Life moves fast!  Games are a great way to slow things down and enjoy precious time with your family.  Schedule a family game night!  While games are fun to play and provide excellent entertainment, they also provide excellent opportunities for learning.

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Benefits of playing games

Enjoyable and important time together

Game time provides a relaxing activity and environment for you and your family.  This is a perfect time to have important conversations about what is happening in your child’s life.  How are they feeling about their friends?  How are things going at school and are they facing any difficulties that you might be able to help with?   What are their dreams and ambitions?  Don’t push too hard or be critical.  If the conversation is meant to happen it will.  The important thing is to keep this as a fun and safe opportunity for sharing.  When the time is right, your children will share their thoughts and concerns.

Catan, family, playing

New skills and concepts

Games also provide an excellent opportunity to master knowledge and skills that will help children in school.  These include:

  • number and shape recognition, grouping, and counting
  • letter recognition and reading
  • visual perception and color recognition
  • eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity
  • strategic thinking

When you are having fun, learning  comes more easily.

Social Learning

Games teach important social skills that help children successfully navigate life’s transition and move into adulthood.  Such skill include effective communication with other children and adults.  Communication is critical for teamwork, which is becoming more and more important in school, work, and life.  Communication is important in resolving conflicts.   Games provide excellent opportunities to resolve conflicts, especially when cheating is suspected and at the end of the game when there are winners and losers.

Games also provide an opportunity to experience fun, low-risk competition and learn about good sportsmanship.  Good sportsmanship occurs when opponents treat each other with respect.  Children can learn the basics of sportsmanship from parents and other adults in their lives.  Having role models who behave in a sportsmanlike way helps children understand that the real winners are those who know how to
persevere and to behave with dignity — whether they win or lose a game.  This could include small gestures like congratulating the winner and acknowledging good plays or moves.  Children who practice good sportsmanship are likely to carry respect and appreciation of other people into every other aspect of life.

Playing games also teaches children about setting and achieving goals (e.g. winning the game), as well as the importance of sticking with something when times are tough.  While you might fall behind during the game, most games provide an opportunity to catch up and even take the lead.  If you don’t win the game, you can always play again for another chance at victory.

Family, playing, Yamslam

Games for different age groups


  • Argh!:  This game is great for children 5 and over.  Adults can also have fun playing this game.  The goal is to collect treasure to earn points without being robbed by pirates.  Argh! provides a good opportunity to learn more complex rules about matching and grouping to get ahead in the game.  It also provides an opportunity to experiment with playing it safe or taking some risk.
  • Left-center-right:  A great game for children 4 and over.  This is a simple dice game that requires no decision making.  The dice tell you exactly what you need to do.  The goal is to win all of the chips.  To make things more exciting you can use pennies or candies in place of the chips.

Family Game night Scrabble


  • Ticket to Ride:  This board game is great for children 8 to 80.  An exciting game where you earn points for building railways between cities.  A great opportunity to develop strategic thinking.
  • The Settlers of Catan:  Catan is appropriate for kids 10 and over, along with adults.  The goals is to collect resources and use them to build roads, settlements and cities.  The board can be changed to add variety from one game to the next.  This is a game of strategy.
  • Risk :  Risk is another board game for kids 10 and over, along with adults.  In this game, players strategize to conquer other players with their armies to take over the world.
  • Scrabble:  Scrabble is a crossword game that is perfect for kids 8 and over, along with adults.  Points are earned for each letter used and the goal is to earn as many points possible until no one can build words any longer.  This game provides and excellent opportunity to increase vocabulary.

Family Game Night Settlers of Catan

All ages

  • Blokus:  This is an excellent game for kids 6 and over, along with adults.  This game is easy to learn.  It’s a great strategy game where players try to arrange playing pieces on the game board attempting to block their opponent to prevent them from using all of their pieces.
  • Sequence:  This game combines cards, chips, and a board.  Kids approximately 6 and older, as well as adults, will enjoy this game.  Players compete to create rows, columns or diagonals of 5 connected chips.  Chips are placed based on what the player has in his/her hand.  Jacks are wild!
  • Life:   This game is fun for kids 7 and older.  Adults enjoy this game too and many remember playing it when they were young.   This board game with a spinner and cards allows you to choose a career path, have a family, take vacation, and deal with lots of surprises along the way.  The player with the most money at the end of the game is the winner.
  • Yamslam:   This is a great game for developing skills around strategy and probability.  Perfect for those 8 and older.  Yamslam is similar to Yahtzee, but scoring uses chips.  No pen or paper required. Players compete to grab the best chips before they run out.  The tin makes this game easy to pass around a room or even a pontoon boat!

We recently discovered a new favorite, so I will add it to this list as a bonus.  Escape Rooms have become very popular, but they can be fairly pricey.  Now these exciting Escape the Room games are available in a box and can be played at home.  If you have a large group, you can purchase multiple games and have a race to see which team solves the puzzles and escapes the room first.  If you get stuck there are clues and many of the boxed games have a website for support.

We all have great memories playing our favorite games with our favorite people.  Please share your favorite games so we all have an opportunity to try something new.

game night