If you have been wanting to start a game or puzzle night in your family, then this is your lucky week! Families who already have a tradition know that the activity is really secondary to the time shared together.
The time together – talking and laughing, planning your next move, solving a problem, teaming up with a sibling or parent – those are the things that make Game or Puzzle Night the best. They also happen to be the built-in literacy elements, but I won’t tell if you won’t!
Here are four things to keep in mind as you plan your new tradition:
- There are no right or wrong games. Scrabble isn’t any better than Candyland … especially if your family doesn’t like word games! If you want to play Monopoly on the Xbox, Wii bowling, or Laser Tag – those are cool, too!
- Team up! Just because the box says “4 players” doesn’t mean you can’t be two teams of 2 players. Make it fun for everyone.
- No purchases required. Got a basketball? Make up a game! How about Charades?
- You decide how to play and for how long. Whether you want to follow the existing rules, make up your own, or mash different games together (like an obstacle course), your family gets to create the event.
Not sure where to start? Check out the list of easy-to-do game ideas at the end of this post.
Ideas for Elementary Readers
These are readers who are building functional skills: identifying, organizing, and differentiating what they see and hear. [Think: learning to recognize that a “b” is similar to but positions itself differently from a “p.”]
Some of the best choices for developing readers don’t involve letters and words, but instead, focus on shapes or sounds. Here’s what you might look for and how it fits with literacy development.
- Games and puzzles that help them practice identification are great choices. For example, Candyland and Twister use colors and objects to tell players what to do or where to go.
- Larger game/puzzle pieces help build fine motor skills, which they use for holding writing tools.
- Games that promote hand-eye coordination help with building writing skills (taking an idea from our head and putting it on paper.) Cornhole, basketball, and horseshoes are great for this.
Fewer rules are best, as children in this age group tend to struggle when if there are more than 3 steps to a process or action. You might also check out these ideas for Noncompetitive Games for Kids (no winners, no losers) at Mindful Teachers.
Ideas for Independent Readers
Now that they have mastered functional skills, independent readers are building “deeper” skills: sequencing, comprehension, and prediction. Games don’t have to be complex or complicated but should incorporate strategy, communication, and fun. Life-size versions of games like Yahtzee, Tic Tac Toe, Memory, et al take “old” games to a whole new level.
- Puzzles with pieces that show only part of the picture help promote conceptualization and problem-solving.
- Cooperative and team games require communication, with both speaking and listening skills.
- Games involving choice (and consequence) encourage players to anticipate what might happen or what another player may do. These critical thinking and analytical skills support executive functioning.
Although not a personal proponent of lots of screen time, video games with deep story arcs can help comprehension, as players need to remember events and places, as well as pay attention to self-preservation needs. Multi-player games add communication to this, as well.
Resources for Family Game Night
- 6 Cooperative Games for Family Game Night @ ThinkFun (link to website)
- 15 Fun and Cheap Family Game Night Ideas and Board Games @ Money Crashers (link to website)
- 37 Fun Family Game Night Ideas and Board Games @ Money Smart Family (link to website)
- Life Size Games with Teens by Bridget R. Wilson # What Is Bridget Reading (link to blog)
- Benefits of Cooperative Games by Suzanne Lyons M.A., M.A. (link to PDF)
- Non-Competitive Active Games for Kids by Catherine Holeko @ Very Well Family (link to website)