about a video game? Our kids love board games, but their favorite family game nights always include the use of the Switch hooked up to the family room television. We like to play Mario Kart. Since there are six of us, we start simple. Best of three races. The losers have to give up their controls for the two who have not played yet, and we trade off. It’s a lot of fun, and everyone loves it.
Additionally, we can play games at the table, too. The kids love card games. They also love board games. A fan favorite in our house is Life. Another is Monopoly. The kids also love to play Taboo. Scattergories, Yahtzee and Scrabble are popular here, too. There is no end to the number of games you can play, nor is there a stipulation on the type. Pick games everyone will enjoy and let that be the start of a good time.
You Need a Good Setup
The next thing you need for the perfect family game night is the right setup. Again, there is no right or wrong way to do this. You can sit around the kitchen island or the dining room table and play until your heart is content. But you can also get creative. Our kids like to pile blankets on the family room floor and lounge around while we play games.
On a beautiful evening, we like to take games out onto the pool deck to play outside at the table. It’s always nice to sit around and enjoy the warm weather and the simple pleasures of being home, outdoors, and with the people we love the most. On occasion, the games we play are outdoor games, too. Cornhole, volleyball, baseball, football, whatever. So a family game night doesn’t need to consist of anything specific like a card table – it just needs the correct setup that involves things such as a place to play that’s appropriate for the game.
You Need Comfy Clothes
Hear me out. I’m not saying family game night is a fashion show made for the runway. All I’m saying is that you need something comfy to wear when you play. If you are playing around the table with the kids, why not make it pajama night? It’s always more fun to relax when you have family game night. If you are playing outdoors, you need the correct apparel.
For example, when the Easter Bunny included a volleyball net along with the kids’ Easter Baskets last year, we ended up involved in an impromptu afternoon volleyball tournament in our yard. We’d been in the pool with the kids, and we were hosting our parents and other family members. I don’t know how it happened, but we ended up going from the pool into the yard to play an exceptionally (hilarious and amazing) competitive game of volleyball with our kids and the grandparents. It was not exactly easy to play without shoes and in swimsuits. We had to take a quick moment to grab sneakers and real clothes to keep the game going strong. It was one of those unexpected situations that turn out more fun than anything. But you do need the correct apparel – and comfort always wins when it pertains to game night.
Oh, and you also want cozy blankets, pillows, and fuzzy socks. Don’t ask me why. Just know that my kids always need them when we play games, so they must associate their comfy stuff with quality family time, and I’m here for it.
You Need to Go Over The Rules
Before you can play the perfect family game, you need to go over the rules. Trust me when I tell you that this is non-negotiable. Why? Because there is nothing worse than being in the middle of a game and realizing that you’re not all on the same page with the rules. And it happens all the time. Games are easy, yes, but everyone plays a little differently. Some rules are forgotten. Take a few moments before playing to go over the rules. It saves a great deal of confusion, frustration, and potential arguments. It also prevents anyone from accusing anyone else of cheating when they think the rules go one way but they actually go another way.
You Need Snacks
If you ask our children what the most important part of family game night is, the answer is going to be unanimous. Snacks. We don’t do a meal when we have family game night. Most of the time, it happens after dinner. So, snacks are mandatory. Keep it simple and serve things the entire family likes to eat, but also keep in mind that you don’t want to serve anything too messy, sticky, or buttery. Popcorn is always good, but not if you’re using the buttery type. It’s too messy for cards, dice, and other things. Cookies, candy, fruit, veggies, pretzels, and other items are always fun snacks to have while playing game night. Remember – this is family game night. It’s all about eating the things you normally don’t eat. It’s extra special when you serve the stuff the kids don’t get all the time.
You Need a Good Attitude
One thing most parents agree on is that everything is more enjoyable when the kids have a good attitude. No one is having a good time when there is attitude going around. So, if someone is having a bad attitude, perhaps game night is not the place for them to be. Make sure everyone is happy, having fun, and there is no conflict on game night.
You Need Rules
In addition to game rules, you should set a list of regular rules, too. It makes family game night more enjoyable when everyone is on the same page. One of the best rules to have in place during game night is the electronics rule. No one has a phone or iPad during the game. These devices cannot even be in the same room. They need to be elsewhere, away from the game, and not distracting to those playing. No one has fun when others are unfocused and not paying attention to the game.
Another good rule is the bathroom rule. People need to use the restroom, but it’s frustrating for everyone playing games when people are constantly getting up. Make it a rule that if one person has to go, everyone needs to try. At the very least, set a rule in place that everyone (with the exception of little kids who don’t have the ability to hold it for a few moments) must wait until there is a break in the game to run to the restroom. Meaning they cannot get up in the middle of a hand or make everyone pause for them in the middle of a play.
Finally, respect is a good rule. Most families won’t need to remind their kids or spouses that respect is always required during game night, but some people need the reminder. No one is name calling, no one is cheating, and no one is going to be a poor sport. Make sure everyone knows this will not be tolerated.
Patience is one of the most important things you can have on family game night. How old are your kids? If they are smaller, you can guarantee they are going to need reminders, help, and they’re going to be a little haphazard while playing. They may need to be helped each time they play. Little ones might need a reminder how to do something. For example, our kids love Yahtzee. But for years, we had to help our twins write down their scores, count their dice totals, and remind them what the dice combinations meant. They can do that now, but we do have to keep our patience in check when it comes to adding up their scores at the end. They’re eight, so it takes them a bit of time. The good news, however, is that we do cheat on the no phones rule and give them our phones to add their scores so it’s a little faster. Patience is a virtue during family game night.
Listen, you’re having family game night because you love your family and want to make some memories. You’re spending time together, and it should be enjoyable. If you are constantly worried about making things perfect, you’re not having fun. Your little ones are not going to remember that your dishes matched perfectly and your snacks were homemade. They’re not going to remember that you had the perfect game setup. Do you want to know what they will remember? They will remember that things weren’t perfect, but they were so much fun. The kids will remember the laughter, the fun, and the enjoyment.
They’ll remember how their little brother laughed every single time he rolled the dice because they always rolled off the table. The kids will remember the cozy blankets they covered up with by the fire playing cards on a cold winter evening. They’ll remember laughing together, the friendly competition. It’s the quality time you are getting. You have 18 years with your children to enjoy these nights and evenings before they potentially leave home and you don’t get to have them as your own any longer. Make the memories count, and don’t worry about the little things. Your kids? They don’t care. They just want to be close to you.