Enjoy a digital family game night

Parents are stuck in a time crunch. And because of it, we’re sacrificing family time with our kids. Take back family night and start bonding.

Wii Party, Kinect Sports, Hasbro Family Game Night, Ji Ga Zo, Scrabble Flash 

By Heather Camlot

Hi there. We know you’re busy. We’re swamped too. It feels like we’re working 24-hours a day, what with putting in extra long hours at work, then racing home to cook dinner, eat dinner, help the kids with homework, put the kids to bed, return to our computers to get a bit more work done before passing out in bed and doing it all over again the next day.

Yep, we understand. So do the other 20 percent of Canadians stuck in a time crunch, according to the 2010 Canadian Index of Wellbeing. And because we’re so busy, we’re sacrificing family time with our kids. A 2007 report published in Canadian Social Trends found that workers who spent 9 to 10 hours on the job spent 52 minutes less with their families per workday than workers who devoted 7 to 8 hours to their jobs. Cue Harry Chapin’s tear-jerking Cat’s in the Cradle here.

Along with the longer work hours, both reports found that the decrease in family time also had to do with going it alone: workers with families spent more time watching television and eating alone (both of which a decade earlier would have been considered family activities).  Children are following the same path, with the 2010 report stating that children and youth are spending more time in front of the television and behind a video game controller, and less time sitting down to a meal with a parent (35 percent of teens in 2010 compared to 64 percent in 1992).

Get Gaming

We’re not proposing anything crazy. We’re simply suggesting booking one evening to spend together as a family. You know, baby steps. Order a pizza, pick an activity that everyone likes and start bonding.

If your family are avid gamers (and with 85 percent of all games sold in 2009 marked  E for Everyone, T for Teen and E10+ for Everyone 10+, we’re guessing they are), here are our suggestions for modern takes on the classic game night:

Wii Party(ages 3+)

When you have a big age range, it can be tough to find something the entire family can play together.  With more than 80 four-player games, from kart-racing and animal-matching to moon-landing and vegetable-chopping (yes, vegetable-chopping), we’re confident a group decision can be made. $50

Hasbro Family Game Night(ages 5+)

Pull out the Wii, Xbox 360 or PS3 and pop in one of the three Hasbro Family Game Nights to introduce the games you grew up on to your digitally savvy kids. Customize an avatar, take the online multiplayer challenges, and delve into Clue, Operation, Sorry! and more. From $45

Ji Ga Zo (ages 8+)

If your kids are avid picture takers, this puzzle may be for them. Here’s how it works: a digital photo (of each sweet face) is uploaded to the Ji Ga Zo software you’ve installed on your computer. After adjusting contrast and cropping to fit, click the “Create Ji Ga Zo” button to transform the digital image into a tonal black, grey and white puzzle-piece map. When you print the map, each piece has an icon image on it, which corresponds to the physical puzzle pieces that came with the game. Use the icon map to try to recreate the image with the puzzle pieces. Let the kids take as many pictures as they like. The same puzzle pieces can be used over and over again. $25

Scrabble Flash (ages 8+)

We’re a Scrabble-crazed family. We have the original version, Scrabble Slam, and Scrabble Junior (in multiple languages), so it shouldn’t be surprising to find us enviously eyeing the latest entry, Scrabble Flash. Think Boggle meets Scrabble meets technology and that’s Flash. Five electronic tiles show a variety of letters. You have 60 seconds to line up the letters to form as many three-, four- and five-letter words as possible. When the “smartlink technology” embedded in the tiles recognizes a word has been formed, the tiles light up and beep (not to mention keep time and score).  $60

Kinect Sports (ages 10+)

Just because you’re playing inside the house doesn’t mean your family game night has to be a passive activity. The 360 motion-controlled games of Kinect Sports are just the thing to get the gang up and moving. With soccer, bowling, beach volleyball, table tennis, track and field, and boxing we say: Game on! $50

First published April 11, 2011, on WorkLivePlayCafe.com.



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