by Carol Band
Engage every member of the family. If a game is beyond the capabilities of the youngest (even when playing in teams), ask them to be, say, the Bingo caller or to be in charge of turning over the timer.
Set the rules for the evening in advance. For example, agree to: congratulate the winners and to require winners to say one good thing about the way the others played; play by the rules on the box; not roll again if dice fall on the floor; have winners put the game away. Acknowledge that losing can make you feel bad.
Play enough games so that winning is a real possibility. Instead of one marathon game of Monopoly, play several short games. Emphasize that it's the playing part that's important - not the score at the end. You could try playing without keeping score, setting up teams, or playing for the highest combined score in a totally cooperative game.
Even the playing field. Play in teams. Pair adults with the youngest kids, give kids a head start, or handicap the grown-ups by their age. Make the grown-ups follow stricter rules or give the kids two turns each time. Finding what works for each game might take a few tries. Be creative and be fair.
Take time to teach. If a child misreads the dice roll, be patient and suggest that she look at the dice again and recount. Parents should think of playing games as a time to help their children master skills and to learn that playing with adults can be fun.
Play with friends. Let each child invite a friend, or invite another family and make a pot of chili. Host a tournament, mix up the teams, rotate houses. Your kids will learn how to interact with other adults and you'll get to know their friends, too.
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Family Games, by Amy Wall, Alpha Books, 2001. This book offers everything from how-to instructions on playing games as a family to ideas for innovative games and strategies.
- The Little Giant Book of Kids' Games, by Glen Vecchione, Sterling Books, 1999. Covers more than 200 creative game ideas and instructions for children.
- Putting Family First, by William Doherty, Ph.D., and Barbara Carlson, Owl Books, 2002. Offers tips and strategies for making more family togetherness time, from eating dinner together to reading at bedtime.
- Games for Toddlers to Teens
- How to Hold a Family Game Night That's Fun for Everyone
- Get more Family Game Night ideas among the National Parenting Publications Awards-winners.