Secrets of great game nights

Dec 1, 2011 at 10:09 a.m. ET

Family game night is a great way for families to spend quality time together, get away from high-tech gadgets and enjoy each other's company to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Family game night

Holding a regular game night is a terrific tradition for any family, but there are a few secrets to making it work. Avoid bickering, meltdowns and hurt feelings with these simple family game night secrets.

Make it a family affair

Family game night should include the entire family, but don't force the issue. If someone absolutely refuses to participate, accept it and move on. Dragging a child kicking and screaming to the game table won't make for a good time.

But don't let anyone off the hook too easily. If your moody tween doesn't want to play games tonight, don't make him -- but do insist that he at least spend the evening in the same room as the rest of the family… without the TV, iPod, cell phone or other electronics.

Make game night a no-visitors evening. While it may be fun to invite a friend to join the family every now and then, try to keep your regular gatherings centered around your family. Your kids can visit with their friends on another day.

Family game night essentials >>

Try new board games

Keep family game night fresh and exciting by playing a different board game every week, suggests Polly Schlafhauser, founder of Families with Purpose.

  • The winner of the last family game night gets to pick the game.
  • Choose age-appropriate family games. If your kids range dramatically in ages, team younger family members up with older ones.
  • Set up a game exchange with other families. This saves money and helps reduce clutter in your game closet.
  • Check your local library for a game-borrowing program.
  • Visit your local Salvation Army, Goodwill or second-hand store for different games to try at affordable prices.

5 Family game night rewards >>

Be prepared

Your family will quickly lose interest if the first hour of family game night is spent setting up the game and deciphering the rule book.

Assign one person the task of getting the game fully set up and organized, and make sure at least one person knows the rules well enough to relate to everyone involved.

How to create a family game night bracket >>

Expect good sportsmanship

"Prior to playing the family game, talk about good game behavior and what is expected of every participant," says Schlafhauser. "Be sure to address any issues specific to your family."

  • Don't bend the rules for younger kids. Doing so is not fair to older brothers and sisters, and it sends a message to the little ones that the rules don't apply to them.
  • "Establish a practice of congratulating the winner at the end of the game with a handshake and a simple 'congratulations,'" says Schlafhauser.
  • "Be conscious of competitiveness among family members," warns Schlafhauser. "If siblings are competitive with one another, try putting them on the same team against Mom and Dad."

Simple, tasty snacks for family game night >>

More family game night tips

Budget-friendly game night ideas
3 Ways to make time for family game night
Beat board game boredom

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