Family Game Nights
Why are Family Game Nights Important?
On our usual aimless drive around the neighborhood during the weekend with the kids, we found a new toy store called “Funky Monkey”. Since almost everything for kids is closed these days, we decided to go have a look. My husband assumed that it was probably like Target with frills and steep prices. He was right, but it didn’t stop us.
We were welcomed with a nice, clean and open ambiance. There were dedicated sections housing different types of items: books, crafts, puzzles, and board games. The kids went crazy when they were offered to have one small item from the store.
As the kids were looking, I perused the crafts and the board games sections. I longed to be a family that plays and spends quality time together. As I picked up a few board games, I recalled nights of screaming kids yelling at one another and crying off to the side because they had lost. Our game nights ended with my kids blaming each other for cheating and no one being happy in the end. I realized that I have to be cognizant of not picking complicated games that fail to cater to the younger kids, who don’t quite understand some concepts yet.
After having a brain dump of all of my emotions recalling unsuccessful game nights, I thought to myself: “Do I really want to go down that road once again?” All the games looked so shiny and beckoned me to give it another chance.
My eyes fell upon Scrabble. I’m partial to Scrabble as I love this game of forming words. My kids’ ages range from three to eight. Two of them don’t know how to form words, so traditional Scrabble has not done well in my household. I saw a Scrabble for kids and the age suggestion was five and up. It looked promising. I decided to shell out $19.99 and give it a go.
Kids bought their usual knick knacks, which we have enough of in the house. One bought some fake money. One bought some play dough. Another one bought a stuffed animal. No one paid attention to the Scrabble. The kids were absorbed with their items of choice that day.
The space between homework and dinner time gave us an opportunity to try out the new Scrabble the following day. I opened up the box and invited the kids to come play. Memories of a not so distant past with crying kids came back to me. Did I really want to do this? I wanted to spend quality time with my kids rather than have them be on their individual screens. In the spirit of a New year and recalling my resolutions of working to foster a connected family, I thought to keep going. Besides, just think of all the new things they will learn through play: letter recognition, forming words, and the alphabet. That was motivation enough for me to start the game.
As I assembled the board and arranged all the letter cubes, I remembered that Haya is only able to recognize letters and hasn’t learned how to form words. I opted for playing the beginners version of the game where children form words on a pre-made template on the board. It took out the guess work of making and forming words. There were four tokens that were to represent each player. A bit of a scuffle happened in deciding who will get which character. And so it began. I decided to stay out of it. The kids managed on their own and I got the boring green left over character, which was fine by me. Anything to have some ease.
I started reading the rules of the game. Players were given seven letter tiles each. The oldest player was to go first. I felt I was rewarded for getting stuck with the boring character. On the Scrabble board, there were words already formed. It looked like a crossword puzzle filled out. The words in the puzzle were outlined by four different colors corresponding to the colors of the characters. Around the crossword puzzle was a grid of numbers from 1-44. On each turn, the player was to match two letter tiles to the written letters on the board. After their turn, the players had to replenish their tile supply, so that each had seven tiles for their next turn. When a player was able to make a word, they received a point and would advance one space on the number grid on the board. If the player formed a word inside the square of their corresponding colored character, the player would get two points. The game finished once all the tiles were used up and no more were left. The player farthest along in the board won the game.
I understood the instructions and then attempted to explain it to my kids. Haya at this point became very excited and started placing her body all over the board. I reminded myself that each of these kids have their own capacities and they will not behave in the way I would like them to. We proceeded with intermittent disruptions from Haya.
I went first since I am the oldest. I placed down my two tiles that I was allotted to place. I replenished my tile supply so that I had seven again. Rihab set down her tiles and then it was Rania’s turn. It was a seamless process since both of them recognize letters and they knew where to place each one. Haya had a bit of trouble and then she got the gist of it. She was so excited that she started placing all her 7 tiles in one turn. We rolled with it and made a special allowance for her.
It became interesting as words started forming and we attained points. I was the first one to get points to the dismay of my children. “What’s this? How come I’m not getting any words?” Rihab complained. I assured her that she will form words soon enough. Rania by luck was forming words and advancing on the board. Haya, by her sheer force of going berserk with her tiles on each turn, formed many words. She kept displacing the tiles and we had to fix it each time. Soon enough Haya lost interest and ran away. I was then left to play for her and I strategically placed the tiles on the board so I could form words when it was my turn. To be fair, I helped my kids in forming words too so that it was a balanced game.
On one particular turn, I made two words and got bonus points for which I was allowed to move two spaces. I was now ahead of Rania.
“Stop cheating, Mama!” Rania exclaimed.
“What do you mean, Rania?” I asked.
“You should be behind me. You are moving more than you are allowed to.” Rania said.
“I made two words in one go, so I can move two spaces.” I presented my case.
“I know that. You are still cheating.” Rania counter attacked.
“How?” I asked.
“You should be here.” Rania placed my character from space 13 to space 12.
“Why?” I probed further.
“You were on 11 and got 2 points. Now you should be on 12”. Rania explained.
Rihab and I realized that it was an addition problem Rania was facing. We explained it to her about five times. Rania held the board in her two hands and it felt as if she was going to shake it all up and end the game. We waited with bated breaths. I’m not sure if she understood the reasoning for me being ahead, but in a moment of decision, she let go of the board and decided to keep playing.
The game was heating up. Rihab soon began to realize that she might not win and a pout formed on her face.
“Isn’t this fun? I love spending time with you guys.” I said to redirect our attention.
“Yeah. Me, too.” Rihab agreed.
Towards the end, Rania was the clear winner. Haya was second even though she had thrown in the towel long ago. Rihab and I were tied. It was a nice segue into dinner.
We didn’t learn anything academic. We just learned to tolerate one another and be in each other’s presence. Although we are one family, we are each individuals with our own set of perspectives and different levels of perceptions. We are each at a different skill level. Playing board games or any sort of games with our family members and our friends is an invitation that for this time frame, we are going to play by the rules set out by the game. The rules might be against our favor and sometimes be in our favor. Each time, we exercise grace and patience. We accept who the winner is and that doesn’t make anyone any less. What mattered was the time spent together, the connections formed with one another, and learning to advance along side each other. Playing games together as a family can provide a good ground for exercising how we show up in the world.
What are some of your favorite games to play with your family and friends? Does it bring you closer or drive you farther apart?