Trust me, I know: life is busy.
Work, school, extra-curricular activities, family obligations, and all the things that go into keeping the house and family on track. It’s a lot. And when you finally have a minute to breathe, it can be easy to opt for the path of least resistance: kids playing their favorite video game in one room, while you veg out with Netflix in another.
But rather than go with that option, what if you regularly sat down to play board games with your kids? Sure, it takes a little extra effort. But honestly — not that much. And the benefits are well worth it.
Here are five reasons to take the time to play board games (or card games) with your kids:
1. Board games provide an excellent alternative to screen time.
It seems that every parent I know is on a constant quest to implement or maintain sensible and effective limits on kids’ screen time. But it’s one thing to say, “Put down the iPad” or “Only ten more minutes of Fortnite.” It’s another to figure out…”Now what?”
Setting aside time to play board games with your kids is one way to help solve this problem. Board games offer another approach to fun, competition, and entertainment while being the perfect answer to the “Now what” question. Kids aren’t left at loose ends, but are given a plan of action — one leads to engagement, togetherness, and plain old fun.
Speaking of fun…
2. Board games set the scene for family fun and laughter.
It’s true that board games can be cut-throat and serious. But they can also be tons of fun. And even in the most serious of games, we’ve found opportunities for laughter — that crazy roll of the dice, for example, or the underdog pulling off an amazing reversal.
But whether you go for the serious games or the more light-hearted fare (or a combination of both!), spending time playing games together will open up opportunities for your family to laugh together and to just have fun. Party-type games, especially, are often engineered for humor and hilarity, and can be the perfect way get the laughter flowing. Keeping a good sense of humor about the kids ganging up on mom or dad can lead to laughs as well.
Even if you’re not laughing out loud, your family can just really enjoy the time together in friendly competition (or cooperation), the chance to explore a new game or revisit an old favorite, seeing each other discover new strategies, or watching the youngest crush everyone else in the final round of a game.
More fun means a more positive emotional environment in your home overall. And when you have the chance to enjoy one of those “we all laughed until we couldn’t talk and could hardly even breathe” moments, you know you’re creating amazing family memories.
Which leads us to #3…
3. Board games help you create lasting family memories.
Families are often defined by their shared understanding, inside jokes, and “hey, remember that time…” moments. Playing games with your kids contributes to all of those things. The more you play, the more you will serendipitously experience moments that you couldn’t have planned for, but that everyone will remember.
Maybe a party game gets you laughing so hard you can’t breathe. Maybe a straightforward strategy game turns into something epic. Maybe someone blurts out something on their turn that becomes a timeless family meme.
Yes, we make memories with our kids every day in a variety of ways. But being intentional about spending time together around the table in a shared activity is a great way to make those memories happen. In our house, we still talk about funny moments in games with our once-upon-a-time 8-year-old, who is now 20! I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
Making good memories can be especially helpful when life is stressful. Which reminds me of the next point.
4. Board games help you reframe your interactions with your kids.
I think we’ve all been there. We find ourselves in a negative cycle with one or more of our kids, where every interaction seems to contain some level of conflict. Maybe we haven’t figured out how to get through to our teen on an important topic and every conversation is loaded with uncomfortable overtones. Maybe every chat with our middle schooler devolves into some form of, “Why haven’t you done your homework/cleaned your room/etc. yet?” Or maybe the preschooler is just plain wearing us out and we just want a break.
Board games are a fantastic way to step back, detach from that daily relationship stress, and approach our relationships with our kids from a fresh perspective. Instead of yelling at them, we can laugh with them. Instead of trying to get through to them, we can spend the evening happily playing alongside them. Instead of wondering why they “just don’t get it,” we can be amazed when they figure out a new strategy and beat us soundly at our favorite game.
This reset can then flow over into the rest of the relationship, giving us a tiny little new start, a better place to begin again with them. Board games aren’t magic, but they can do some pretty great things in our families.
5. Board games make great teachers.
I can’t end this post without at least mentioning that we can all learn SO much from board games. Little ones can learn social skills like taking turns and being a good sport (we “big ones” often need to continue learning about being a good sport, too!). Kids of all ages can learn decision-making, executive function skills, and what healthy and friendly competition looks like.
Many games teach straightforward topics like math, vocabulary, science, and history — and do it in a fun way, to boot!
And no matter our age, games teach us more about ourselves and the loved ones we’re playing with. More than once, I’ve gotten insight into one of my kid’s personalities through a game we were playing together.
I hope this post has encouraged you to set aside a little time to play games in your own family. If you’re not sure what to play, look around — we post reviews, recommendations, and impressions of a variety of board games and card games.
If you’ve discovered other great reasons to play board games with your kids, please share them in the comments. I’d love to hear about your experiences gaming with your family!
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