Dice, cards, and dominoes: How to institute family game night

With busy schedules and differing interests, family game night can strengthen the camaraderie in your household.

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  • When I was a little girl, my family always had a closet full of board games. However, we only played them as a sporadic weekend or summertime activity, and my parents weren’t often involved. My husband, on the other hand, tells stories about playing board game tournaments at extended family get-togethers. When we got married, it didn’t take long for us to decide that we would have a weekly family game night.

  • We love the bonding time this creates. With busy schedules and differing interests, family game night can strengthen the camaraderie in your household and thereby make every interaction flow a little more smoothly. If this sounds appealing to you, but you’re not sure how to start, this article is for you. Read on to find three simple steps to becoming “game night people.”

  • Set a day and time

  • If you’re really going to make game night a normal thing, you’ll have to take a long, hard look at your schedule. Are you already overscheduled? Are there some nights that simply won’t work? Investing time for your family to gather around a fun game is just that, an investment. You will probably have to make some small sacrifices to establish game night as the norm. Also consider what times your family tends to be at home anyway, and consider adding the structure of a game to that time, rather than everyone doing their own thing.

  • For my husband and I, Thursday night games means that he has to be extra-focused at school that day so he can spend the evening with me guilt free. This provides great motivation for him to stay on task. After dinner, I clean up the dishes while he sets up the board game. A helpful side note: We find it useful to choose the game we’ll play that week ahead of time, so that we don’t use up our allocated time trying to pick a game. Additionally, this gives you and your family something specific to look forward to during the week, increasing the commitment to the “game night” idea.

  • Have lots of games to choose from

  • While this may sound like you’ll have to shell out a ton of cash, there are ways around it. The holidays are coming up, so you can make it known that your family would like to receive board games as gifts. You can also start small by purchasing face cards, dice and dominoes and learning several different games that use these simple supplies. Furthermore, you can borrow games from your friends or go to your local game store on nights when they play.

  • A critical consideration for our family has been to buy tried-and-true games that everyone involved will enjoy. Reluctant teenagers may be less so if you invite them to choose the game. You can also find companies that you like (Rio Grande does way more for me than Milton Bradley, for example) or look for highly acclaimed games, like those that have won the German Game of the Year award, or “Spiel des Jahres.”

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  • Invite your friends (or just people you want to get to know better)

  • Accountability to another person helps to keep any good thing going, so why not get your friends involved in game night? Besides, it’s a fun, low-pressure way to get comfortable with people you’d like to be closer to, whether that means the new family next door, your son’s new best friend or the guy your daughter just started dating. Clearly, invitations can be just as much a family affair as the game itself.

  • My husband and I particularly enjoy inviting his peers from school to our board game nights. The college social scene usually involves a lot of drinking. Since we’re not drinkers, we're happy to provide a sober, comfy environment for anyone who is looking for a way to spend the evening. Sometimes we’ll invite our student friends over for dinner, too, or ask them to bring dessert. Every time it’s a huge hit. We’ve actually developed a bit of a reputation for being people who know how to have wholesome fun, and that’s an assessment I accept with pride.

  • Also, don’t feel like you have to host all the time. I regularly send a text message to one friend or another to ask if we can come over to play games. The answer has always been, “Yes!”

  • Instituting family game night doesn’t have to be that hard. With regularity, supplies and an open-door policy, you can soon find yourself wondering what your family ever did without it.

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Sara Hagmann is a stay-at-home wife and writer who loves traveling, cooking, and kissing her husband. A lot.

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