Family Game Night

By Mary

One of our favorite morale boosters is family game night. We’ve discovered a bunch of games over the years that are fun for large numbers of people. Some games are totally chance and can easily be played by people of all different ages. If there is an element of skill involved, you can often weight the game so that even the less-skilled younger players have a chance at winning. You can do this by giving an older person more cards or more chips that he or she must get rid of before winning. Or you can allow a younger player a little more latitude with the way he lays down his cards.

In UNO, you lay cards down in sequence, matching either the color or the number of the card laid down before it. There are also draw cards and wild cards that allow you to change the color of card being currently played. When we play UNO with toddlers, we just let them lay down whichever card they want, whether it matches or not. We play on whatever they put down. Basically the two year old is just another ‘wild’ card. Soon enough, they’ll learn their colors and be able to play by the ‘real’ rules.

Apples to Apples is a funny, fast-moving game and can be played by many people of any age. Though it is a language-based game, it doesn’t matter in the least if the little kids can’t read the cards they lay down. Often the cards they select by chance are just as funny/applicable as the ones carefully chosen by people who can actually read.

Scum is another fun game for a group of at least four people, and can be played by anyone who recognizes their numbers. It is best to play this game at a table. During the course of the game, there is a lot of movement around the table, with some people assigned to be king, queen, scum, and assistant scum. You can find complete game instructions here:

Dominoes is a fairly simple game, though preschoolers will probably need a bit of help counting their dots and arranging their dominoes in sequence. When we play this game with several young ones, we just assign the youngest ones a ‘handler’ to give them advice and help them during the game. If you have two sets of dominoes, you may be able to coax your very youngest kids to just sit alongside the ‘real’ players and simply play with the second set of dominoes.

Dutch Blitz is an extremely fast moving game for up to four people. You can get the cards at  . This game is almost identical to Nertz, a game which you can play with four different decks of cards. (Nertz rules:

Phase Ten is a card game we enjoy at our house that can be played with lots of people. It is a little more complex, and most kids probably need to be 6 or 7 to play without a lot of help. But it is lots of fun, and is my most-enjoyed way to play with my kids on a quiet afternoon. I’ve found that making time to play games with my kids is a great way to inject more fun into family life.
Mary is the mom of 10 children and blogs at She has written two books: A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family and Family Feasts for $75 a Week.

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