Spending time together as a family is so important. My husband and I both grew up in families that played games, and we've experienced the positive benefits of family game night. Now, we hold them regularly with our family and friends. Playing games is a great way to create lasting memories, learn cooperation, teach sportsmanship and have a good time. Finding the right games for your family is the first step to a successful night. Here are some helpful tips.

Age-appropriate games are easy to find. Several game companies make games that appeal to a large age-range. Most games have a recommended age (like 8+) listed on the box. We've found that children a year or two younger than the recommended age can usually play if they are interested. They can also team up with an adult. Beware of party games that are geared just for adults. They tend to have content and questions that are inappropriate for children.

Recommendations from friends or websites can be helpful. Amazon.com has a large selection of games. I often order games from a specialty website called Funagain Games. They list the bestsellers by category and have ample reviews. If you play a game at someone else's house and enjoy it, consider adding it to your collection. Or, if you know a family that plays a lot of games, ask them about their favorites. They might even let you borrow some to try out.

Variety keeps things fun and fresh. Here are some popular game categories and games:


Scattergories, Taboo, Catch Phrase, Apples to Apples, Bananagrams


Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Risk, Dominion


Skip-Bo, Phase 10, face card games, UNO, Set


Yahtzee, Dicecapades, Liar's Dice


Trivial Pursuit, Perfect Ten, Cranium, Scene It, Outburst


Pictionary, Telestrations, Scribblish, Who What Where


Ratuki, Sleeping Queens, Rat a Tat Cat, Memory, Guess Who

If you don't have a budget for buying games, there are still plenty of games to play. Charades is a perfect example. A deck of cards is the base for many fun games like Sevens, Golf, Rummy, Hand and Foot and Nertz. You can also play a version of Pictionary by making up your own things to draw. Rules for many games can be found online, or in a game book.

Consider your family when planning your game night. We sometimes start with the youngest child and work our way up, with each person choosing a game to play. This practice teaches children to wait their turn, enjoy playing what others choose, and ensures every family member has fun.

Other times, we put the littlest children to bed and allow the older children to stay up and play the harder games with us. They like doing something special with Mom and Dad. Most games teach skills like logic, strategy and patterns, and are good for keeping the mind active.

If you have games you're tired of playing, you might just need to take a look at the rule book to find a new way to play. Most games offer different options for game play, including ways to make the game easier, shorter, or more challenging. Several popular party games have versions for younger children. The content is geared towards kids, and the game play is simplified.

After you choose your games, decide on some fun snacks, invite friends over, and enjoy playing games! You won't miss TV or movies one bit, and you're guaranteed to have a good time.

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