Chicago dad says gaming helps him stay closer to his kids

As a father of five kids growing up in this information overloaded world, I’ve faced the same struggle as many parents. It is harder than ever to find quality family time. Facebook, video games and headphones are all distractions that keep our children busy, but also keep them isolated from spending time together as a family.

Games to try at home

Hey, That’s My Fish!

For two to four players, age 8 and up. A game in which you
use your cute plastic penguins to jump over ice floe tiles to
collect fish. As you collect fish, the tiles are taken away. The
player with the most fish when you run out of tiles wins. Younger
kids love to play with the penguins that come with the

Go Away Monster!

For two to four players, age 3 and up. This is a game for
parents and toddlers. Everyone gets a puzzle board to complete, and
on each turn you reach into a bag to pull out a piece. If it is a
monster, you shout “Go away, Monster!” and throw it back in the
bag. It teaches recognition by touch, and the monsters are silly
looking. Our youngest loves yelling at the monsters.

Wits and Wagers Family

For three to 10 players, age 8 and up. Questions are read
off a card and everyone writes down a guess on the supplied boards.
How many Disney princesses are there? You can find out playing this
game. The answers are all numbers, so you arrange them in order
from smallest to largest. Each player picks an answer they think is
correct and earns points if they are close without going over. It
is fun for every age, not just the kids.

Ticket to Ride

For two to five players, age 8 and up. This excellent
board game has players building tracks across the USA, earning
points as they complete routes. The game comes with hundreds of
plastic train cars and is great fun for everyone.

I always had a love of board games when I was growing up, but life and raising a family pushed the games to the back of the closet. As family time grew scarce, I remembered the board games of my youth and thought that playing games might be a great way for us to spend some time together.

But I wasn’t looking forward to the run-of-the-mill Monopoly fare (is it over yet?). So I headed to my local game store to find something everyone could enjoy. What I found was a treasure trove of entertainment.

The board game industry is much larger than the shelves of your local whatever-mart would lead you to believe. There are games for every age and interest. There are educational games, dexterity games, drawing games, strategy games, fantasy, science fiction, silly, cooperative, challenging, and many more covering every interest in every genre. All you have to do is find them and give them a try.

Every major city has specialty game stores. In Chicagoland we have Cat& Mouse Games in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, Gamers World in the Woodfield Mall and Fair Game in Downers Grove, to name a few.

I wanted to find games that were easy to learn and could spark the interest of each family member. They like zombies, so I picked up “Zombies!!!” (with glow-in-the-dark zombies!). My wife likes movies, so we tried “Consensus-Movie Edition.” I managed to pull my oldest son in with a complex strategy game called “War of the Ring.” Over time, through trial and error, I was able to find games everyone liked.

We finally did lose the electricity one stormy summer night. It didn’t take much convincing before we pulled out some candles and two kerosene lamps, popped some real popcorn on the gas stove and sat down to play a couple of board games. We had such a great time that everyone actually said “Awwwww…” when the lights finally came back on.

Today we have regular gaming nights. Sometimes the kids even bring a friend or two over to join us. Invariably they have a great time and we get to actually know them rather than just know of them.

Family Game Night has given us time together that we will all treasure forever.

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