This is a clip from The Board Game Family.

To elevate board gaming to a fundamental part of the family identity, introduce some rituals. These rituals can be low-key and designed to make everyone happy and comfortable, or they could be quite elaborate and designed to increase delight, excitement and anticipation around playing the game. If you’re struggling to engage your children in board games, you might like to experiment with more unusual rituals that add an element of mystery to the activity, deliberately elevating the status of board gaming within the family. Here are some rituals you could try:

  • Always sit in the same places round the table. Perhaps create name cards to go in each place. You could even make these out of spare playing cards. Make place cards for frequent visitors too: grandparents, friends and neighbours.
  • Choose a game-night theme tune. Play this tune when you are setting up and clearing away. ‘Games People Play’ by Joe South or ‘Play the Game’ by Queen, perhaps.
  • Choose a special game-night food, drink or snack combo. Make this a special treat that you only have on game night. Pretzels and banana milk anyone?
  • Allocate special game-night roles – for example, bar person, official photographer, reporter, score person, banker … The roles can be written on counters and placed in a drawstring bag to add an element of randomness to the pre-gaming ritual.
  • Choose a special item of clothing or an accessory that must be worn during game night. This could be an armband, a hat or possibly special medals.
  • Find a mascot. The mascot should have a place at the table or on the table. The mascot could have its own pack of cards or set of dice and must, of course, wear appropriate game-night clothing.
  • Create a Game Chest. See video below.
  • Develop some game-night catchphrases. Make up your own rather than stealing them from gameshows. You could keep a logbook with a tally chart to keep track of who manages to say the catchphrases at appropriate times in conversation each week.

Think about it this way: if you were going to set up a sports team, what sorts of things would you do to make them feel like they belong? Now, I’m not suggesting that you have to create a full kit (and away strip) for game nights, but we can learn from the huddle, the ritual handshakes, the mottos and the songs. These make players feel part of something special, something that matters. These shared experiences create shared memories, continuing to have an impact for many years.