I ran an All-Ages Game Night at my church last month as both a social event for our members and a way to connect with our community (and maybe attract some new members). It was easy to do, extremely inexpensive, and lots of fun!
My family loves games and owns enough to fill a large chest of drawers, so we simply brought about half of our games (see list below), the ones that are easiest to learn and don’t take a really long time to play. We didn’t serve snacks at Game Night–food is distracting and expensive and gets the cards sticky–but we did serve ice water and lemonade using our real glasses. It was a hot, humid evening, and our parish hall is not air-conditioned, so we set up fans.
About a week in advance, we hung flyers around the neighborhood, and at bus stops on routes that pass the church, that said
All-Ages Game Night
Card games! Board games! Pyramid games!
Learn new games or bring your favorites to share.
and gave the date, time, and location–we had it on a Saturday, 6:30-9:30pm. The flyers, lemon juice, and sugar were the only expenses for this event. We did not charge admission.
About 30 people attended at some point in the evening, and less than half of them were church members! This was the best new-people-attracting event we’ve had in years! It was particularly exciting that many of the people did not know anyone at our church but simply saw the flyer and decided to come. A few were hard-core gamers hoping to meet new players for advanced strategy games. Others were just looking for something fun to do. The only children other than my 6-year-old son were a pair of 6-year-old twins, but we got adults ranging from 20 to late 70s.
I had all my games set out on a table and the beverages on another table. We set up 4 large rectangular tables, each with 8 chairs around it, for game playing. As people arrived, I invited them to play a game–with me, when I was available, or by choosing a game from the table.
These are the games that were played during the evening:
- Family Fluxx
- The aMAZEing Labyrinth
- Candy Land
- Zendo (played with Looney Pyramids–we brought a set boxed specifically for Zendo that they used to sell)
- Tandem (This game was sold by UNICEF years ago; it looks like they don’t make it anymore. It’s a “memory” or “concentration” type game in which you turn up two cards, trying to find matching pairs. What’s nice about this one is that the pictures are photos of children around the world.)
These are the games we brought that nobody ended up playing, although they are all good games:
- Back to the Future (see my review of this game)
- Zombie Fluxx
- Treehouse (We brought the Looney Pyramids packaged specifically for Treehouse that they used to sell; several other games can be played with those 15 pyramids, and even more can be played with the 60 pyramids in our Zendo box. In hunting up links, I found this new statement explaining why the pyramids are now marketed as only for people 14 and older, which I am so disappointed to see because, although I understand the liability concerns, I’ve played with pyramids so successfully with children as young as 15 months! Please don’t panic–Looney Pyramids are no more dangerous than Legos! Just don’t leave them all over the floor or stick them up your nose.)
- Martian Coasters
- Connect Four
- Mixies (Looks like this is out of print. It’s a card game for preschoolers in which you match cards to form a bus. Nicholas liked it when he was 2-4.)
- Stadium Checkers
- ordinary playing cards (good for lots of games!)
Hosting an All-Ages Game Night worked for me! We’re planning to have another one in November.
Check out Works-for-Me Wednesday to see what works for other writers, including a new way to exchange children’s outgrown clothes for bigger ones!