My son is turning 4 this summer and we’ve already had a couple of spontaneous family game nights with him. We’ve long awaited family game nights with our son ever since he was born. We’ve already learned what types of games he likes and it surprised us, as they weren’t the typical preschooler games. It’s been fun playing more games with him, and we plan to start taking him to our local game store as he matures and can sit for longer to play games. Here’s some advice I have in creating game night for your kids, no matter if they are 4 or 14.
Start them young!
You can start getting kids familiar with games at a very young age. A kid isn’t likely to play a game by the rules until they are 4 or 5, but they can still experience games. Let your toddler roll the dice, get them plastic cards to play with or one of Haba’s toddler games. You may not have a full on game night with your toddler, but you can at least get them used to simple ideas like game components and turns.
I know from experience that kids want to play the games their older siblings or parents are playing. Often, the game would be beyond their ability to play by themselves. Have your kid partner up with their siblings or with yourself. This way, they can experience the game but not have to fully understand the game. Make sure you give them some decisions they can make, such as what card to buy or who to attack. If they don’t feel included in the game as a partner, they’ll reject playing.
Don’t be strict on the rules
This is especially true with the younger ones. You may have to customize the rules based on the kids’ ability. For example, in Tem-Purr-A, we take out the action cards and start with all the indigestion cards in the deck for a short game. Our 3 year old can fully play the game then, with little help. As they get older and more used to game mechanics, you can start adding more and more rules back into the games. Many family games do have beginner and advanced rules, which can be very nice for playing with kids.
Find games that will interest your kids
Find themes and mechanics that your kid will like by playing lots of different games. You never know what your kids may end up liking. If your local game shop has game library, this may be a good way to find fun games for your kids without having to empty your wallet. Once you find a couple of games that your kids really enjoy, then buy those. I thought my son would love Animal Upon Animal, Lucky Pirate, and other games made for his age group. Instead, he likes 6 Nimmt, Tem-Purr-A, and City Square Off.
You will play the same games over and over again
Kids learn best by repetition, that is why they want to read the same book every night. Know that once kids find a game they love, they will play it, A LOT. You may be bored to tears playing Dixit for the 10th time that week, but if the kids are enjoying it, then sit back, relax, have fun. You can try and introduce new games here and there, but don’t be too worried if they get into one game for a long time. I mean, there’s a whole subset of gamers out there that just play Catan, so clearly it’s not just a kids thing.
Try to have regular family game nights
Consistency is key with kids. Make family game nights a weekly or bi monthly event. Make snacks, have them pick out a couple games to play. When they are younger, game night may last a total of 15 minutes. That’s okay! What matter is having fun with your kids experiencing games. Eventually, your kids will be able to play games for hours, and it will be you tiring out rather than your kids.
Game nights are a great way to bond with your kids, especially if they are at school and clubs all day. It can be one of the few times that the whole family is together face to face. These experiences will help your kids in more ways than just having fun. They’ll learn math, science, English, art, vital social skills, and more. Make game nights a priority and you’ll see your family reaping the rewards.