Unplugged family time.
That’s one goal my husband and I had for 2018. We wanted to spend time together as a family each evening, without the distractions of the television, smartphones, or tablets.
Unplugged family time would help us grow closer together, enjoy each other’s company, and besides, it’d just be good for us!
So we started brainstorming ways to enjoy this time together. We knew without a plan, we’d quickly revert back to the “easy” of putting on a movie or show and sitting down.
The kids were thrilled with the idea! They helped me come up with a whole list of ideas. Some aren’t going to work in the winter, because they involve playing outside and it’s currently really dark and really cold in the evenings. We’ll save those ideas for summer!
Winter Friendly Unplugged Family Time Ideas
- Nerf gun battles (I’ll have to write a post on the different games we play!)
- Hide and seek
- Cooking something fun (I think they really meant sweet…cooking something sweet!)
- Obstacle courses
- Scavenger hunts
- Treasure hunts (following clues to find the hidden treasure)
- Science experiments
- LEGO build challenges
- Putting on a play
- Making costumes and dressing up
- Art projects/drawing
- Playing games
That last one caught my attention! You see, we have well over 100 games but seem to get stuck in a rut playing the same ones over and over and over again. I wanted us to try new games, and revisit some we enjoyed years ago.
Enter a second part of this unplugged family time goal: taking turns picking a game of the week to play.
Game of the Week
We decided we’d take turns picking a game to focus on each week. During that game’s week, we’d play it at least three times. Sometimes the kids and I play while Bryan is at work. Sometimes we play together in the evenings as part of our unplugged family time. And sometimes we play together on the weekends.
By alternating who picks the games, we’re getting a good mix of “everybody” games and “older kids only” games. If the younger kids can’t play, we set them up with another activity nearby. Often they spend the time drawing or coloring and cutting out coloring pages.
We’ve also paired up, and had a little person sit with an older person. They really enjoy playing with extra pieces, or taking turns rolling the dice for us.
If you look for ways to integrate everybody, you can usually find them!
One “rule” is we can’t focus on the same game twice during the year. By the time December ends, we will have played 52 different games.
Of course, we can also play different games during the week. So if we REALLY love a game, we aren’t done playing it for the year. We just have to play the game of the week too!
January’s Games of the Week
Since it’s the end of January, I wanted to share the games we focused on this month. You’ll see what we played, what we loved, and what we didn’t.
(Disclosure: The links to the games are affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase on Amazon, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.)
Week 1: Yeti in My Spaghetti
Simon got this game for Christmas, and I have to admit I was a bit surprised when our oldest picked it for the first game of the week. She said she wanted the little guys to be able to play right away, which made my mommy heart swell! 😀
For this game, you set up a plastic Yeti on top of a bunch of randomly piled plastic spaghetti noodles. The “board” is a bowl.
Each player takes turns pulling out a piece of spaghetti. If the Yeti falls into the bowl on your turn, you lose.
It reminded me of Jenga combined with Don’t Break the Ice.
The kids all enjoyed this game! It wasn’t my favorite, but mainly because I kept losing. I’d pick the wrong noodle. Even if it didn’t really appear to be anywhere near that Yeti, he’d almost always seem to fall for me.
But, it was nice to have a game almost everyone could play.
And the older kids created a couple of “really hard” setups for just them to enjoy. They took nearly twenty-five minutes intricately interweaving noodles once. It was hilarious, because after all that setup, the actual game lasted like three minutes.
This game definitely has been played again since it’s week. It’s quick to play, is small child friendly, and is actually pretty fun!
Week 2: Ticket To Ride
Another new Christmas game, this one is a new family favorite! We’ve played it tons since we first opened it. (Thanks Mindy and Drew!!!)
The goal is to travel from city to city by claiming routes throughout the US. The board is a map of the United States (so it doubles as a geography lesson, woo-hoo!)
Each player has “tickets” showing them which cities they need to build routes to connect. These are worth points at the end of the game. So one player might be trying to get from Los Angeles to New York, while another is going from Duluth to El Paso.
Here’s a peek at the board at the end of a game:
But, with the limited number of routes, it’s always a possibility that another player will block your way. Then you’ll have to take the scenic route!
