In our family we do not have set family game nights. Rather, we have them when we are able to fit them in, but we always try to have at least one game night a week. It’s important to come together as a family, especially as the children get older and are more independent. This does not always mean sitting in front of the TV as a family – but we do have family movie nights as well, mostly in the winter. Families have very busy schedules so it is becoming more and more important to set aside time for a fun night or afternoon of family games!
As many of you probably have children from young babies to school age, I wanted to include some “games” for the 1-3 year age group as well. Family game night games do not need to all be board games, these can be people games as well. If a game I mention is not a traditional board game I will give an explanation as to how the game is played.
In this article I will also talk about the language and learning benefits of some of the games! I am only talking about 6 games here, but there are literally thousands of games you can play as a family. I’m hoping to give you a few simple ideas to get you started.
Top 6 Best Family Game Night Games By Age
Family Games For 1 to 3 Year Old’s
Children in this age group won’t be able to sit for a board game (if your child does, please let me know what you are doing). And even if they do, there is a good chance that they will get overwhelmed with the rules of the game (even simple games). One to three year old’s really are still learning through play (usually unstructured), therefore “people games” are best. There are however a few great games you can purchase for this age group as well.
Hide and Seek
This game is usually more fun for the child than the parent, especially when they child is very young. If your child is under the age of 3 this game is best played with 2 parents/caregivers and the child(ren) – play in teams of 1 parent and 1 child. It is funny watching young children play hide and seek as they don’t understand taking someone else’s perspective. You will often see a child hiding in the same spot over and over again, or they will be “hiding” in plain site (because from their perspective if they don’t see the person doing the seeking, then it would mean that person can’t see the person hiding).
Hide and Seek is great for the physical activity it can provide. It can also teach the child to take the perspective of another person. This is also a great game to work on spatial concepts such as:
- under – “I found you hiding under the bed”
- behind – “I see you behind the curtain”
- in – “you are in the tent”
This game is better suited for the 18 month-3 year age group, and even then, some children don’t quite get it. As long as you don’t get hung up on the rules this game can be a lot of fun.
Parent’s and children can take turns stating a command, for example “Simon says touch your nose”. Everyone then has to follow the instruction. The real way the game is played is that only instructions starting with “Simon says” are followed.
Those that follow an instruction that don’t start with “Simon says” are out of the game. This can be a challenge. With young children just focus on having them give and follow an instruction. You can make your own rule where after 3 correctly followed instructions or if the child gave 3 instructions the child gets a small prize. This does not have to be a tangible item. It could be something as simple as an “airplane ride” from a parent (pick the child up and fly them like an airplane).
I love Simon says because you can work on following directions with your child as well as having the child learn to give directions. For young children it can also help teach new vocabulary such as nouns (body parts) and verbs (actions such as touch, kick, spin, point to, etc.).
Pop Up Pirate
This is one of my favorite games for young children. The Tomy Pop Up Pirate game was one of my go to games during my speech therapy sessions with small children. Make sure the brand is Tomy, there are many knock off ones that will break after a few uses, so spend the few extra dollars on the real thing and it should last years (mine did).
I love this game because you can work on turn taking, colors, counting and sentence building (e.g. “I want the blue sword”, “can I have the green sword?”, “it’s my turn now”, etc.). Fine motor skills can be worked on via pop up pirate as well.
Pop Up Pirate is very simple to follow and most kids are thrilled when the pirate jumps out of the barrel (although I have seen a few kids who are scared of this when it first happens).
This game is great because there doesn’t have to be a winner or loser. However, if you decide you want to make it a competitive game you can decide if the winner is the one who gets the pirate to pop up or if that person is the loser.
Family Games For 4 to 6 Year Old’s
Pop Up Games for Kids (Pop-O-Matic)
These type of games are a great introduction to rule based games where there is a clear winner. The original pop up game for kids that I can remember is Trouble. I used to love playing this game with my family. The concept is so simple. Every player (max of 4 players) chooses a color. The goal is to get all for of your colored figures home safely.
I also love these games because the die cannot get lost. It is trapped safely in a bubble. My kids were not really into games until we got some of these pop up games. We started with the Hello Kitty Pop Up Game for my daughter and then my son received the Minions Pop Up Game for his 6th birthday. Now our only issue is deciding which one of these games we will play.
Family Games For 6+ Year Old’s
Monopoly Games for Kids
These types of games are definitely meant for older children. We purchased Monsteropoly when our children were about 4 and 6 years old. My son who was 4 at the time wanted nothing to do with it. He lasted about 1-2 turns and then had enough. He is now 6 seems to enjoy it much more.
There are many different themed monopoly games for kids. There is even a Monopoly for kids. These games are good in that they encourage kids how to play games graciously and it makes them realize that you can’t always be the winner. As children become more proficient readers, they can fully participate in these games by reading parts of the games (such as the cards that tell you what you need to do).
In our Monsteropoly game there are cards that need to be read when you land on certain spaces. These cards tell each player what they must do in order to proceed with the game. My 8 year older daughter now loves reading these cards! She isn’t a big fan of reading, but when we play this game I think she forgets she is actually reading.
Othello being on this list may come as a surprise to some of you, but it is a hit at my house! This game is recommended for children ages 8 and older however, my 6 year old son loves it. In fact, he has legitimately beat my husband and I several times.
Since this is a two player game, we either take turns playing or play on teams (boys against girls is usually how it goes for us).
There are so many great family game night games to choose from. I hope that this article has given you a starting point if you feel at a loss. We have many more games than the ones I discussed at our house, but if I wrote about all of them I may as well have published this article as an e-book.
Do you do family game nights at your house? If so what is your families favorite game or games to play?