When my kids were very young, I made a point of the whole family eating together every night, planning family game and movie nights, and arranging at least one fun family event/outing every month. As they got older, many of these activities changed to one parent-one kid events due to the differences in age, interests, and abilities. There’s a seven year gap between kid #1 and kid #3, so obviously compromises had to be made.
Movie night was ditched entirely when kid #3 entered her “it’s all about (Disney) princesses” stage. Game night has ebbed and flowed as various kids learned to read (flow) or became hyper-competitive (ebb). The real family time together killer, though, were the computers. We have twice as many computers in the house as televisions. I’m not proud of that. It became very easy for each of us to retreat to our screen of choice, solo.
Recently, I took a hard look at our little family’s culture. As a result, I’ve re-instituted game night. The kids are actually excited! We went to Target last weekend and bought some new board games because CandyLand (Dora the Explorer version) and Yahtzee (Pokemon version) just weren’t going to cut it. I let each kid pick at least one game that they really liked, plus we all wanted to try Settlers of Catan. After dinner, we’ve been playing with our stash.
By far the favorites are Settlers of Catan, Wits & Wagers, and Clue. Settlers of Catan is the most challenging for me, but the kids caught on quickly and kid #2 wins this most often. Kid #3 (12 years old) has won at least once. It’s competitive without having to be cutthroat; you can do much better in the game by cooperating and trading resources. I need to check out the online video explanation, because in this game I really struggle to keep up.
Clue is an old-school favorite, and we used to have a Harry Potter version years ago. The kids reminisced about that version, but like this one even more. It took a few read-throughs of the rules to emphasize that no, you can’t bluff (lie) about having a card just because you don’t want your sibling to win, but once that was settled, it got more fun. Everyone has won at least once, so it’s a good game for our age range.
Wits & Wagers is a trivia game with some really hard questions (example: what year during the 1970’s was the Rubik’s Cube invented?*). Each player writes their answer on a small whiteboard and then everyone bets on the answer(s). Betting on the winning answer wins you a variable number of poker chips. Tons of fun, but not for anyone with objections to betting or gambling. And the questions are hard, so this would be frustrating for the under 12 crowd. It moves quickly which is often a bonus.
The games are fun, but the interaction is the point. It gives us a chance to just chat, not necessarily about big things, just the little stuff that can actually be very revealing. We check in with each other and while there may be (ok, there are) sibling squabbles and pouty faces at losing, it’s worthwhile. I’m sensitive to the way time has passed so quickly and I want to build these little memories while the kids are still at home. Gretchen Rubin’s words are always in my mind: “The days are long, but the years are short.”
*The answer is 1974. I wouldn’t leave you wondering!