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What Shall We Play?

This might be the trickiest part of family game night—unless you've been playing for a while and have established the family favorites. The conflicts will arise if some family members prefer one game to another. There are a couple ways to be fair in your decision-making. It's all about avoiding conflict at this point.

Consider all the game options. If there is a game that one family member really doesn't like, but another person does, be fair and remove it from the options. Go through process of elimination until you come up with games that although everyone might not be totally excited about, they don't mind playing. Put all the names of the games in a hat and have one family member pull the name out. Whatever game is pulled is the game the family will play that night.

Another method is to put all the games in a hat—including the ones that some family members are not so excited about having as an option. Have someone pull the name of the game out of the hat, and that is the game that you wind up playing that night—no matter who likes it and who doesn't. Make sure the kids are aware of this rule in advance, or chaos is sure to break loose.

In advance of pulling the game from the hat, establish that there is to be no grumbling should the game not be preferable to one family member. If it looks like a conflict is going to brew over it, tell that child that on the next family game night, you will play his or her favorite game and no one else will be allowed to gripe about it.

You can also put a schedule up on the wall and designate each game night to one of the children. For example, Monday is Tara's night and Friday is Matthew's night. What about Joey? Well, he will get the following Monday night. Create the schedule months in advance so that the kids are clear on which night is their night.

When it's their night, they are responsible for picking the game, setting up the game, and cleaning up the game. By using this method, you are teaching the kids leadership skills. They are setting the tone for the night in the game that they choose, and in being the leader, they have certain responsibilities like set-up and clean-up. Kids do much better with structure and guidance. If they know what's coming, they know what to do and you'll avoid conflict altogether.

Another means of choosing a game is to keep track of who won and who lost the game and assign those people tasks for the next game night. Don't let the winner get special treatment—you'll just teach children that winning is the best way to go. Winning is great and everyone should take pride in his or her achievement, but losing should not mean any kind of punishment either. It's about playing the game, being together, and having a good time that matters most. The winner should feel a sense of pride—that's the best reward you can get.

Poor losers are a pain, but poor winners are undignified. There should be no gloating on family game night. Make it a practice at the end of each game for every player, including the winner, to say “good game” to every other player and “congratulations” to the winner. Perhaps the honor for the winner is that they are not required to clean up, but at the first sign of gloating, they will have to clean up completely on their own.

More on: Games

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Family Games © 2002 by BookEnds, LLC. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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