For many families, game night is a big tradition. That’s because it can be a great way to make memories in a manner that’s largely inexpensive, easy — and most importantly — fun. Whether you’re looking to start your own game night or need a fresh idea for your regular meetup, we’ve rounded up a unique set of fun family game night ideas to help you out. You can also try some of these games during a family road trip or a sudden blackout.
1. Paper telephone
In this paper-and-pencil version of the telephone game, everyone sits in a circle and writes down a straightforward phrase (something like “My dog is chewing a bone”). They then pass their paper to the next person, who has the job of drawing the phrase they’ve received. When the drawings are done, everyone folds their paper to hide the phrase and then passes it to another person. The process then repeats: The third person writes a phrase describing the drawing, the fourth person draws the new phrase and so on. By the time it reaches the original author, who knows what the phrase has become!
2. Balloon tennis
Ever want to play tennis inside? Now you can with balloon tennis. All you need to do is blow up some balloons and, if you want to be official, grab tennis rackets (or make your own). Once your balloons are ready, split up into two teams and start swatting them back and forth. If you care to keep score, do so however you’d like. Hitting balloons around might be all the fun you need.
3. Indoor hopscotch
There’s no new approach to indoor hopscotch. With colored tape (like painter’s tape) and scissors, lay out and number your own arrangement of hopscotch boxes in a clear area of your home. Traditional hopscotch has six to eight boxes, but if you have the space, why not challenge your family to go as far as they can?
4. Indoor bowling
Find a good spot in the house to set up an indoor-friendly bowling lane, then grab a ball and 10 empty plastic bottles. Arrange the bottles in a triangle as you would in traditional bowling, with four in the back row, then three, two and one in each of the next three rows. Once the bottle pins are set, your family’s ready to bowl.
5. Movie-themed forts
Make game night and movie night one and the same by constructing a fort to fit the whole family. Chairs provide solid support for blanket ceilings, and stuffed animals love to be extra patrons in DIY movie theaters. It’s also fun to base your fort on the movie you’re watching by including things such as cowboy hats for some western flair or Halloween decorations for a frightening touch.
6. Paper plane contest
This simple family game to play at home can also help teach younger children about aerodynamics. Pass out some letter-size sheets of paper and have everyone fold together their best paper airplane. Then give all the aircraft a test flight down a long, open stretch of your house. The plane that goes the farthest distance wins, though it’s always worth it to redesign your plane and try again.
Charades is a living room game that never gets old. Split up into two teams and have a person from each team act out something — a movie, book, television show — for their teammates to guess. If you want, write down a bunch of prompts beforehand and toss them into a hat or bowl for participants to pull from. Whichever team has the most correct guesses wins.
In Taboo, it’s all about getting your team to guess a word without using the word itself to describe it. Start by selecting two teams and developing a wide range of words to pick from. The team with the most correct answers wins.
You can either buy the original card game or come up with your own set of words. This game can move fast, so make sure you have a wide variety of words to pull from.
Fishbowl combines all of the best parts of Taboo and Charades into one epic, three-round guessing game. Separate into two teams and have everyone write down three words or phrases and toss them into a fishbowl (any bowl works, of course). Keep in mind that you’ll be using the entire collection of prompts in each round of the game, so make sure to always place them back in the bowl after being used.
In the first round, play Taboo until all the prompts are used up. For the second round, play a one-word version of Taboo, where the active player can say only one word to describe their word or phrase. For the third round, play Charades. For every correct guess, a team gets a point; the team with the most points after all three rounds wins.
This dice game requires only one die and has one goal: Make it to 100 points. On your turn, roll the die and tally as many points as the die shows, assuming you don’t roll a 1. You can then continue to roll and accumulate points or voluntarily end your turn. Here’s the catch: As soon as you roll a 1, your turn is not only over, but you lose all points scored on that turn. This high-risk, high-reward game can accommodate even the largest of families.
Age-old card games such as Spoons are a great choice for everyone in the family. Set up the game by placing in the middle of your game area one less spoon than the number of players, with the spoon handles pointing outward. Using a standard 52-card deck, deal four cards to each player. During play, the dealer draws a card from the deck and either discards it or exchanges it with a card in his hand, passing the discard, facedown, to the player on their left. The next players do the same except for the last player, who discards into a waste pile. When a player has four cards of a kind (for example, four aces or four queens), they take a spoon. The rest of the players then race to grab the rest of the spoons, leaving one player without — the game’s loser.
12. Catan Junior
The intensity of the board game Settlers of Catan is lessened with Catan Junior. In this kid-friendly variation, players control pirate troops intent on building new hideouts. Players will have to collect resources, such as wood and wool, in order to set sail and expand their network. Catan Junior, like its predecessor, is still a balancing act between luck and strategy, but it’s perfectly streamlined to be fun for players of all ages.
13. Apples to Apples
Apples to Apples is an especially fun game to play with family members, because part of the strategy is appealing to a specific member’s sense of humor or way of thinking. In this game, everyone gets a hand of cards with nouns printed on them. On your turn, you’ll flip over an adjective card (for example, “shiny”) from a communal deck. Every other player then plays the card from their hand that they believe makes the most sense with the adjective (the noun could be “a new car” for the “shiny” adjective). The player that you think contributed the best noun card earns a point. At the end of the game, the person who’s made the most successful matches wins.
This variation of the game Scrabble is a contest of quick thinking. In Bananagrams, every player uses a set of letter tiles to arrange their own word grid as quickly as possible. As people use up their tiles, players take additional letters from a pool until there are fewer tiles left than players. Once the pool has run dry, the first person to use up all of their tiles and yell “Bananas!” wins.
15. Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride has yet to stand the test of time like Clue or Candy Land, but it seems well on its way to becoming a classic board game. The object of this interactive game is to build train routes across the country by collecting and playing matching train cards. Throughout the game, players are rewarded for building longer railways and connecting distant cities. With its simple premise and just the right amount of strategy, Ticket to Ride is a worthwhile adventure game for all.