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How to plan a family game night your kids will love

Danielle Smith is a former award-winning television news anchor and reporter turned digital correspondent, host, spokesperson, media trainer, lover of all things video and public s

The older my small people get, the more I find myself valuing the time I get to spend with them... as I fully recognize that the laughs we share and the time they think their dad and I are fun for an evening is limited.

At 8 and 10 years old, they still confide in us, tell us jokes, ask for help with homework and friends. But it won't always be that way. At some point they will stop fighting over who gets to sit next to me on the couch and begin arguing over who must take that seat. Until then (I'm banking on a few years, but my heart tells me otherwise) I want to take full advantage of the time we do get to spend together.

It is no secret that 'game night' at our house has long consisted of one sporting event or another. If we aren't on the baseball or softball diamond, we are on the soccer fields or the basketball court. And I so love to watch my kids play.

How to plan a family game night your kids will love

But I want to be part of the family action, too. And since the uniforms don't come in my size and both of my small people could now clearly beat me in a race, I figured it was time to tackle a "game night" that actually allowed me to compete: a family game night at home.

Tips to make family game night a success

1. Make it regular

Choose the one night a week your family is guaranteed to be home. For you, that could be Friday or Sunday nights. In our house, most weekends are usurped by games and there are definitely some practices during the week. While it has taken some juggling, and we do sometimes shift the day of the week based on the season, we've become fairly settled on Wednesdays. Yes, I know during the school year that can't be a late night, but we work around it.

2. Make it memorable

Choose a theme. Yes, a theme. This means planning your dinner around your theme and even adding some decorations if you are so inclined. Not only do my kids love to help with picking our theme: On Hollywood night we set out a red carpet, Mexican night requires fajitas and sports night means donning your favorite jersey, but they all have one thing in common: The kids are involved in the cooking and the playing.

How to plan a family game night your kids will love

3. Let your kids be the teacher

It is easy to grab your favorite board games, suggest cards or try to outdo each other at karaoke (that night is always a loss for me), but it takes some extra patience to allow your kids to teach you something new. My son Cooper, for example, is newly enamored by chess. Would you like to guess how many times I've played chess in my life? That's correct. Zero. This means allowing him to teach me and his sister. It's a definite lesson in tolerance if ever there was one, but it empowers him to pass on his knowledge and we do learn something new.

4. Mix it up

I think it is incredibly important not only for everyone in the family to have their turn choosing their favorites, but it is also great to vary the types of games we play. You can easily guess my husband wants something sporty or active while I love games that get us thinking. There is a new show on the Game Show Network that has contestants face off against each other as they try to be the first to answer what are, in truth, deceptively simple puzzles, but they require you to be both logical and swift.

The show, Idiotest, is based on a popular app that requires you to be paying attention to each question and each scene, and gives you points based not only on correct answers, but also a quick mind. I love the opportunity to face off against my family when something other than Monopoly money, balls and strikes are on the table. (And the new season premieres on Wednesday, April 1 at 8/7c.)

5. Have fun

I know, I know. This sounds like a basic direction, right? But this is the point of the whole night. The smiling, the laughing, the teasing each other... and well, yes, even the winning (at least if you are my husband, who definitely likes to wear the "crown" from one week to the next). The idea behind any family game night is to spend time together, to enjoy each other's company and to respect the likes (and loves) of each member of your family, from the sporty to the mind games.

I'd love to know how your family celebrates a night like this. What is your favorite game to play together and how often do you do it? Are there special traditions you include? Share away!

Disclosure: This post is part of collaboration between the Game Show Network and SheKnows.

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