Successful Family Game Nights

The games we play- I am not talking about the wit battles to get our three-year-old to clean up or eat his food. I am talking the reinstatement of game nights in our household. My husband and I used to enjoy the good old game night- our favorites included strategy games like Settlers of Katan and Age of Empires. These days, we have traded in those games for the likes of Memory or Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel.

I tried playing a memory matching game with Abe one time when he was just about 3 years old, and it was not that much fun for many reasons- mostly, rules are hard for the untamed littles.

With that said, before trying to play games with toddlers, be warned it takes a deal of patience and some sometimes painful perseverance to make the kid plays by the rules.

Games and development

It has been interesting to watch Abe learn about success and failure with games. He is learning to loose and also win. We would like him to gracefully do both… Some days are better than others here.

We are learning to take turns.

He is also learning a little about how things can be unfair. My husband did point out that several of the games we are playing are purely luck. He is not learning strategy with them and the control of success is all in the games’ designed odds.

Puzzles are great for the game play too. You can take turns, help each other, and have control over the success of the activity.

I think game playing is a good example of the idea that kids really do like rules though; they just need to see the fun that can come from order- go figure. They learn the valuable lesson of taking turns. As much as he seems to not like the rules some days, he keeps asking to play.


It is good to be warned you may unleash some competitive traits. Abe, as a reminder is 3.5 years old now, and with these new game nights, I have been surprised at his desire to be the winner. We are now facing Abe attempting to cheat and also tantrums when adversities happen. I am not sure if that desire to win comes naturally, or it is something he has picked up from things we unknowingly message to him. Anyway, there have been tantrums. Game nights have ended in frustration some nights. As I said, it takes some patience, and sometime you just have to put the game away.

The games we are playing

One of my friends and her son came over for a sleep over weekend recently, and brought some board games. When I saw them, I expressed my judgy game playing doubts about Abe due to our experience with the memory game. She brought the classics- Candy Land and Go Fish. She also brought a new one- The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel. To my happy surprise, I was proven wrong. Abe did great. I have been introducing new games to him since.

Here are all of the successful games we have had and a few things I thought noteworthy:

Memory– this was his first game I mentioned. It has taken time, but we have made it work. We have the Finding Dory Memory game. To prevent the messes we used to face, we took out 18 or so cards, so 9 matches, and we hid the rest. Abe does very good with this game now. I may start bumping up the number of cards soon. There is definitely that just right failure:success rate. Too much failure, and they loose interest. Too much success, and they loose interest. Right now 18 is about right though to have him interested in the game.

Candy Land– A classic game which works with colors and a bit of counting. We played once recently, and he took it in GREAT stride when he was close to the castle and had to go all the way back to the ginger bread and then again all the way back to the popsicle. You could tell, he was NOT happy and had to hold the monster in, but he did.

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel– This was a new one from my friend. Abe loved it. Again, he had to take turns and got surprisingly upset about spinning a storm causing the loss of all of the collected acorns. The squirrel tweezers are a little tricky, but are a hand-eye coordination skill. This game works with colors mainly.

Chutes and Ladders– Another classic that Abe really likes. This helps us practice counting, and is just fun.

Tenzi– This game involves 4 sets of 10 die. You just roll until they are all the same number. We just take 4 dice each. Abe doesn’t roll more than one at a time no matter how much I try to model it. I have one every time, and it is not his favorite. But, it is a good subitizing game.

Subitizing Games– I do not really know how to play Dominos, but we set up the falling domino paths, and we also just make patterns with the rule of matching up the numbers. We work with the recognition of numbers.

Puzzles– Don’t forget about puzzles. Puzzles are so good for little kids. Though this isn’t really a game, it still is great to sit together and do. I have posted a video of Abe putting together one of his favorite puzzles which he takes pride doing all by himself now.

These are all of the games we play! Does anyone else have any fun family night games and activities?


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