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Fun and Simple Games for Family Game Night

Family Game Night Ideas

Family game nights can lead to plenty of laughs and silliness together. But they’re also a great way to teach kids important social and emotional skills. Board games and active games provide a positive atmosphere and teach impulse control, following directions, sharing, and cooperation. And with their favorite people (your whole family!) taking part in the fun, children will jump right in and practice these skills without even knowing it. Here are a few games to reinforce these skills at home. 

Red Light, Green Light 

Red Light, Green Light is great for teaching and developing your child’s impulse control, or their ability to stop and think, then(re)act! Choose one person to be the stoplight. It’s probably best to start with an adult. Have everyone else stand in a line on one side of the room or yard. 

The person who’s the stoplight turns their back to the line. When the stoplight says, “green light,” everyone in line starts running toward the stoplight. When the stoplight says, “yellow light,” everyone should slow down to a walk. Yellow means a red light is coming. 

Finally, when the stoplight says, “red light,” they quickly turn around to face the others. Everyone should freeze when they hear “red light.” If the stoplight sees anyone moving, they must return to the starting line. The first person to tag the stoplight wins and becomes the stoplight for the next round. 

Your child might not yet have the concept of the game mastered and most likely will run on the wrong color or only pause briefly on red before continuing to the end. And that’s perfectly natural! You can encourage your child by verbally giving them the action along with the color. Try starting off by saying “Red light, stop!” or “Green light, go!” or “Yellow light, slow!” 

When changing between lights be sure to spend more time on the desirable lights (green and yellow) and use the harder one (red) sparingly.  

Freeze Dance

This game is great for getting their wiggles out—indoors or outdoors! Play some music and invite your child to dance to it however they like. When the music stops, everyone freezes in place.  

You might also agree together on difference types of poses you’ll try. Maybe the first pose is on the floor, and the second is standing tall. Maybe one pose is a silly face and stance.  

For older children, Google pictures together of different poses. Create a book of poses to reenact. For every round, show your child the pose to mimic. The only catch is, they can’t strike the pose until you stop the music. This way they learn a little about impulse control. 

Family Says

This game is just like Simon Says, but you replace Simon with the name your child uses to refer to you (mom, dad, grandma, uncle, etc). Give your child directions and ask them to follow them. The only rule is they don’t do the action unless it’s prefaced by “[Family] says ...” It’s really that easy! 

Keep in mind that this game will help children use their “listening ears.” Be sure to offer lots of praise when they complete the task. 

Age-appropriate board games 

When choosing board games, be sure they are age appropriate. Games built for specific ages are designed with the skills kids are learning in mind and help them learn to listen and follow directions, take turns, share, and cooperate.  

Family game nights aren’t free play. They’re structured and require focus for following instructions, which can help your child focus in other areas of their life, like class! And remember, it’s OK to let your child lose a game or two. When the emotions of being upset or disappointed happen, you can help coach your child on expressing their emotions in a safe way.