I spent my childhood playing board games like Monopoly, Clue, and Mousetrap–if I could keep it set up. While I had some good times with Clue and Life–who can resist tiny cars and pegs for people?–I wouldn’t call myself a board game enthusiast. But today, I’m part of a Board Gaming Family! My husband and I rarely played games when we first got married beyond the usual party games. But in 2006, we encountered Setters of Catan and quickly became board gamers.
So here we are today with two kids and over 100 board games. And it’s awesome! (Check out my husband’s 7 favorite family games for details about our favorites.) Because board games are just plain good for my family. Why? For 3 important reasons.
1. Shared Interests
Our kids are 7 and 9 years old, so in the last year or so, we’ve been able to increase the variety and difficulty level of the games we play with them. That also means we now get to share a hobby with them too!
We also now share a new vocabulary with the kids, with words like meeples, strategy guides, dexterity games, and roll-and-write. The kids listen to board gaming podcasts with my husband and are able to follow along, and my son especially likes to show that he, too, knows a lot about games.
Plus when you share a hobby with every person in your family, you’re never without topics for conversation. We also never have to wonder how we could fill the last 20 minutes before bedtime–with a short board game of course!
2. Life Skills
Board games usually require a lot of talking and interacting, which makes playing board games with your family a perfect safe space in which to learn some life skills–for both the kids and the parents!
Patience & Self-Control
Is your child annoyed that someone took the action that she wanted to take on her turn? Is your child frustrated that she even has to wait for her next turn?
What a perfect time to practice emotional self-control. We teach our kids that it’s okay to be frustrated or annoyed, but if they want to keep playing, they can’t lose control. In fact, we have a firm policy against rage quitting–which is when someone gets so angry, they quit. Nope nope nope. Not in our family. We work through the problem together and finish what we started. And if that means taking a break for a few minutes to gather your emotions and fortify your self-control, then that’s okay too.
We as parents have had to work on this as well. So it’s a learning experience for everyone! Yippee!
We can all agree that winning is awesome. Everyone with even a tiny competitive bone in their body wants to win.
But if winning is the only goal for playing a board game, then your child will be disappointed….a lot.
We try to emphasize with our kids that the point of playing board games is to have fun, not to win. At the end of the game, the winner can cheer and dance and generally overflow with joy. But then they must quickly follow it up with a hearty “Good game!” to the other players. The losers are allowed to be disappointed, but any and all pouters must leave the room.
Fortunately, since shifting our kids’ focus to having fun versus winning, our kids rarely pout. We parents don’t much either!
3. Screen-free Time
Confession: My husband and I both played a lot of video games before we had kids. So naturally we introduced our kids to video games as well. They have kindles and an old iPad and all sorts of other gadgets. So we must set clear boundaries for screen time in our home.
Board games make a fabulous alternative to screen time! And for the last few years, the kids will routinely break out a game to play just the two of them. They often ask the neighbor kids to join in, so many afternoons we’re hosting at least 5 kids all huddled around our kids’ favorite games–Quickpick, Clue, Klask, or Castle Panic.
So when our kids need a break from a screen–and let’s be honest, when we parents need a break too–a board game has the power to unite us as a family quicker than anything else I know.
4. Gamers for Life
Honestly, my secret hope is that if our kids enjoy playing board games with us now, maybe they will still want to play with us when they’re older. The teenage years will be here soon, and then they’ll start running off in other directions, reveling in their newfound independence.
But I hope–oh how I hope and pray–we will always have board games to bring us back together.