5 Tips for Family Game Night with Toddlers
Family board game nights are our favorite family activity. Mixing toddlers into family board game nights poses plenty of challenges. There are some great toddler board games, but most aren’t very interesting/challenging for older kids. We used the following tips to continue to enjoy family board game night while our youngest was a toddler.
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1. Play a toddler board game first
When our toddler started toddling, the entire family board game night was spent playing defence against our toddler. They were either trying desperately to be involved in games that they weren’t capable of playing yet, or trying to destroy whatever game we were playing. It typically ended with a lot frustration all around.
After some parental brainstorming, we decided to try leading with a toddler board game during our family game nights. One of the great things about playing toddler board games is they all play pretty quick. This made playing a quick toddler board game as a prelude to our family game night the easiest solution. Playing your toddler’s game first makes them feel special! It gives them their time in the sun with you and their siblings paying attention to them and doing what they want. It also made them a lot less interested in our ‘older kid’ board games when we got to that point in the game night.
2. Give them an assigned task
Some game nights, even after leading with a toddler board game, our littlest gamers would still be intensely interested in the big kid games. We realized they didn’t care so much about playing the game as they did about being involved, so we would give them their own special task. Rolling the dice for each turn, passing out cards, moving tokens. Finding something that challenged them and kept them occupied made sure everyone had more fun. By doing this, you’re not only keeping your toddler entertained, but also giving them a learning opportunity! Most of these tasks are great for toddlers’ fine motor skills and they are learning to count as well.
3. Have some backup toys
Most family game nights we didn’t have to go down this road, but there were a few nights when our toddler was solely focused on destroying whatever game we were playing no matter how involved we let them be, or how many of their toddler games we played before hand. On those nights we would bust out the back up toys.
What worked well for us was puzzles. They were engaging for our toddlers and easy enough for one of us to pop down and engage with them in between turns. Find the right type of toy to keep your toddler occupied during game night and keep a few of them in rotation as a ‘special’ game night toy.
4. Keep toddlers engaged with cooperative games
With toddlers underfoot on family game night, cooperative games can be your best friend! With cooperative games, none of your moves need to be secret, so it’s easy to talk through your cards with the toddler. Being able to let them ask questions and start to learn about the games is a great way to keep them engaged. In a worst case scenario you can even let someone else take your turn for you in a cooperative game! Since everyone is on the same team, you can do this without hurting the game night experience!
5. Play shorter games and have a rotating ‘toddler entertainer’
Some nights, there is little you can do to stand in the way of the toddler tornado. Sometimes they just need some one on one time to keep them from board throwing and game wrecking. No one at game night wants to be on toddler duty the whole time. We counter this by playing shorter games, and rotating who’s on toddler duty.
Get your family game night back on track
It’s time to get your family game night started or restarted! If you’re still looking for motivation, check out the benefits of family board games. Don’t let the prospect of a toddler with a destructive mindset keep you from a great family game night!
Comment below and let us know how you get through family game nights with toddlers under foot! This is the final post in a series on playing board game with toddlers, check out the first post on reasons to play board game with toddlers and read the whole series.