Booyah: Break up mid-winter blahs with family game night

Are gray February days zapping your cheer? Cold winds slicing across your happies? Kids glued to their screens in their own private bubble-worlds? It’s a perfect time of year to put family game night into play!

Family game night is inexpensive, appropriate for all ages, can be educational as well as entertaining, provides interactions among sibs and parents, and can help build character in terms of playing fair, taking turns, negotiating, and learning to lose with grace.

A Times Union HealthyLife Magazine blog post by Wendy Page, titled “What’s a Three-Word Example of Fun? Family Game Night!,” quotes Phillip Rainer, director of clinical services at Family and Children’s Service of the Capital Region.  He says, “So often we’re involved in the logistics and planning of life — who’s driving the kids to practice and who’s doing what — and there’s no enjoyment in that.”  He adds that game night “creates an opportunity for fun interaction.”

Lisa Evans, writing for Parents Canada, in an article titled “The Benefits of Family Game Night,” says, “[board games] can lead to a family bonding experience that is not only fun, but can improve kids’ mental and emotional development, helping them perform better in school and social settings.”

She quotes Jennifer Kolari, child psychologist and author of Connected Parenting, as saying, “Kids learn so much about sharing and being a good sport and getting along with each other through board game playing,” and describes game time as a good time for parents to assess specific social skills. Kolari also notes the improved sharing and negotiation that can emerge from family game-playing.

A blog post from Liberty Christian School by Kim Schlauch titled “5 Educational Benefits of a Family Game Night,” also suggests that “a roll of the dice teaches counting skills” and discussing game rules offers “lessons in grammar and vocabulary.” Playing games as a family also gives kids practice in problem-solving and strategizing, while under the watchful eyes of parents, who can coach, prompt, support, and reward decision-marking. The Times Union post also notes that “Many games have age-appropriate versions and are designed to be multigenerational. As your children age, more challenging games can be added.”

Board games are just one option in all-in-good-fun family competition. For just $2.99, the Go Fish Alphabet Game Cards accomplish lots. Winning involves drawing the most upper-and lowercase letter pairs, with each pair represented by a parent and child animal. There are even age-appropriate terms, like “hatchling” for baby alligator. With activities for two or more players, these game cards emphasize turn-taking and cooperation. Later on, kids can have fun matching letters and creating words on their own.

Does your child need help with multiplication but dread learning it? Then turn it into a game! The multiplication edition of Math War Game Cards, also just $2.99 is a fun and competitive way to help third, fourth and fifth graders practice their basic multiplication facts.

State of Confusion is a great app that offers game-playing fun for the whole family. With it “game night” can happen anywhere, including the next roadtrip. It also inspires a love for and knowledge of our United States of America, while promoting social studies success. Start off learning key facts about the 50 states, including state capitals, state abbreviations, state flowers, state birds, state flags, and state nicknames. Next, put together a USA puzzle—a perfect game to learn state names, the location of each state, and which states are next to each other.

On Family Game Night the game itself matters far less than who’s playing. Light up your home with learning, laughter, and love, and watch a gray season turn rainbow-bright!