How Can I Have Family Game Night?

It was Friday. I had a pretty productive day at work. I stayed busy and finished up a couple lingering tasks. I was feeling very accomplished. Let’s be honest, most days I’m exhausted leaving work and my patience is already shot before even stepping foot inside the house. My wife and I are usually just in survival mode until we put the kids to bed. But not this day. I was feeling energized and excited that it was the weekend. I was going to let the older kids stay up past bed time to play some board games. Maybe we would play a tried and true favorite like King of Tokyo; or maybe we’d dive back in to Sailor Moon Crystal Dice Challenge, which we recently got; or maybe we’d finally get Jungle Joust to the table. However… it was not meant to be. After I got off work, my wife informed me that my oldest daughter would be going to bed early and my oldest son would not be getting any desert tonight. They misbehaved, lied, weren’t kind to other siblings, etc.

Well, crap. There goes game night. Dad can’t really reward them with staying up late and having fun when Mom has already laid down the law.

So, real talk: being a parent is hard, man. I know my wife and I aren’t exactly playing on easy mode, having 6 children in 7 years. Even something as simple as wanting to have fun and play games with them can be an impossible task. I have so many games I need to review that are waiting to get to the table just because life gets in the way. How can I better prioritize game night when I feel like I’m barely keeping it together as a sane, responsible adult?

So, I’m going to look at some easy steps we can take to be able to play games more often.

  1. Get your spouse on board.
    I know this one seems simple. But I think one reason why it’s hard for me to play games regularly, is because I’m the only one that knows when I’m wanting to play games. Maybe the answer is to have a regularly scheduled night every week/month. If you have a family calendar hanging, write on it and circle a day. Maybe it’s just as simple as sending a text while at work. “Hey, I’m itching to play some games soon. When can we?”
    I know for me, a lot of times my wife doesn’t realize I wanted to play games because I didn’t say anything. Maybe if I got her on board, she could use that as a carrot on a string to dangle in front of the children throughout the day to make sure their attitudes stay in check. Or maybe she knows what day they don’t have anything planned, so it’d be ok to stay up a little later the night before.
  2. Don’t wait for everyone to be there.
    When my older two children got in trouble on that fateful Friday, maybe I should have just let the next oldest stay up and play a game with just him. Every game night doesn’t have to be the greatest and most complete game night ever. If something comes up, and not everyone can play, I think it’s better to just enjoy what you can instead of waiting for everyone.
    This isn’t as big for us right now, but when all the kids start having extra-curricular activities, it might be hard for everyone to be together for a couple hours at a time. If someone has something else going on, it’s okay to play games with the ones that are there.
  3. Power through even when you don’t feel like it.
    This is probably the biggest one for me. “Ugh… work sucked. I’m just not in the mood for games” or “I just need to chill and watch something mindless” are typical excuses for me. And there are valid reasons for being overwhelmed and just needing that down time instead of game night, but I think I use those excuses WAY more than I actually need to.
    Having someone there to call you out on bogus reasons and keep you accountable is helpful too. That goes back to getting your spouse on board. I can’t tell you how many times I decided to NOT do something or go somewhere, only to have my wife convince me that I should go. And usually, she’s right. I do enjoy myself. Game night is the same… maybe we just need that someone to tell us “No, don’t quit on this.”
  4. Say no to other plans.
    Some of my favorite memories of playing games with the kids are when we have snow days. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally work will either get cancelled for me, or I can take a short-notice personal day because the kids have a snow day. It’s so nice to have a whole day where we don’t have other plans and we can just play games. If only there were more days like that. You know… my work gives me 2 days off every week. It’s called a weekend. But every single weekend we have other plans. Maybe it’s a birthday party, or some community event, or any other number of social plans that pop up.
    Sometimes it’s ok to say no when you’re invited to something. Part of the reason our lives get so busy is because we let it. Maybe we need to stop trying to figure out how to fit game night in to our busy lives, and just make our lives less busy.


So, what do you guys think? Are these good steps to take to ensure game night might happen with a little more regularity? Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Maybe there’s something that you realized or a change you made in how you approached game night that made it easier to schedule. Please let me know! And maybe I’ll be able to write a follow-up article about how these steps helped save game night in my house.

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