Families are still spending large amounts of time at home. Are they spending that time together, though? Many of us have turned to tech and rely on it to get us through the day. We need our devices for work and school, and they’re an easy fix for entertainment. All you have to do is turn on the TV, play a video game, or stream something on your phone.
The worst part is, it’s not just the adults who are increasingly turning to tech. Now, kids get their first phone at a fairly young age. Unless parents choose wisely, these can be equipped with all sorts of digital distractions. It can be challenging to get the whole family to focus on the same thing at the same time.
Thankfully, there is a solution: host a tech-free game night! Think you’ll get pushback from the fam? Don’t worry. In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know to pull it off.
Set Ground Rules
Before starting game night, set some rules that everyone has to follow. First and foremost, you’ll want to establish guidelines around tech. Are family members allowed to have their phones with them but on silent? What happens if you get a call, email, or text during game time? It’s important to figure all that out before taking the first turn.
What you decide will depend on what works best for your family. Above all, keep the rules fair. If the kids aren’t allowed to have their phones or other devices with them, then neither are you. With everyone following the same rules, you’re more likely to get buy-in from reluctant family members.
Schedule game night for a time when no one is expecting an important call or message. It will be easier for everyone to relax and have fun if they’re not afraid of missing something. Once you have your tech rules set, you’re ready to pick your games.
Choose Low- or No-Tech Games
It would defeat the purpose of tech-free family game night to play a video game or something high tech. Instead, focus on low- or no-tech board and card games. There are plenty of options to choose from, and new games are created every year. Most of us have a game shelf in a closet somewhere, so pick something from there.
If you don’t have games like Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, or Uno available, there are still many choices. Options like Pictionary and Charades don’t require special equipment beyond pencil and paper, if that. They’re also great for team play if you have a big family or younger kids who need help.
Remember, this is atech-free game night, so avoid turning to your phone for assistance. That means no checking words in Scrabble or math in Yahtzee.
Keep Each Other Accountable
If you slip up and pull out your phone, let your family know it’s OK to gently call you out. This also goes the other way. Make it clear that all family members have to follow the established rules. It’s no fun if they apply to some and not others.
Avoid hurt feelings by making tech enforcement a secondary game. Create a silly traveling trophy that goes to the person with the fewest violations of the tech-free rule. Incentivizing family members to stay off devices can help enforce the behavior until it becomes a habit.
For some families, this will be a challenge. We’re all used to being available during many hours of the day. Many of us also tend to reach for a device when there’s a lull in action or conversation. By keeping each other accountable, you’re teaching the family responsibility. You’re also letting them know that each one of them is important to you.
Create a Game Choice Rotation
Everyone is going to have a different opinion on what game to play. Various family members will also have definite ideas about what games they don’t want to play. Curb any fighting over the decision process by setting up a game choice rotation. It’ll keep everything fair and everyone honest.
Whoever’s turn it is to pick the game gets to choose, no matter what. This ensures that everyone — from the youngest to the oldest — has a chance to play something they are good at or enjoy. When everyone has an equal chance to call the shots, there’s a shared sense of ownership over the event.
Create a physical copy of the rotation and keep it with your games. This way, you can refer to it if there’s ever a question of whose turn it is to pick. By having a policy that everyone has already agreed to, you can quell any arguing.
Make It a Special Event
Do what you can to make game night a special event. It’s not something you do every night, so you shouldn’t treat it that way.
Provide special game night drinks and snacks that you don’t typically have. Family game night is a great excuse for a treat or favorite meal. Maybe game night equals pizza night, or it’s a night everyone can have dessert. Perhaps it’s a hors d’oeuvres and mocktail kind of event.
Of course, food isn’t the only way to make it special. You could decide that everyone comes to game night in their pajamas. Or you could come up with costumes or accessories based on the game you’re playing. (Picture Professor Plum in a smoking jacket for a game of Clue.)
Use game night as an opportunity to be as fun and silly as you want. You’re making time to create unforgettable memories with your family. Instead of using your phone to snap a picture, opt for an oldie-but-goodie Polaroid shot. This way you can capture the moment without breaking the tech-free rules you created for the night.
With luck, family game night will become a regular occurrence. When you’re first getting started, try doing it monthly and see whether it sticks. If it does, set a game night once a week. It’s something fun that everyone can benefit from and excitedly anticipate.
Spending more time at home can be stressful. It can also make everyone run for the nearest tech devices just for a distraction. That’s OK to do sometimes, but don’t let it become the norm. Regularly scheduled unplugged time will do your family good. Focus on connecting with one another. That’s what being a family is all about.