Game On: Planning Family Game Night

Game On: Planning Family Game Night
With everyone bemoaning the loss of family time to screens, we have sought to replace weekend family movies with a game night. As with adults, sometimes there's groaning before everyone starts, but some popcorn and an hour later, everyone is hooked. 

We have kids of different ages, and sometimes it's hard to find a game that works for everyone.  (Is it just us, or is every new game based on a favorite book/character/movie totally insipid and painfully long?) Here's a list of some of our favorites, culled to appeal to everyone from adults to pre-readers.  All of these games have active wait times, meaning it's fun even when it's not your turn, a must when playing with little guys.  

Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza

It's Slap Jack, but with cute drawings and animals.  It takes only seconds to pick up, but is surprisingly tricky at any age, which means also that anyone can be good at it.   There's no reading required, instead, players say the word "Taco," "Cat," "Goat," "Cheese," while flipping over cards with those images.  If you flip a card with the word you said, everyone tries to be the first to slap the pile.  The speed element and "special" cards - including a narwhal! - ensure there will be giggles. 

Heads up

Boy, did this game save our life in the Disneyland lines. It's charades meets the $100,000 Pyramid in this electronic version of the Ellen Degeneres game show.  You choose a category and one player describes a word while his team guesses. When a correct guess is made, simply tilt the phone or tablet down, and a new word or phrase appears. With categories appropriate for kids or adults, teams can be mixed ages. Our pre-reader has someone whisper the words to him, so he gets a turn to act out as well. 


It's as addictive as you remember. Yes, when you're not playing it, the sounds can drive you bonkers. But divvy the colors so that one person is responsible for one color, and it easily becomes a 4-person game. 


Karla's daughter gave this to my daughter as a birthday present, and it won us over with its adorable mini dice. The set comes with over 100 dice and tests your ability to answer trivia, perform physical challenges, and finish word, number, and drawing games. Some of these, especially trivia, are more suited to older kids or adults, but kids definitely had the edge in the dice-stacking categories. It works best with mixed-age teams. 

Spot it

The round tins of the Spot It game series make them the perfect restaurant game. Players must find the item in their card that matches the center card before their competitors do. It can sometimes take a bewildering amount of time to find a match simply because the flower on your card is smaller than the one on the center card. When we play with much younger kids, we have adults count to 3 or 5 until they can shout out their match to even things up.  


Maybe it's because there's so much less swimming around in those little heads--no shopping lists, no wistful regrets--that our 4-year-old kicks our butt in the game. Routinely.  And now there are nice fun versions for every flavor, from a candy cards to faces, tools to Disney favorites. 

Word-a-round (requires reading)

Players try to identify words that have been written in a circle with no clear beginning or end. It's perfect for those 3rd-6th graders who are becoming established readers. 

Beat the Parents

This board game satisfies the kids' desire to team up against their parents. With different levels of questions aimed at parents or kids, it is designed precisely so that it's appropriate for both adults and kids. (Non-readers need to be on a team with readers, and the questions are geared to kids at least 5-years-old. 


The old tagline for this classic game, "a minute to learn, a lifetime to master," still holds true. Although you can play this game with only two kids, it's helpful, especially for younger kids, to team up and jointly strategize. great for honing their deductive reasoning skills, so go ahead and get it down from your parents' attic.  There are even travel versions available.

Happy gaming!