I wasn’t expecting my kids to start pestering me to play board games with them until they could read. Actually, with the advances in technology giving them access to play games on their iTouches and the family iPad or on the Wii, I was half hoping I could completely avoid suffering through endless hours of board games with my kids entirely.

However, my kids can be decidedly low tech about certain things, and they find family board game time thrilling.

With three kids at varying ages and comprehension levels, satisfying everyone’s desire to play specific games was challenging, until I stumbled across the idea of family board game tournaments.

Pay Day board game

Each person in the family chooses one board or card game. We set a 20 minute timer and start playing. When the timer rings, we review the game and allocate points per player based on their position in the game. The winning player gets to wear a dollar store tiara for the duration of the next game. Our kids are adept at choosing games they think they can win, and as parents we select luck-based games that even the playing field, allowing better odds for the younger kids to win.

Some of our favourite games that suit a time-limited tournament style play for younger kids include Sorry, Chutes and ladders, Bedbugs, Operation, Checkers, Don’t Break the Ice, Ants in the Pants, Guess Who and Hungry Hungry Hippos.

For kids 8 and up, you may want to increase the amount of time allocated for each game, and try more advanced games like Cranium, Monopoly Jr., Payday, Apples to Apples, Uno, Boggle Jr., and Clue Jr.

The breaks between games are a great time to promote physical activity too – play a quick game of hide and seek or challenge the kids to a one-song dance off. Don’t forget the snacks! We try to avoid tying fun and junk food together, and instead serve apple slices and nut butter, ham roll ups or cheese squares with fancy toothpicks.