My husband and I have an older married couple that speaks into our lives on a regular basis, despite living across the country. We consider them to be both treasured friends, as well as valued mentors. Early in our parenting years, they told us, “Children spell love, T I M E.”
While understanding the concept of this phrase at that moment, it has taken years of living to see how this practically works itself out. We are certain that with every year that passes, we will see, with greater clarity, just how valuable this simple phrase is.
There have been many seasons in our life that have been filled with busyness, and many times when we have had to cut down our schedules to make T I M E a priority.
It is not uncommon for us to block off entire Saturdays with a big X on our once paper calendar, now shared icalendar. We label these blocked days “Family Day.” This gives everyone in the family the opportunity to say, “I’m so sorry I can’t attend such and such; we have plans that day.”
If we don’t plan for this time, it slips through our fingers. Among our most favorite family activities is game night, or game day, or even game breakfast. There is just something comforting about pulling out a strategy game alongside a warm cup of coffee, right?
Or maybe that is just the way God uniquely made us. We do not discriminate in our choice of game, we like all kinds of games: board games, party games, card games, and yard games.
We tend to be a competitive bunch, so if there are winners and losers, we are in. And if you think we exaggerate, you need only look inside our game boxes; there you will find a list of dates, and names of winners. We stole this idea from some like-minded gamers, and have loved how it has added to the anticipation of winning.
As a family, we would love to provide you with a list of some of our favorite games. Are you looking for Christmas gift ideas or activities? We could go on and on about all the fun games out there, but as we attempted to narrow it down, these were the ones that filtered to the top.
The Top 5 Hinkle Family Games
1. Forbidden Island
In Forbidden Island, players work as a team to collect treasures and escape the island before it sinks. This game can be played in about 30 minutes.
A collaborative game like this one provides the opportunity for you, as a family, to work as a team. Unlike some collaborative games, we have found this one keeps everyone engaged until the end. You may even hear your youngest screaming, “we’re sinking, we’re sinking,” while standing on their chair, filled with fear and excitement. This game requires strategy, teamwork, and problem- solving. The recommended age is 10+, but our seven-year-old is able to contribute. For a similar game with a higher difficulty level, check out Pandemic. (Oddly well suited for 2020!)
2. Code Names
Code Names works better with a group, therefore, we recommend picking this one for your small group, youth group, Thanksgiving, or Christmas gatherings. Playing Guys vs. Gals is always a recipe for a fun night.
This is a word association game that requires a good poker face on the part of the code givers. The tricky (and fun) part of this game is that you may think all your word associations are common knowledge; I assure you, they are not. The recommended age is 10+, and we would agree that to be a clue-giver, this is an appropriate age; however, children much younger can easily join in as guessers.
3. Settlers of Catan
I know what you are thinking, “Isn’t this game on everyone’s list?” Yes, and for good reason. Though there are many rules to slog through, it is worth the investment of time. You may find yourself wanting to play again, immediately after you finished. (Especially if you have to watch the winner ink their name inside the box!)
Settlers of Catan requires strategy and a competitive drive (read also as ruthlessness) to outsmart your opponents. The expansion packs for this game, and there are several, keep Catan interesting for years. There is also a Catan Jr., and while we do not think highly of very many Junior versions of games, the Catan Jr. is pretty good.
Carcassonne is a game where the board is built as players lay down tiles and acquire for themselves roads, cities, fields, and more, all the while earning or storing up points as they go.
There are options for a beginner level or a more challenging level of play. The more challenging version includes a dragon that flies around and creates all kinds of problems and hurt feelings, if I am honest. We consider these “teachable moments.” This despicable dragon is always appealing at the beginning of the game, by a certain boy in our family, and much despised by the end of the game.
Carcassonne requires strategy, planning, and foresight. The recommended age is 7+, and we feel that is appropriate.
If you are looking for a something a little easier that allows you to have conversations during your game playing, Qwirkle is a good choice. It is a mix between dominoes and rummy. Even young children can play this one. I think the youngest player we have had has been a four-year-old, though the recommended age is 6+.
These are the top five games for this season in life, and there will surely be new favorites as our children get older and we expand our collection. On the part of the parent, playing games requires patience, correction, and dealing with sore losers (or winners).
However, we have found these moments of “opportunity for development” (as our friends mentioned above would say) become less and less the more you play. And we pray ( because we couldn’t tell you with confidence that this is actually true) that these opportunities are translating into life lessons that include critical thinking, deductive reasoning, brain development, as well as good sportsmanship.
Yet, more than that, we pray that this sort of togetherness will build relationships between parent and child, and between siblings. We trust that spending time together will teach our children to love and respect one another and to love the God-given gift of family.
Please share your favorite games with us, or even better, plan a game night with us. I did warn you about our competitiveness, though, right?