9 Fun and Easy Ideas for a Shabbat Family Game Night

For any family wanting to occupy a few hours before bedtime, a game night is a great way to get the whole family involved in something engaging and active. Plus, playing games together helps kids develop their communication and critical thinking skills and gives budding readers a chance to hone their close reading as well. And unplugging doesn’t mean you’re completely winding down. The family game night ideas in this post will keep your family giggling all the way through Havdalah.

Family Playing on Rug

Planning a Shabbat family game night that’s fun for all ages may feel like a major operation, especially when you don’t have a clue about what the whole family can enjoy together. How do you connect four people when it seems like personal devices have a monopoly on life? And if you run into trouble, or the dreaded “I’m bored”s, is it worth the hassle to start over and try another game? Luckily, there are TONS of options out there for family game night, and for those families who are Shabbat observant, there are plenty of Shabbat-friendly games that don’t require writing or other tools and instruments. And if your kids don’t love what you play at first, encourage them to work together and use their creativity to come up with a game of their own.

Check out the categories below to find a bunch of different suggestions to try with your family.

TIMED GAMES

You can create just about any fun challenge based on the “Minute to Win It” format, in which each player has 60 seconds to complete one task as many times as possible. Examples include:

Knock It 

Also called “The Elephant Game” or “Elephant Bowling,” this hilarious game is a hit with players of all ages. Place a tennis ball in a tube sock or stocking, and then put the stocking on your head (you should be able to gently swing the ball by moving your head around). Then set up several full water bottles like bowling pins, and, without using your hands, try to swing the ball and knock over as many bottles as possible.

Fill It 

Move water (or blocks or cotton balls) from one container to another using just a spoon held in your mouth (or behind your back or blindfolded).

CARD GAMES

Card games don’t need to be the focus of the evening, but it’s helpful to be able to just pull out a deck and start. Bridge and poker can be a little complicated for younger kids, but there are plenty of card games that most ages can enjoy.

Family Playing Card Game

Want a good laugh? Ask your kids to make up a card game on the spot. Chances are that your older children have an arsenal of games learned at summer camp. Toddlers and preschoolers will likely create some variation of a game where the outcome is that they win no matter what.

Go Fish

It’s a classic, and not too complicated. Take turns trying to complete sets of four of the same number by asking other players if they have a particular card. If the person you ask does have that card, they have to give it to you, and you get to ask again. If you ask someone and they don’t have that card, you have to “go fish” by picking up a new card from the deck.

Spoons

This game is similar to Go Fish, in that the goal is to acquire sets of four, but it has an added musical chairs element. Start off with four cards in each player’s hand and a pile of spoons in the middle. There should be one less spoon than the number of players. The dealer takes a fifth card and discards one, passing the discarded card to the left, then that player discards a card, and so on until it gets back to the dealer, who draws a new card. When a player collects four of a kind, she discreetly takes a spoon from the spoon pile. As others notice that a spoon has been taken, everyone else rushes to grab a spoon, and the person left without a spoon is out for that round.

Looking for more ideas? Visit the Bicycle Cards website for the card maker’s three favorite family-time card games.

ACTIVE GAMES

During summer, family game night usually means starting while the sun’s still out. Need to get outside for a change of scenery? Or do you just need to get up and move? You can exert some energy and get out the wiggles even if you don’t have traditional sports equipment on hand.

Is that play tunnel collecting dust? Not anymore!

Obstacle Course

If you have room in the backyard or can safely make room in the house, put together a simple obstacle course with things to jump over, walk along, or traverse around. For a single-event variation, try “hot lava” in which you try to get across the yard or living room without touching the floor. Of course you’ll have to be okay with taking a few pillows off the couch.

Sardines 

This twist on hide and seek means that one person is the hider, and everyone else is a seeker. Seekers then join the hider(s) in their hiding spot when they discover them, until the last person finds all the sardines cramped together, which usually isn’t too difficult because of the giggling that ensues.

Need more ideas? Try these 7 Outdoor Activities that Build Reading Skills

NO-PREP GAMES

If you need a last-minute game and don’t have immediate access to supplies (or would prefer not to have to dig through the closet), you can always pull out an improvisation game.

Family Playing Charades
The whole family getting in on the charades action.

Charades

The tried and true pantomime game can be played multiple ways. You can work in pairs, in small teams, or just act out titles of books, movies, and TV shows for the whole family or group.

Telephone  

The simple game of whispering a phrase from one person to another and seeing if the phrase remains intact by the end is easy and hysterical, especially for kids. For something a little different, another easy speaking game is the one-word-at-a-time story, in which each person in turn adds the next word to the story.

MORE:

5 Super Easy No-Prep Activities for Toddlers
Indoor Game: The Imagination Vacation
15 Boredom Busters for Days You’re Stuck Inside
Family Activity: Make a Question Jar