The Power of Board Games

Who knew board games could be the answer to our problem? 

boy plays connect 4, Albuquerque Mom's Blog

My husband and I both work full-time jobs that often demand time and attention outside of normal working hours. We OFTEN feel like failures when it comes to spending quality time with our kids.

Last year, one of our family goals was to spend time together via a weekly game night. We failed MISERABLY. As we talked about where we went wrong, we realized there were several reasons: 

First, we were both saying, “YES” to OTHER things that weren’t part of our goals. We were both working full-time, then working on online classes and extra stuff in the evenings and into the early hours of the morning. We were both taking on so much extra that we were struggling to do the stuff that mattered to us.

Every “yes” we gave was a “no” to something else.

Second, we had planned to have game night on Friday nights. But we were completely drained by the time the end of the week arrived. The times we did set up a board game, one of us would be doing an assignment on the side, or making dinner, or filling the washing machine with forks and the dishwasher with socks. I know you’ve been there…

We both agreed. Spending quality time with our kids needed to move WAY UP on our “to do” lists. We understand there are many ways to spend time together, but we chose board games because of the life lessons one can learn and opportunities for conversation they allow.

Board Games have the power to help our family grow closer together.

My husband and I have the opportunity to teach our kids about winning, losing, and good sportsmanship in a safe and non-threatening setting. Each child works on setting goals, planning, clear communication, and organization (all super important life skills). Games can increase reading skills, provide the ability to appreciate humor, or teach math skills. While some games encourage a cut-throat, tough-decision-making stance, other games encourage partnership or collaboration. All board games increase a child’s ability to focus! What’s not to love about that?

The Youngest is Learning, Albuquerque Mom's Blog

At first I tried to make sure one of the kids won the game so they would feel good about themselves. But I realized this mentality was shooting us in the foot. Do I want my kids to think I’m not smart enough to win? Do I want them to think that everything they want will just be handed to them in life? No, I want them to see that sometimes hard work and good planning make all the difference in the world. AND, I want them to see that sometimes people get lucky and no one could have expected the outcome.

Through trial and error, we’ve made a few changes to make sure board games are a priority.

1) It doesn’t have to be game NIGHT.

One evening, SOMEONE (not saying any names) was super tired. When they didn’t get to make a move they wanted, they shook the table, drinks went everywhere, game pieces went flying, and nobody was happy!

Playing in the evening means that someone is tired. And everyone tends to be a little less gracious and understanding when tired. The earlier in the day we play, the better things go.

2) It is best if we leave the house.

**NOTE: This piece was written before we were practicing social distancing, the governor issued the stay-at-home instruction, and many establishments were closed. We hope we are able to use this tip some time soon. Even if we can’t leave the house, we can eliminate distractions. 

We made this decision when SOMEONE (again not saying any names) got up to change the laundry in the middle of a game.

Playing away from home allows us to be focused on what we’re doing and ensure the whole family is in it together. The laundry, toilets, and dishes can wait. When we go out, no one is grading papers or doing laundry. Our children are the priority, and they understand we are there to play with them!

We make sure we have all eaten before we go so we don’t have to order full meals and spend a gazillion dollars. My favorite place to play is the coffee shop up the street from our house. I don’t feel bad for taking a waitress’ table for two hours, and we don’t have to order full meals. Another idea is to try this Guide to Kids Eating Free to find a great place to go!

The Power of Game Night

3) Either way, whether we win or lose, it’s our attitude that determines how we move on and how people feel about us. 

Our favorite family board games include Catan, Ticket to Ride, Munchkin, Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit, Connect 4, and Battleship.

For the games that require a lot of reading, we team our non-reader up with a reader. When the level of difficulty is too much for our littlest one, adjustments or additions can be made. For instance, when we played Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit, I wrote question cards in between turns specifically for Asher. His cards focused on the basic Who? What? and Where? of the first book/movie. (He beat me last time we played. I think it’s time to make his cards more difficult.)

The Youngest was the lucky winner, Albuquerque Mom's Blog

Playing board games together has been a game changer for our family.

What’s your favorite way to spend quality time with your kids? Do you have any great games to recommend?


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the power of board games, ABQ Moms

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