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The secret to 'no-fighting, screen-free fun' for all ages

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I am pretty sure that I have discovered the secret to a happy home. For months, okay maybe years, I was struggling to find answers to the same questions day after day after day: How do I get my kids to put down their phones, iPads and computers? How do I help my kids conquer their addiction to YouTube since discovering the hilarious Ireland Production Boys and oh-so-entertaining Norris Nuts family? Why do my kids argue so damn much? How can I make parenting more fun?


I found the answer, friends. Are you ready for this?

Board games.

My family received a plethora of modern, new board games for Christmas this past year and I’ve been shocked at how much fun each game brings into our home. I know, I know. It’s not a mind-blowing discovery at all. I guess I just forgot how fun it is to sit down with loved ones and play games together-no phones allowed! But ever since being reminded of this at Christmas-time, board games have saved the day too many times to count in our home. When my kids are restless or bored and they begin arguing over things like the television remote control, the cell phone charger or whose turn it is to play Sims 4, I know it is time for a good, old-fashioned board game. It is just as much fun for me, the exhausted, hard-working 40-year-old mom, as it is for my 3rd grade son.

It is as if I have discovered a whole new world. When we play board games we laugh so hard we often have tears streaming down our cheeks. There have even been a few times where one (okay, two) of us tread dangerously into the I-am-laughing-so-hard-I-might-wet-my-pants-zone. Of course, there are sometimes fights over which game to play first, or the basic set up of teams for the night, but I simply rely on the old pick out of a hat trick and the hard decisions are then left to the luck of the draw.

After 6 months of extreme board gaming, we have become connoisseurs, testing every game we can get our hands on. Now that we’ve done that, I feel obligated to share the best board games out there for families.

Chameleon by Big Potato (Amazon, $29.99)

This is a game centered around lying. Consider it a new and improved version of the card game bullsh&* that we played when we were teenagers. As long as your children can read, they are old enough to play this game of deception. Everyone knows the secret word except for the Chameleon. Players -even the Chameleon-take turns giving a one-word clue about the secret word; this means the Chameleon has to bluff. And everyone must try to guess who is bluffing. You will quickly learn who has a great poker face and who burst out into laughter before attempting to tell a bold-faced lie. It turns out I am a terrible liar and my 9 year-old-son could be a professional one. It is super fun and only mildly addicting. Knowing about your kids lying habits just may come in handy during their teenage years, too.

Decrypto by Iello (Amazon, $17.99)

Every family has one great Codemaster, right? Decrypto will help you discover who that person is. This game is really hard to describe and the first round requires some patience and trust that things will all work out if you just follow the instructions. They will. Teammates try to share secret codes with each other while the opposing team attempts to intercept the codes. Deception and manipulation come in handy with this game! It is sure to involve a lot of yelling (the good kind, I promise), laughing, and unexpected outbursts that make no sense at all. It is absolutely fantastic, a fun battle of words, and is sure to have the kids ignoring their Snapchats for a few hours while they focus, instead, on teamwork.

How Do You See The World? by Authentic Agility (Amazon, $24.99)

This is a great card game to drop in your purse and pull out when the kids are restless during dinner at your favorite restaurant. The game consists of a die and 100 different cards with 6 questions on each card. The questions are intended to challenge players to step out of their comfort zones, providing authentic answers in a judgement-free zone. What was the bravest thing you have ever done, was one question that my 15-year-old bravely (ironic, right?) answered while playing the game. What is the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning, I asked my son? Not only did he answer honestly (school) but he wanted to hear my answer as well.

It is described as a card game that challenges your perception, and, let me tell you, it has been a catalyst for many great conversations between me and my kids. Something about reading these questions off a card makes it less intimidating for my kids to delve into deep, intimate conversations with their totally uncool mom. If I asked these same questions randomly while doing the dishes, I would surely be met with an eye-roll or an annoyed what’s wrong with you, mom? This game is a handy-dandy box of conversation starters, to be used as needed, that lead to deep and meaningful conversations. I had to filter which questions I asked my children as the game is geared towards adults as well, but there were plenty of options. Each time we play, I learn something new about not only my kids, but myself, too. The questions and our answers usually linger in my mind for days or weeks to come. And another great thing about this game is that a portion of proceeds from the game go towards supporting educational and entrepreneurial organizations that are, in one way or another, working hard to change the world (for the better, of course!).

There you have it! My top 3 board games for friends and families of all ages to play! You are sure to create some great memories playing these games, learn about each other, solve some family problems, and have what maybe a surprising amount of fun. And they make great gifts!

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