Family Game Night

By: Sandra L. Churchill

When the Churchill household gets stressed plan a game night. Whether it’s crazy deadlines, mounting bills, or out-of-control schedules, we find that sitting down together to play a game is like instant therapy. While the likes of Sorry!, Monopoly, Scrabble, Pictionary, and Bananagrams are American classics, we’ve adopted trendy European games that promote strategy, teamwork, and creativity. Newer additions to our “game wall” include Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Settlers of Catan, Forbidden Island, Power Grid, Pandemic, Slide 5, and Zooloretto.

What started as seasonal barbecues with some friends has blossomed into near-monthly game nights that introduce new and emerging games, as well as tried-and-true favorites. What’s especially cool about these strategic options is that they are not dividers of children and adults, but are flexible for nearly all ages. Right now, we have game nights with an assortment of family and friends—couples, mother-daughter teams, pre-teens and elderly enthusiasts.

Some “upsides” to game nights include reduced stress, economical entertainment, cognitive “workouts,” social connections, and family bonding. We’ve found that planning out train routes on Ticket to Ride or strategizing to evacuate everybody from Forbidden Island swiftly sweeps away worries, work exhaustion, and the dangers of falling into a rut with the same routine.

While many of the games hover in the $20-$40 price range, once the game is bought, playing is free. So the same expense for two of us to head to the movies or buy a low-end dinner out is now stretched into years of fun that our family can enjoy.

Interactive games such as Power Grid and Pandemic not only boost cooperation but give your brain a boost with a different kind of thinking. Instead of balancing a checkbook or discussing the news, you quickly shift to strategic play and teamwork. We often joke that it’s working a different side of the brain because you think and communicate in a different way. One dear friend of ours coined the term “cleanse-the-palate” games for short, easy-to-learn options we play between dinner and dessert or dig into when teaching new players. Favorites at our house include No Thanks!, Zombie Dice, and Coloretto.

Socially, our calendar has expanded from events and activity-chauffeuring to include regular gatherings with friends to catch up and play games. Whether it’s a novel kind of fun or the refreshing communication that happens around the game table, family and friends soon seem happily ‘ addicted to game nights. We often find ourselves booking the next game night at the close of the present one. It’s boosted our friendships and injected extra fun into our evenings, so we regularly plan for time to connect and take a break from the daily routine.

Family bonding is the gift that encircles all the other benefits of regular game nights. Where else (besides camping J) can children from second-grade through college have time with their parents, enjoy cross-generational fun and stay connected with relatives and friends?

So make a pizza, invite your pals, and scoot up closer to the table. The board is set and the cards are dealt. It’s time for Ticket to Ride!

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