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My family plays a lot of tabletop games.

Card games, board games, puzzles — they’re a fantastic way to spend time together when your parenting brain is done being productive for the day.

Last time I was here, I wrote up a list of our favorite Board Games that Won't Make Your Brain Melt —  the kinds that work well with a variety of different age levels —  but I didn’t have time to include the details. You know, the logistics… the possible pitfalls of playing games with children… and how to avoid them?

I’ve been playing tabletop games with my kids since my youngest was about 3, and my oldest 5. As you might suspect, some things work well and other things are so frustrating you legitimately consider using the game as campfire kindling. In order to help you avoid the urge to flip your table upside down and turn into the Hulk, I’ve got a few tips and tricks that will help you work toward a positively pleasant family board game night.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

1. Holding cards is hard.

You might not realize it, but creating that perfect fan of cards and holding them in your hands so that you can see each and every one of them is quite the skill to master… and can be a very frustrating task for small kids. There are a few ways to deal with this, some more expensive than others.

Look for kid-specific card-holding products. There are a whole lot of them out there, so I recommend doing some research. Our family loves games produced by Gamewright, however, so I’ll share this one as an example.

You can turn your hunt for a card holder into a family project, as well! Check out this tutorial for a DIY card holder using inexpensive household products you might already have on hand.

Finally, if you don’t want to mess with an extra piece of equipment at the table, you can simply turn the cards away from you and fan them out for your kid. This seems simple, but I’ve got to include it. This will keep you from seeing their cards and help them learn how to actually hold the cards in their hand, even if they can’t get the hang of fanning them out.

2. Playing games is thirsty work.

How many times have you played a board game with a soda or adult beverage by your side? There’s no denying it; getting together and playing games with friends and family is the perfect time to have snacks, drink drinks (of any kind), and have a great time. It’s no different for little kids — except for the fact that they don’t have nearly as much control over their elbows as adults.

Now, as parents, we know how infuriating a spill can be. We shouldn’t get mad, we know they’re growing and learning, but it’s so hard to stay calm when a cup full of liquid turns into a small, ice-filled beverage avalanche all over a table. Since you don’t want your tabletop games to get ruined, and you’d rather not spend your lovely family night angry over a spill, I suggest tackling this problem before you even get started by investing in some BPA-free sport water bottles.

A bottle of soda can tip over, sippy cups work for toddlers but are a nuisance for older kids, and an open cup is just out of the question. A sport water bottle, though? Perfect.

Now, I’m not talking about fancy reusable water bottles made of steel or glass, and I’m not talking about a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle, either. I’m talking about the squeezy plastic kind (that feels straight out of the 90s) and has the top that you have to pull open with your teeth.

Kids can operate them easily, and if they get tipped over while open the worst that happens is a slow drip-drip-drip from the sport top.

3. Something is going to go wrong… and that’s okay.

This is no fun to hear, but sometimes the success of a family game night simply lies in your attitude. If you go into it expecting perfection, you’re likely to be disappointed. Starting the game with the understanding that someone’s going to get frustrated or try to cheat — and you’re going to have to intervene — will help you keep cool when the time comes.

Happy gaming!

Lauren Bonk

Lauren Bonk is a freelance copywriter, editor, and blogger who's been wrangling children and words since 2010. She high-fives her husband frequently, probably drinks too much coffee, and sighs nostalgically over 90's music on a regular basis. Learn more about Lauren at ...

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