As much as it’s hard to accept, parenting young kids really does go by in a flash, doesn’t it? It seems like they’re toddlers… then they’re in like 5th grade… middle school passes in 2.5 seconds, and then poof! You’ve got giant young adults walking around your kitchen and you nostalgically think about when they took their first steps in that very same spot. And knowing that this time is fleeting, parents often try to capture family memories whenever they can. Well, as a mom of a soon-to-be high schooler, a middle schooler, and a 4th grader who grows like a weed, I can tell you first-hand that one of the best ways to get everyone together for some good old fashioned family fun is with a family game night.
How to choose the best family game night ideas
Family game night can come in lots of different forms. If you have preschoolers, family games or activities might last 20 minutes. Teenagers, however, might be willing to invest in a board game that lasts all night. Also, consider how many family members will be playing as some games really need four or more players to make them work, whereas you can play a classic like UNO or Candy Land with as few as two players. And finally, pick your games based on the type of night you’re hoping for. Looking for a raucous evening full of fart jokes? Cards Against Maturity is a good fit. Hoping for a quick and easy quiet game before bedtime? Try something like Guess Who? But no matter what game you choose, expect lots of laughs, a little competitive banter, and—the best part—family memories you’ll treasure forever.
Here are 20 games for family night the kids and grownups will love.
Best games for younger kids
Yeti in My Spaghetti is like Jenga for littles. The concept is the same — each player pulls a piece of “spaghetti” and if the Yeti falls into the bowl on your turn, you’ve lost. This one is a great option for families with young kids as it’s suitable for ages 4+ (but I can speak from experience that older kids love it too!)
Nothing beats a good old family game of charades, but sometimes you can be stuck for ideas or have young kids playing who aren’t reading yet. Best for ages 4+, Charades for Kids offers three different levels of play—from pictures all the way up to the most challenging of choices—so that kids of all ages can participate and feel engaged in this game night classic.
It’s not hard to see why kids continue to love this one, generation after generation. I mean, it’s based on CANDY. Today’s version looks a bit different—the pictures are brighter, there’s an Ice Palace now that’s very Frozen-esque and a creepy area called Licorice Lagoon that I don’t remember as a kid, but the basics are the same—match your card to the next square and get to Candy Castle before anyone else!
Best games for older kids
Okay, not technically a “board” or “card” game, but as a mom to teens, I had to include Jackbox as some of our best family game nights include it. Each player needs their own device like a phone, iPad, or computer, and the rest is easy to follow along. There are endless game choices to play in the various party packs that Jackbox offers, but trust me, between the drawing competitions, trivia games, and games like Fibbage and Faking It where you have to figure out who is lying and who isn’t, there’s something for everyone!
Rather than games like Jenga and Yeti in My Spaghetti where you take objects away until the structure falls, Suspend flips it the other way—here, you build as you go. Keep adding, balancing, and sculpting your creation and see how big, how high, how intricate you can get before the whole thing topples down.
For families who love longer strategy and building style games, Catan is a fan favorite. Suitable for ages 10+, Catan comes with 19 hexagonal terrain tiles, 20 wooden settlements, and 60 wooden roads (among many, many other pieces) so settle in for a good time with this one because you’re about to build a whole new civilization.
Best for ages 8+, Ticket to Ride is a great introduction to the more challenging strategy / building game style geared toward older kids. The idea is to build your railroad between cities, but be careful because you’ll lose points if you don’t successfully complete the route on your destination ticket!
Another game focused on strategy and building, Carcassone is geared toward kids 7+. Set in medieval times, each player will add tiles to the countryside around a fortified city, building roads, extending rivers, adding farmers and even monasteries as they try to outsmart their opponents by the end.
By far the most challenging of board games on the list, Scythe is best suited for kids 14+, and, having played it with my teenager, I can you it’s a time commitment and only for the true game-lovers among us. Set in 1920s Europe, each player represents a faction that’s trying to protect their territory while warring with others. This one takes a couple hours to play, so get comfy, take no prisoners, and you might just end up ruling the world.