The holiday season is a great opportunity to spend more time with family. With children off from school, slower work schedules (hopefully), and earlier sunsets, you might find yourself with more free time indoors with your family. Encouraging your children to read and play with one another is a great use of this time, but we also recommend starting some family traditions that allow for bonding experiences together. 

Playing family games is a great way to do this! There are so many different wonderful and enriching games that you can play together with your family. These games can help you bond with each other, laugh, think, be silly, and just have fun. Use this guide to get inspiration and stock up on family games and ideas for the holiday season.

Photo of family time

Importance of family time

Before diving into the best family games for the holiday season, family vacations, and beyond, let’s outline why it is important to spend time together with family. There are so many benefits of spending time with family for your children and yourself.

  • Improved mental health. Spending time with family helps both children and their parents with their mental health. Studies show that family time reduces the risk of anxiety and depression because of the emotional support.
  • Stronger academic performance. When children spend time together with their family, they gain communication skills and learn more about the importance of education. They can see positive role models in their older siblings and parents and get opportunities for help and support when they need it.
  • Better behavior. Family time helps children learn positive behavior cues and lowers their desire to participate in “bad” behavior at school and in other scenarios. Plus, an increase in time spent with family gives children more opportunity to talk about their feelings, get advice, and learn healthy and positive coping mechanisms.
  • Increased confidence. Spending time with family gives children a confidence boost and helps them improve their self-esteem. They can see positive self-talk modeled by their parents and older siblings.
  • Reduced stress. Both children and adults who spend time with family report lower stress levels than those who do not. They learn the importance of confiding in family and friends instead of unhealthy outlets.

Benefits of playing games

Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of family time, you might be wondering where games fall into the mix. Games are not only a great way to keep your family involved and interacting during family time, but also there are a lot of general benefits to playing games for your children and even yourself!

  • Strengthened problem-solving skills. Playing games gives children an opportunity to work on problem-solving and critical thinking skills in a low stakes environment. Competitive or collaborative: Games are helpful for children to practice solving problems.
  • Enhanced conflict resolution. Similarly, interacting with teammates and even competitors can help children learn to be more effective in their conflict resolution. What happens when they get frustrated during the game? This is a great learning opportunity for children.
  • Improved reading and language skills. Games often require children to read and speak through new scenarios. Whether they are picking up cards on a board game, reading suggestions for charades, or something else, they are getting the opportunity to practice these important skills without feeling like they are being tested.
  • Increased creativity. If you choose to play improv games, make believe, or dress-up with your children, they get the chance to be creative and think outside of the box. Let them lead and follow along with their stories and games, even if they don’t make sense!

Best family games

There are so many great games that you can enjoy with your family. Choosing the right game for your family can depend on a lot of different elements like the age of your children, the interests of your family, and the number of people who will be playing. 

Best family games for all ages

  • Exploding Kittens. This is a fun family game that children of all ages can enjoy. The cartoons are wild and will give everyone the giggles from little ones to grandparents. The rules are fairly easy to understand, but if you have younger children playing, you can always put them on a team with an older sibling.
  • Telestrations. A mix of Telephone and Pictionary, players get an original word and then have to draw it. Then the next person needs to draw what they think the word was based on the original drawing and so forth. It’s a great way to have fun and be creative as a family, especially if you have artistic little ones.
  • Spot It! This card game is best for children aged 6 and up. It’s simple: All you need to do is be the first person to spot something specific on the card. The rules are easy to learn, so you can jump right into playing and having fun.
  • Hedbanz. Like Heads Up, but more family friendly, Hedbanz has each player put a card on their headband so others can see it. Then, they ask questions to try to figure out what or who they are. Everyone aged 6 and up can enjoy this game and will have a blast.
  • What Do You Meme? Family. If you have social media obsessed children, they will love the chance to pair funny captions with popular memes and keep everyone laughing!

Best family games for toddlers

  • Zingo! For toddlers aged 4 and up, Zingo! is a great first game to try out. Little ones get the opportunity to practice reading, matching, and spelling, all under the guise of playing a game and having fun as a family.
  • Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game. Good for toddlers as young as 2 or 3, this game has clear instructions and a fun premise. Help your squirrels find acorns and fill their logs up for the winter. Toddlers get to practice reading and listening to directions, fine motor skills, and so much more without even knowing it!
  • Yeti in My Spaghetti. This is a quick and easy game for children as young as 2 years old. The yeti sits on top of a pile of spaghetti noodles and players take turns removing pieces one at a time with the goal of not letting the yeti fall down. It’s simple but fun and silly!
  • Picture Charades. Charades is such a fun game for children and adults because it brings out everyone’s creative side and guarantees a lot of laughs. For toddlers, though, reading the prompts can be difficult. Picture Charades solves that problem by showing pictures instead of words on the card. Now your toddler can join in on the fun!
  • Animals Memory Game. Memory games are great for toddlers because they help their brain development without your child realizing it. Many toddlers love animals as well, so choosing a memory game that features animals can help keep them engaged and having fun.

Best family board games

  • Ticket to Ride. This strategy game is best for children aged 8 and up (and adults, of course!). The goal is to build train routes through problem-solving and strategy. It is competitive and fun for everyone.
  • Just One. With easy to learn instructions and fast game play, Just One is a great family game that will keep you coming back for me. It’s a word association game, which is extra fun for families who spend a lot of time together and have inside jokes.
  • Herd Mentality. A game that asks simple questions and rewards those in the majority, Herd Mentality is a fun game for the whole family. There are not a lot of rules and strategy is minimal so young children will also enjoy this game.
  • Wingspan. Beautifully designed, Wingspan is a great game for nature enthusiasts. The goal is to discover and attract new birds to your nature preserve. There is a lack of direct competition, which might make the game more enjoyable for some families, though there is a point system so you can still compete if that better suits your family.
  • Trivial Pursuit. A classic for a reason! Trivial Pursuit is a wonderful game for families who love trivia. The wide range of topics means anyone has a chance of winning and parents will be surprised by how much their children know.
Photo of best family games

We hope this guide has given you inspiration for your next family game night! If you are looking for in-person and online activities for your children, check out Sawyer and see what our wonderful educators have to offer.

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