Family games night is a lot tougher than it sounds. There are all kinds of things you have to maneuver such as a discrepancy of interests, ages, capabilities and attitudes. But there is nothing our kids love more than getting our whole family together all focussed on the same thing with no distractions. So we have made many attempts over the years to find games that we don’t mind playing over and over (which is what happens when the kids like a game) that isn’t too hard for the youngest or too lame for the oldest (Todd) and that doesn’t cause fights! Here’s our list of winners that we enjoyed playing many times this summer and sharing with guests (and one game that guests introduced to us).
Speak Out – I was a bit skeptical about this one because stretching your mouth out around this orthodontic looking device looks absolutely hideous! But after a trial run with Aunty Danielle in which we were both in stitches, i was ready to introduce it to the game skeptic. Todd gave it his thumbs up because as much as he fights it, sometimes he likes being absolutely ridiculous. We laughed sooooo much that this game comes out on top.
Charades – It’s such a classic, but in a family full of actors and actor friends, you can’t go without a game of charades now and then. We’ve purchased a few kid friendly variations that didn’t require reading and recommend Can You Guess? for families with young children. But now that our kids are older and everyone can read, we find the other elements unnecessary and we prefer straight up book and movie titles or popular phrases of which any classic charades game will work. Our set is pocket-sized and made of popsicle sticks but I think we’ll need a new one now since we went through every clue over the summer.
Qwingo – This travel game was an unexpected surprise and we’ve yet to find someone who didn’t enjoy it. I bought it because I thought it would enforce counting skills from 1-100 for little kids but it turns out it enforces counting skills for people of all ages! And for those who don’t enjoy spelling games (Todd hates Boggle!) they can show of their math-brains and be very proud of themselves.
The Game of Life – driving a mini car around the game board with a tiny pink or blue person in the drivers seat is just so appealing! We also love the opportunity for lessons on money, stocks, insurance, having kids, homes and careers. We do have a feeling the game is biased towards skipping college though… not sure if that’s just our experience? WARNING – this game does have a tendency to cause fights but we all love it enough that we work through it to keep playing.
Dutch Blitz – we don’t own this game but I have to get it. It’s a card game that was introduced to us by friends who were introduced to it by other friends and now we are introducing it to you! It seems to have been built off of solitaire and expanded to include opposition, speed and a different scoring system (it’s not just about being first to get rid of all your cards but where they ended up). We play this game in teams because it can be frustrating for little ones with so much going on at once so we pair an adult with a kid and it goes over swimmingly.
Outfoxed – this is a surprisingly fun game in which we all work together to figure out the identity of the fox who is making his way across the game board. With a nifty little decoder making sleuthing that much more interesting and the choice on each turn to reveal a suspect or make footprints it’s simple enough for the kids and engaging enough for the adults.
Telestration – this is a family favourite not limited to immediate family. we often play this at large gatherings and it all started at a family reunion three years ago. The concept is that of Telephone in which you whisper a phrase into your neighbours ear but instead of whispering you are drawing. The game is more fun if you have limited drawing abilities so we get a kick out of playing it with the kids (and the drunk uncles). Although it does require some spelling, (you’ll need school-aged kids), the points are given out randomly so it’s anyones game and easy to keep the kids happy.
The next three games on this list are all a little more active than the term ‘board game’ implies so they might not be your cup of tea but are a great option for families that don’t like so much sitting in one spot.
Busytown – It’s a search and find game and it is cooperative so less tears and more fun. Choose your Richard Scarry character to travel through busy town, place little orange magnifying glasses on each found item and ride a ferry altogether to your picnic before the pigs eat all the little cardboard foods! The downfall of this game is that the board takes up a lot of space once you put it together and doesn’t really work outside (at least not on our deck) but if you’ve got a long stretch of floor somewhere in your home you can make it work.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 10 second Challenge – I think only one member of our family actually knows what Diary of a Wimpy Kid is but we still enjoy this game. Because each challenge has to be done in 10 seconds, it moves along quickly and there isn’t time to wallow if you didn’t get it. Usually the challenges are simple enough to accomplish even for a six year old but we went through the game ahead of time and removed cards with things like, “tie your shoe” in them just in case.
Cat in the Hat – I Can Do That! The kids love that this game has a rule that says to make your own rules. (We kind of apply that to any game if we think it will have a positive outcome). My favourite thing about this one is that it’s quick. So if you want to play a game with young children that doesn’t feel like it’s going on forever this is a good option. The game uses items like trick-a-ma-sticks and the playing pieces are objects out of Dr. Seuss storybooks made in 3D which adds to the fun. You also have to decide if you think you can do it before you try and state “I Can Do That!” which is a good positive life affirmation for anyone!
Canadian Trivia – this game comes in last place because we don’t know very much Canadian Trivia, however, our kids want to play it all the time! They are quite patriotic. We sometimes don’t bother with the game board and just sit around with the stack of cards asking questions and learning a few things nobody knew about our country. Every once in a while when get one right, we feel quite smart and maybe that’s what keeps us going!
Talbot Advice: if you have members of the family that absolutely, positively can not stand losing, try our universal rule which is that the winner has to clean up the game. It helps. And now, pick your least favourite night of the week and turn it around. Get started with your own family fun night. You can do that!
Tricky Tracks – We have played this game so much that we might be tricked right out of our tracks. However it has the clever little twist of going both directions which can provide a little room for strategy. What strategy? I don’t know. Our kids always beat us.
Spuzzle – This is a fun puzzle building game although we have to keep our eyes peeled on those puzzle pieces so they don’t go wandering elsewhere.
Sequence – A good reliable game for people of all ages. We have the junior version with animal characters which I actually find more fun.
Pengoloo – the kids love the little wooden penguins and their eggs but we’ve had a lot of upsets about the stealing aspect of the game.
Slamwich – our kids love these big sandwich slice cards and shouting “stop thief!” but someone always ends up thinking someone else is cheating so it is hit and miss.
Seeds for the Birds – I like this game because I don’t have to pretend to find it challenging and yet it’s a game that even a two year old can play (if they’re about to turn three) and it’s cooperative, which is lovely although, again, you have to keep track of those little nuts!
Backgammon – Todd’s favourite game. The kids love it too but I find it frustrating because the instructions are beyond comprehension and I can never remember how to play.
Boggle – Todd doesn’t like it but it’s so fun if you like four letter words! (Although five and six and seven letter words are even better).
Guesstures – I love this game but ours is so old the wind-up is just about worn out. Also, it’s one of those games that other people don’t want to play with me… I can’t figure out why?