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7 Games That Bring Families Together

The holidays aren’t about texting your friends across town or tagging your Instagram posts. They are about spending time with the people you love, which is not always as easy as it sounds. Use these recommended games to forge new bonds — and smiles.

The holidays are a minefield of challenges for our big-loving, strong-emotioned kiddos. Family gatherings, gifts, overwhelmed parents, deviations from routine — these all overstimulate the senses just when your family supports are most stressed. So when the kids are getting cranky before dinner, coming down from a candy cane sugar high, or stuck inside while a blizzard passes, how can you ease tension and actually encourage family bonding? Games.

If you’re over a certain age, you may have fond memories of piecing together a huge puzzle or playing a cut-throat game of Monopoly with your siblings and cousins. The good news is, kids still love this stuff — if we engage with them. For the more tech-inclined among us, there are plenty of family-friendly multiplayer video games that emphasize fun over winning. If the goal is family bonding, the game you choose should be accessible and enjoyable for everyone, including kids who have a hard time with emotional regulation.

Kids with ADHD often struggle with low self-esteem — thanks in no small part to the messages they receive about being the “bad” one. Playing games with family members can help combat these feelings of shame and isolation. Through games, our kids can practice staying on task, playing by the rules, and dealing with both frustration and excitement. Games also encourage family unity since you’re working together to achieve a goal.

The following is a mix of board, card, and digital games that bring families closer together during the most memorable — and stressful — time of the year.

Taboo (#CommissionsEarned)  – This is a fun game for kids and adults alike. Players have one minute (!) to help their teammates guess as many hidden words as possible. The trick is not using one of the “taboo” clues noted on each card. Try describing the word “sea” without using “blue,” “water,” or “ocean.” Not easy, huh? Taboo challenges kids to be creative and keep their cool as the clock ticks away.

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Fibbage (#CommissionsEarned)  – Few things get kids giggling like trying to keep a straight face while telling a (harmless) lie. Fibbage, which you can download on your computer, smart TV, or XBox, gives each player the chance to guess the missing word or phrase in an obscure fact (“Anatidaephobia is the fear that somewhere in the world a ____ is watching you.”) You score points by guessing the correct answer and fooling your opponents into believing your fake answer. Players enter their answers on a phone or tablet.

The Settlers of Catan (#CommissionsEarned) — If a snowstorm just landed and you’re looking at a long day indoors, it’s time to bust out The Settlers of Catan. As the title of this world-famous board game suggests, each player is a settler trying to grow a colony on the fictional island of Catan. Players start with a settlement that they try to expand to a city. To win, you have to be patient and strategic. Who doesn’t love the idea of creating your own world?

Puzzles (#CommissionsEarned) Set up a table with a 1,000-piece puzzle and the whole family will get sucked into the vortex. These oldies but goodies are great conversation starters and can engage anyone aged 3 to 100. Have you ever found yourself distracted by the puzzle at a family gathering? Next thing you know, you’ve spent an hour immersed in a conversation you never would have had otherwise.

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No Stress Chess  (#CommissionsEarned) — Playing chess is a proven way to help kids with ADHD enhance their ability to concentrate. If you’ve forgotten how to play but want to introduce chess to your kids, No Stress Chess comes with a chess board and cards telling you how each piece can move. Once you both feel comfortable with the rules and strategies, flip the board over and start playing the real thing.

Mario Kart 8 for Nintendo Switch  (#CommissionsEarned) — Mario Kart bridges the generational gap between elementary-school kids and parents who might remember the original Mario Kart, released on Super Nintendo in the early ‘90s. Mario Kart 8, which came out a few years ago, features many of the same well-known Nintendo characters racing around in a good-natured competition wherein no one player can ever get out too far in front. Like other racing video games, Mario Kart helps kids with ADHD work on their self-control and fine-motor skills. Of course, make sure your kids aren’t parked in front of the TV for hours on end.

Overcooked 2  (#CommissionsEarned) – Inspired by the cooking competition show craze, Overcooked 2 takes players on an adventure through the zaniest kitchens imaginable. Ever tried cooking while standing on top of a hot air balloon? Here’s your chance! The more players, the better. This video game will force your family members to work together in the most fun and silly way possible (and might give your kids a sense of what it’s like to cook a big holiday dinner in a house full of hungry relatives).

Erina White, PhD, MPH, MSW is the Clinical Services Director and VP of Parent Services for Mightier. She is a clinical researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, therapist in private practice, and holds faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School, University of New Hampshire and Simmons School of Social Work. She is also a mom. Mightier uses the power of bioresponsive games to help kids build and practice calming skills to meet real-world challenges.

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