Family Game Night
One of the most fun ways to learn is through play, I think almost everyone agrees on that point. So let’s find some time for family game night and get these kids learning through play! While these games will not necessarily help improve calculation skills and phonics it will help with other life skills.
When children play games they learn self regulation. Kids learn to take their own wants into account while also balancing the wants of others – it’s natural to want to win but we also need to learn how to handle losing. This leads to learning how to control emotions when they do not get their way, like when someone else is about to win. These are not skills children are going to learn after one game. They need to keep playing and practicing different self regulating strategies to help them navigate through cooperative play.
Children also learn teamwork and cooperation. They need to work with their family to play the game. Even when it is not a game that necessarily uses teamwork, you still need to cooperate together in order for the game to be successful. Teamwork can start even before the game begins, they will have to work with the family to choose a game to play.
Family Game Night Ideas
Get the good snacks! When we want our family to come to the table, we pull out the good snacks. I’m not saying you need to sugar them up at night, but make it special. Pop fresh popcorn, get their favorite dip, or have cookies on hand.
Communication is an important aspect of playing games. In our house, communication (which often looks like negotiation) starts before the game begins – the choosing of the game is the first step. In all negotiations, children need to effectively use their language skills in order to communicate their point of view. Have a plan for who chooses the game or games. In our house each child gets to pick a game to play, two games is about all we have the attention span for right now. Maybe your family has older kids and you want to play more games or one longer, complex game. Make it work for your family!
Have some rules in place – more than just the game rules. I’m talking about family rules. This keeps everyone focused on learning to be a good sport and having fun. Some that we use when we play games are:
- Compliment someone when they have a good turn.
- Be patient and wait your turn.
- Win and lose with grace. This looks like congratulating the winner and acknowledging the loser’s good effort.
If we stray from the family rules there is a reminder, someone may also need to take a break. That’s okay! Learning self regulation when winning and losing is part of family game night.
Get the family games out!
I didn’t want to share just my favorites so I asked part of the MTT family to share some of their favorite games to play at home.
There are times we are looking for new and exciting games, but sometimes you’ve got to pull out a classic.
Uno – Truly a classic and fun for the whole family. They have all the versions now – Jurassic Park, Flip, Star Wars, and more. But my favorite version is this Uno Splash, if you didn’t guess it yet – they are waterproof! These are perfect for days outside (pool, lake, camping, etc) because they wipe clean. And if you’re a swim team family (we might know from experience), you can bring them to the long meets and play without worrying about them getting ruined.
Hungry Hungry Hippos – this one is the best for playing with little kids when you just want to have fun. Can I give you a hint about stocking up on some classics? Ask families with older kids if they have any games their kids outgrew. Many parents are very willing to pass down games they don’t use anymore to another generation of fun. Or – keep an eye out at garage sales and second hand shops. Having a used game keeps the environment green (and your wallet)!
Jenga – It’s a great game for kids to practice hand eye coordination as well as decision making. They also have to learn patience, waiting for the person before them even when they see a loose block.
Slapzi – We love the flexibility of SLAPZI. This game has great color pictures and easy-to-follow cards. We modify this game a bit from the original rules to play with our youngest (do you do ‘house rules’ with your family?). Instead of only the fastest person putting down their card, we play everyone who has a card to play gets to put it down. This game is great for learning to defend their answers. Ever heard of the common core? Yes, all our kids use it. Well, defending their answers with evidence is a huge skill they need to learn, that’s why I love this one as a teacher!
Happy Salmon – Have you heard of the exploding kitten game? This is made by the same people! Get your whole family playing. And it’s a fast game, once a player is out of cards, reset and play again!
Whatever games you decide on, just get playing!
Family game nights don’t have to be fancy. Just pull out the games, have a few snacks, and enjoy the time together. Let me know what some of your favorite games are to play below.
Tiffany Verhoosel is currently a Computer Science teacher in the Baltimore City School District. Coming from a background of business she joined the Baltimore City Teaching Residency over ten years ago to make the career change into education and has never looked back. Her degree from Johns Hopkins, a Master of Science in Digital Age Learning and Educational Technology, helped propel her from Special Educator to her current teaching position where she teaches Kindergarten to eighth grade students how to code.