Family Games to Play with Teens

Try these two family-themed game nights with your crew this winter.

You know what I love most about winter? Staying inside. Fuzzy socks. Crackling fire. Dogs on the couch. Kids nearby. Sounds cliché, but it’s true.

Ever since Mike, my fiancé, bought his place in Northern Michigan, our family has become even more blended-ish. His triplets are 16, my daughter is 14 and my son is nearly 13. So, when we all head up for a visit, (with our three dogs, of course), we make time to play.

Sure, you can buy games off the shelf or download apps, but these two family-themed game nights are better because they allow for teenage individuality while also bringing the family together.

1. Family game theme

X Marks The Spot — ­The Mind Map

It goes like this:

One player says the first word that pops into their head. Then, moving clockwise, the next player has to say the first word that comes to mind inspired by the first player’s word.

And around it goes until somebody says, “STOP! What made you say that?” (Or something of the like. You know how teenagers are.)

Here are two rounds that I recently played to show you how this looks:

Round 1:

I started with a simple word like “key,” then came “lock,” then “door,” then “secret,” then “friends,” then “problems.”

“STOP!” X marks the spot on The Mind Map.

“What made you say that?” I asked.

Their words open the door for conversations about the words they’ve said. Are they having problems with their friends? You’d be surprised by what they’ll reveal. (There is that saying: I have a lot to say. You just have to ask the questions.)

Round 2:

I started with a more complicated word: “anonymous,” then came “famous,” then “celebrity,” then “magazine,” then “newspaper” and then “interest.”

“STOP!” X marks the spot.

“How’d you go from newspaper to interest?” I asked.

“Because my teacher just said that NPR’s got this thing called Strange News.” Wow. I just found my next Google.

The cool thing about “X Marks the Spot — The Mind Map” is that the game is always changing and shape shifting.

2. Family game theme

The While We Wait Scavenger Hunt

(*Note: this game is only for teens because even though the kids team up, parents are not around.)

We need to have a little outdoor fun, too. So, game No. 2 came about during a very long wait at a restaurant. At first, our teens were not into it — until I told them there’d be a prize and that they’d need their phones. Sold.

Here’s how it goes:

Offer a prize

Have them team up and tee up their phones

Have them search for things that you know are around and others that are harder to find

Then they have to send a picture, with themselves in it, to us (no Googling!)

The first team to send the most pics wins the prize

We’ve played this twice now at two different restaurants in two different cities and they still talk about it. Memories.

Some of their stops? Take a pic inside the lobby of the old theater downtown. Find a license plate from out of state. Find the one restaurant that has a red brick front. Find a house with an American flag. Can you get a shopkeeper to do 10 jumping jacks? (Yup, they did.)

The game is over when our table, or the food is ready! Then call the troops back.

While eating, it’s so funny to see and talk about their pics, not to mention hearing them laughing about the timing, blurriness, silliness of it all.

Meg Foster is a freelance writer and teacher who finds wit among the chaos of being an engaged, single mom of two while also “blending-ish” with her fiancé, his triplets and their shared three dogs. Follow her at or on Instagram

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