Family games

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Going to the mall or to the video arcade aren’t the only way to define a fun weekend with the kids. The following are Ron Afable's personal choices and he highly recommends them to other families as well.

Going to the mall or to the video arcade aren’t the only way to define a fun weekend with the kids. The following are my personal choices and I highly recommend them to other families as well. These games are mostly spontaneous, and mostly free (no video games, not in an entertainment parks, etc.).

“Variety Show”

This actually is our favorite family parlor game of sorts. Would you believe that this was started by our youngest? Maxine, when she was still 3 years old, (!) would stand up on the bed (the bedroom is where I and the wife would really bond with the kids – no TV, no nannies) and pretend the hair brush she’s holding is a microphone. She’d call everyone’s attention by saying, “Everyone, silence! The first number of our program is a song by Roni” (her elder sister). This could go on for hours. It’s so much fun (mom and I would literally roll on the floor laughing with the antics of the little ones)!

This game has evolved to become the family’s favourite pastime. Not only does it foster closeness, not only is it fun, but it also makes the kids become more conscious about memorising their nursery rhymes in school and they become more aware of lyrics of songs they hear over the radio or TV. Whenever there is a new song learned today, expect a singing showdown tonight.

Advantage: This develops their self-confidence; teachers will always pick them for school stage performances.

Disadvantage: We have to spend more on costumes; and we suffer “stage mom/dad” jitters if the show is actually a contest.


The “Variety Show” game usually morphs into a teacher role-playing game as Maxine, the “singing contest hostess” would usually transform into a “very strict teacher.” She’d hold a book and pretends to read (she can’t read yet), and sometimes she holds the book upside down and everyone would roll on the floor laughing. And she’d give everyone the “look” again and sternly commands, “I said, silence!”

What happens next is story-telling time. Maxine (holding a book to “read”, sometimes upside down) would tell the story first. It is usually a mixed up story involving her favourite fairy tale characters. Only in her story would you hear Cinderella talking to Belle (of “Beauty and the Beast”) as she escapes from a scary dinosaur, etc. All of us would usually scratch our head as we desperately try to follow the plot, which would always escape us. When she is done, she’d call on the next story teller, her sister Roni; who would also give us another twisted version of the fairy tales as we know them.

Advantage: This improves the children’s vocabulary, harnesses their imagination, and enhances their verbal skills.

Disadvantage: We get to be tortured by images of Belle being, “eaten by a dinosaur…and there’s blood all over… because the dinosaur’s teeth are so sharp…. and Snow White is being chased by a shark..” I wonder what a psychologist would say about this kid’s propensity at telling gory details of mangling and “sharp teeth….”

“Trivia Contest”

This one is our “hard-core” family game. There are two ways of playing this: first, everyone, from the youngest (3 years-old) to the oldest (me) in the family joins. Mom is the quiz master (complete with a whiteboard to tally scores). She asks secondary-school and primary school-level questions. Anyone who can give the correct answer gets a point on the white board. If Mom picks an object and asks, “What color is this?” or “Two plus two?” Everyone pretends to think hard (or give wrong answers) until one of the small girls would proudly shout the correct answer.

The most exciting part (another way of playing this game) is when the eldest (15 years-old) goes one on one with me. Questions are mostly secondary school level stuff. I’m telling you, it’s a stressful game for me, and I hate it when I lose (and I lose most of the time!) There are good days where I win, and the eldest would always ask for a re-match. If I win again, he’d ask for another re-match until I lose. (Groan!)

Tip: We use Grolier International’s (“The Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia”) freebie: “Family flip Quiz”

Advantage: Good study aid for the kids. Makes the younger ones learn some of the advanced stuff as we always make it a point to expound (explain) on the answers.

Disadvantage: “Daddy lost!” chants of jubilation would be passed on to the in-laws across town. It could get into you!

There are a lot of other games a family could enjoy together. They don’t have to be derived from commercially available games, as long as everyone enjoys and gets to share light (or sometimes raucous) moments, they’d be great.

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Here are some things to consider:

1. You don’t always have to let your kids win – as how it is in real life. While it is our primary objective to teach them to become competitive and to always try to win, you also teach them how to accept defeat. The last thing you’d want your kids to be is for them to become sore losers.

2. While you want to pick the type of games that would be educational for them, letting them pick the type of game, and letting them lead would motivate them to continue the game. It is just up to you to find ways how to insert the “educational” stuff without being too pushy, or being too obvious about it. Don’t let the “teaching” part get in the way of the “fun” part.

3. When playing with your kids, don’t act like the parents. It wouldn’t be fun for kids if they are always reminded that you are the boss. Just let go and enjoy yourself—in fact, it’s the best way to enjoy it.

4. When picking a game, there’s only one rule: it should be fun. The rest will just follow.


5. Playing with your kids could be the best moments that your kids would cherish for the rest of their lives.

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