Gaming, on a School Night?

New book bags, the smell of fresh highlighters and markers along with new lunch boxes can only mean one thing. School is back in session. Our three kids are back in school and for Erin and I as parents, we’re excited about the routine that comes with a new school year. Summers are great for late nights, long weekends and doing things that we often don’t have time to do during the year. But, after a couple months, that fun wears us down into a husk of a human-being.

We find ourselves excited for our kids to get back on a consistent sleep schedule and enjoying more low-key nights at the house. Since our Summers are like the wild west, how do we reorient our family as the new school year starts?

In this post, we’ll talk about 5 ways that families can still include game time on a school night.

1) Filler Games Are Your Friend

Chances are that I’m not going to get the family to sit down and play Colors of Paris on a school night. Between making dinner, checking homework and signing the myriad of documents that are sent home, there isn’t a lot of time to dig into an hour long game. Filler games like Drop It, Bugs on Rugs, Draftosaurus and Dinosaur Tea Party can still scratch that gaming itch without derailing your family schedule.

On school nights, we know that smaller games are the right fit for our family. We’ll play something that has a quick setup and clean up time so the game doesn’t take too much of our night. It’s a good idea to have an area on your shelf that has these filler games that fit the new norm during the school year. Let your kids know what games fit into the amount of time you have for that night and let them pick what comes to the table.

2) Dinner and a Game

Unless your family is eating nachos, sloppy joes or hot wings, you could try combining dinner time with game time. Our family has really enjoyed playing Fuji Flush, The Potion, Sushi Go and Deep Sea Adventure as we eat dinner. Some meals are not a good fit for this dinner/game combo, but if your family plans out meals for the week, this might be something you keep in mind.

These quick 15-20 minutes games are also a great fit for bringing to dinner when you go out to eat. We’ll often take one of these smaller games to our favorite Mexican restaurant and squeeze in a game before or during dinner. It’s a way that we can all interact together at the end of the school/work day.

3) Make a Plan to Game

It’s so easy to become bogged down in the new schedule and many times family fun can be pushed to the back burner. One thing that Erin and I do during the school year is meal planning. We’ll make sure we have the groceries that we need to make the meals we planned for the week. We’ll know that Monday is shepherd’s pie and Tuesday is pizza. Making a plan to fit gaming into the schedule is a great way to make sure that family time doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Plan one night during the week where the TV doesn’t come on. This is the night of the week were everyone makes sure things are done before 7 pm so you can all game together. We’ve found that when we fail to be intentional about family time, we usually look back asking ourselves “When was the last time we just sat and played a game together?”

A couple years ago, we made the decision to eliminate video games on school nights. The result of this new rule meant that the TV was on less during the week, homework was getting finished and we spent more time with the kids. Maybe planning a once a week game night where the phones and devices are put away is a good fit for your family as the new school year starts.

4) Game Time Can Be a Reward

Since our kids have gotten older, assigning chores is a way of life now. Loading the dishwasher, folding clothes, taking out trash, cleaning the living room and putting away clothes are some of the items the kids have to do. What if knocking out these chores meant that they get a vote for their favorite game to play with the family?

You can do this with a chart or just using sticky notes. At the beginning of the week, set out a couple games that would be a good fit for the family. Each time a kid completes a chore, they can vote of the game they want to play. Finishing more chores means they get more votes for the game they want to play. This might be a great incentive to get the job done and lock in their vote for what game the family plays that week.

5) Bed Time is Game Time

One of my favorite things about school starting back is that I get to spend time with my wife. When everything goes according to plan, I get a full 90 minutes to see Erin. No kids asking “where are my shoes” or letting us know “I forgot I have a project due tomorrow”. When we get to incorporate gaming into this time, it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever.

Sometimes game time may only happen once the kids hit the bed. If you’re fortunate enough to have a spouse that games with you, make plans to incorporate this into your week. While I could play 2-3 games a night and stay up until midnight, I know that playing 1 game a week is more realistic. Erin and I are big fans of 2-player games like Onitama, Duelosaur Island and Santorini. While they support higher player counts, we’ve found that The Bloody Inn, Arboretum and Castles of Burgundy Dice are some of our favorites when we have a “gaming date” together.

Put a “gaming date” on the calendar and make time to play a game together once the kids go to sleep. That intentional game time can be really good for your relationship.

When your family gets back on the school routine, how do you fit gaming into your schedule? We would love to hear from you on how your family games together. Post in the comments below and give the readers even more suggestions.

Ryan Gutowski

I'm a huge fan of strategy games and pretty much anything that involves "city building". My love of board games goes back to my childhood and passion for building relationships with others.

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