This game also helps my elementary school kids practice their reading skills. At first I helped, by pointing out which cities they needed to connect. But, then everyone knew where they were going. And sometimes their way got blocked on purpose.
So now, they read the cards on their own and use that knowledge to plan their own trips.
While we play, the younger kids really enjoy playing with the extra trains. We just have to make sure and count them all when we pick up to be sure none are hiding under the table.
Week 3: The Farming Game
When we moved into this house, we found a few old board games of my Grandma’s. This was one of them. Except the old box is yellow and long instead of square and green. The game is the same though!
The goal is to earn enough from farming that you can quit your day job and farm full-time. (You must have a net worth of $250K.)
There are reusable stickers to show your crops and equipment, and plenty of true to farming expenses and problems.
As soon as Jayme got old enough, she, Bryan, and I started playing this game. It took hours, but it was so much fun! We really enjoyed it.
But, then we stopped playing. I don’t remember why.
So when Ellie picked it as her game of the week, I was thrilled! I had so many good memories associated with this game, and I was looking forward to building more.
Except, that didn’t really happen.
The game takes hours to play. And with so many kids who couldn’t play, leaving them on their own for that long wasn’t going to work. So we cut the “winning” number by half. It still took a long time.
Another downside for us? The game really relies on debt. For instance, the fruit is the most lucrative crop to get into. But, it’s the most expensive. And if you wait until you can pay cash for it, it takes years (the board game represents a calendar year.)
Most debt-based board games, I’ve been able to modify to remove the debt component. With this game, I couldn’t figure out a way make it happen (yet!).
You start in debt. And you have to draw an expense card each time you harvest a crop. Those expenses are often more than the income generated. So you run out of cash on hand really quickly.
Despite the parts I didn’t like, there are fun components to the game. It really helped the kids realize that income generated doesn’t mean you get to spend that much money. Since I run my own business, and hope my kids do someday, it was a good way to learn about expenses. We were able to talk profits, taxes, and unexpected expenses.
The kids loved the stickers, and using the chart telling how much each harvest was worth.
We did play this game a couple of times during its week, and we made it fun. Bu,t I don’t think we’ll be getting this one back out until the kids are older and already have a better understanding of money management. Or until I figure out some rule modifications to make it happen. Maybe starting the game with a decent sized inheritance would help…
Week 4: There’s A Moose In The House
Another Christmas game (thanks Beau!), this one is a quick play card game. The goal is to keep as many moose out of your house as possible. So you want to give moose to the other players!
The game is easy to learn. You give other people empty rooms, and then try to fill up those rooms with corresponding moose cards. So, if someone has an empty kitchen in their “house”, you can give them a card with a moose in the kitchen.
Moose traps and doors to slam add variety to the play.
Week 5: Tastes Like Chicken
We’ve had this game for so long, but don’t play it often. We really should play it more! It’s easy to learn, a good one for younger kids (the recently turned three year old figured it out with just a bit of help), and quick.
The game cards depict crazy animals, created by combining two critters:
Then game play is similar to Uno. You must play a card matching one of the animals on the top card of the discard pile. If you play a half-chicken card, you say, “Tastes like chicken” and the next player has to take a card and not play.
If you play a pig, you say, “Tastes like pig” and get to play a second card.
If you can’t make a match, you say, “Tastes like (something yucky)” and draw a card.
The first person out of cards wins.
It’s quick and fun.
Everyone’s Favorite January Game of the Week
I wanted to keep track of which games we really enjoy, so I asked everyone what their favorite game from January was. Here are the answers:
- Lisa: Ticket to Ride
- Bryan: Ticket to Ride
- Jayme: There’s a Moose in the House
- Jeffrey: The Farming Game
- Ellie: The Farming Game
- Sydney: There’s a Moose in the House
- Simon: Yeti in My Spaghetti
- Brynna: Yeti in My Spaghetti
We’re Loving Unplugged Family Time!
Whether we play a board game or shoot each other with darts, we’re really enjoying our unplugged family time!
What are your favorite games? I know we’ll be playing a bunch this year!