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Families bond as game night popularity grows

Simon, Derik and Noret Bazemore of Freeport play

Simon, Derik and Noret Bazemore of Freeport play Uno on Nov. 29, 2017. Credit: Raychel Brightman

Get out the popcorn, clear off the dining room table and dust off the Monopoly board. It’s time to hunker down with the kids, put away the phones and enjoy some quality time the way you remember: playing a good, old-fashioned board game.

With more families looking for ways to bond with their kids at home, board games are making a noticeable comeback. Board game sales have already raked in $1.1 billion this year — up 17 percent from the same period last year, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research firm based in Port Washington. As the colder weather begins to set in and with the holidays in full swing (read: lots of family time), the appeal for playing games together is stronger than ever.

Getting their game on

At the Maloney house in Northport, game night usually occurs about once or twice a month and involves a round of Hedbanz, Quelf, Clue and/or Beat the Parents. “The best part is that we get to laugh and spend time together,” says Kerry, mom to Kailey, 13, Emily, 11, Ashley, 9, and Jimmy, 6. “Life is busy with four kids.”

To help set the scene, the Maloneys make popcorn and play two or three games at a time. “Our days are filled with sports, other activities and lots of running around. . . . It’s nice to slow down,” she adds.

For the Phelan family in Dix Hills, game night takes place once a month, and they play Jenga, LOLZ, Sorry, Uno and/or Swap. “These are the games we like now because there’s a five-year age difference between my oldest and youngest,” says mom Danielle of her sons Ryan, 14, Jake, 12, and Kevin, 9. “These games are usually not affected by age — mostly luck.”

Regardless of what they are playing, Phelan says, game nights are all about enjoying each other’s company without distractions. She also says she appreciates the skills these games can teach that transfer into everyday life. “I like that kids learn to deal with frustration, disappointment and competition,” Phelan notes.

Like the Phelans, members of the Bazemore family of Freeport relish the opportunity to play together and put away their electronic devices. “It creates memories, conversation. And we get to laugh a lot,” says Noret, mother of Mason, 15, Derik, 9, and Simon, 7. Her family usually has game night once a week “unless life happens,” she says.

In their current rotation are chess, Jenga and Uno, each of which has different benefits. “All of my boys play chess with my husband; it teaches them critical thinking and patience,” she says, adding that Jenga requires strategy and Uno is simple and fun.

While larger families are ideal for board game nights, smaller households can also benefit from game playing. Glen Cove’s Cyndi Van Ommeren, mother of Aiden, 9, says she enjoys the one-on-one time that board games offer her and her son. Among their favorites are Monopoly, Trouble and Chutes & Ladders. “Playing Monopoly takes all afternoon, so it’s a good game for a rainy day,” she says. “Chutes & Ladders and Trouble are great for some fun competition. I enjoy them all for the simple fact that we can sit down together for some time out of our busy schedules. . . . I think board games are underrated in this day and age.”

Games for the asking

As parents scout out new games to add to their family favorites, local toy stores serve as helpful resources, not only for their selection, but for their knowledge of what’s best for different gaming styles. At Einstein’s Attic in Northport, owner Lori Badanes steers her customers toward card games like the CardLine series from Asomodee for its wide age appeal (“You can get a 4-year-old and his grandma playing this game together easily”) and Sleeping Queens from Gamewright for its interpersonal skill building (“With characters like Bubble Gum King and Pancake King, there’s so much personality in one game”). For older kids, Badanes recommends Camera Roll from Endless Games for phone fanatic tweens and Laser Khet from Innovention Toys for chess aficionados.

At Justin’s Toys & Games in Glen Cove, owner Rob Lee directs customers toward games that get everyone involved, such as Who Drew It? “It’s about guessing correctly and working cooperatively,” he explains. Classic games like Jenga are also seeing a big resurgence at Justin’s, and Lee likes to offer an unexpected twist to keep gamers interested. “We might tell people to add a word to each tile, and as players remove them, they have to act them out,” he explains. “For instance, write ‘sing’ and then they’ll have to sing a little something.”

Other perennial favorites like Monopoly and Clue close the generation gap and are a hit with players of all ages. “If games get too involved, then people are reluctant to learn them,” says Lee. “It’s so much easier if you already know how to play them.”

Check out new board games for families.

On the town

For families that want to take their game playing out of the house, consider these upcoming events:

  • Board Game Night, Dec. 13, 20 and 27, 7:30 p.m., Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington, 631-423-7611. Bring your own games to play or try your hand at some new games provided by Cinema Arts. Free of charge.
  • Tabletop Game Night, Dec. 30, 6 p.m., Barnes & Noble Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove, 631-724-0341. Games are available to play, including this month’s featured selection, Santorini, a strategic family board game. Free of charge.

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