According to a recent survey from Hasbro Games, 91% of families who make the time to play games together report that game playing sessions give their family mood a positive boost. Dr. Christine Carter, a happiness expert, sociologist and parent educator based out of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, assisted with the survey and shared some tips on how families can make the most out of family time -- whenever we’re able to schedule it! Please see full press release at the end of this e-mail for tips, quotes and more.
"It's stunning that 96% of families who play games together say that they feel close, said Dr. Christine Carter, a happiness expert, sociologist and parent educator based out of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, who assisted with the survey. “Even though today’s families are crazy-busy, they still want to feel close-knit, and they long for quality time together. This research shows that family game nights once or even twice a week are one way close families connect with each other.”
In addition to positively boosting a family’s mood, playing games as a family teaches crucial skills. Of those polled, 70 percent of parents said they hoped their children learn lessons in teamwork when playing games, followed closely by parents who hoped their kids learn sportsmanship or problem solving. Games like Monopoly, Scrabble, and Game of Life, the three most popular games among families polled, provide opportunities for kids to learn these skills and others, such as strategy, communication and compromise. Interestingly, the survey also found that the majority of parents (68 percent) go easy on their kids or let them win while playing games together, even though they also said that they do look to games to help teach important life lessons.
The constant distraction of email, texting, and social media is clearly impacting family time together. It’s become much harder for parents to create technology-free time with their kids; 61 percent of families have a hard time disconnecting from tech devices to focus on each other. Dr. Carter recommends that parents and kids alike turn OFF their smart phones, iPads, and computers for at least 20 minutes each night during dinner, and that they leave them off for the duration of game night. Leave devices in another room altogether, so that you aren’t tempted to live-tweet your family game of Twister. “Even though it can seem harmless to read a quick email or shoot off a text while other family members take their turns, it isn’t,” Dr. Carter says. “Tuning into a device communicates to your family that you aren’t fully present, that you can’t patiently wait your turn and still be engaged, or that there is something more interesting and important that you'd rather be doing.”
In order to make the most out of family time whenever families are able to schedule it, Dr. Carter recommends the following strategies:
• Extend dinner by 20 minutes to include a family game – Sixty-three percent of respondents said that the easiest time of day for them to schedule family time is between 5pm-7pm. Knowing this, try to extend family dinner time by 20 minutes so that you can fit in some face-to-face game play around the table. This game time will boost family mood and teach kids numerous life lessons. Then clean up as a family, too – the losing team does the dishes!
• Schedule it – Decide in advance which day of the week will be your weekly family game night. Use stickers or a colored marker to help make the chosen night stand out on the calendar and then be consistent, so that family game night becomes a ritual that is anticipated by the whole family.
• Don’t keep score or automatically let kids win – Although rivalries can be really fun (47 percent of those polled said the fiercest rivalries were between parents and kids during family game play) they can obscure the benefits of family game night. Once everyone is enjoying the process and fun of playing games together—without obsessing over who is winning or losing—then go back to keeping score to teach the important skill of winning and losing gracefully.
• Have something for everyone – Make sure your home has a selection of games that work for everyone in your family, no matter their age—and don’t feel compelled to play games that bore you. Family game night can be fun for everyone. There are games that are engaging for adults that even little kids can play, like Operation, Monopoly and Scrabble, which are perfect for kids 8 and up, and can also be fun for the whole family.
• Be the fun family in your neighborhood – As kids get older, time with their peers becomes more important to them than time with their family. Don’t let these priorities conflict! Instead, encourage kids to invite a friend or two to come to your family game night. Let the teens choose the food and the music (but check their smart phones and devices at the door!). On weekends, plan for game night extensions, allowing teens to continue play without parents and younger siblings.