Game nights can be such a fun way to connect with our kids. Whether you enjoy cards, dice, strategy games, or cooperative play, games can bring us together, create fun memories, and lead to tons of teachable moments.
Now, some parents are just awesome at playing and pretend. My husband, Dustin, is like this. He’s silly & playful and joins our girls in whatever they’re doing. He’s a natural connector.
Dustin and I find value in using a trauma-informed approach to our parenting, so we do our best to implement the three main strategies – empowering, connecting, and correcting – throughout our family culture.
In our early days of parenting, I found myself leaning into the empowering (meeting physical needs) and correcting (teaching/guiding) part of this process, while leaving out perhaps the most critical piece – building genuine connection in a way that disarmed fear and promoted attachment.
I wanted to find a way to intentionally connect and play with our girls, so I started thinking about what I loved when I was growing up – playing softball, putting on plays, and LOTS of family games. Even into adulthood, when my family gathers, we play games for hours at a time.
After researching, I discovered several games that were age-appropriate and actually looked FUN for everyone. So we created a new routine – family game night!
Every Friday afternoon, Dustin and I would go together to pick-up the girls from school/daycare and we’d all head to a local coffee shop. We’d bring a couple of games, buy the girls a treat or a special drink, and enjoy an hour or two of quality time together. We’d laugh and play, and of course sometimes, have to redirect behavior.
With each roll of the dice, card drawn, or match made, we were growing closer as a family and establishing a tradition that we all began to cherish.
Now, a little over four years into our parenting journey, our life rhythms have changed a bit. During this last year, we decided to homeschool our girls to have more time with them, so we integrate games into our ongoing curriculum. We learn math, reading, and critical thinking skills, all while playing together.
As our girls get older, I’m sure our rhythms will change again, but I hope our love for playing games together is a tradition of connection that can stay with us through all seasons of life.
So, the next time you’re looking for a way to connect with your kids, grab a snack, and try playing a game together. You can hit up a thrift store or borrow from a friend, or check out ten of our favorites below!
- Quixx (Family dice game, good for developing basic addition skills)
- Cat Crimes (Critical thinking game where you try to figure out which cat commited the crime; can be played as a team game for cooperative play.)
- Pengoloo (A more interesting version of a memory game, good for younger kids ages 3-7).
- Eye Found It (Cooperative game good for visual learners)
- Cadoo (Active game for the whole family. Can be adapted for younger children.)
- Topple Chrome (Hands on game, good for developing impulse control and patience)
- Snappy Dressers (Fast-paced game with many versions of play, good for 7 and up)
- Spot It (Fast-paced game with many versions of play, junior versions available)
- Ok Play (Simple tile game making five in a row, requires a little strategy, good for 7 and up)
- Splendor (Made for older kids and adults, but simple enough concept for younger elementary.)
- Ticket to Ride – First Journey (Simple concept, but longer game play. Good for 6 and up)