Activities for families while they shelter in place

We are a game-playing family. And when I say game-playing, I really mean highly competitive, cutthroat, no-holds-barred, babies can lose too, throwdowns.

“In your face!” is a loving term repeatedly uttered during games in our home.

Scrabble board

It sounds harsh but its fun (for the winner).

Actually, we all love our game nights and during Covid19, our game nights have gone from once a week to almost nightly.

The top choice is – and will likely always remain – Scrabble. Nothing compares to discovering a new Q word and slapping it down on the board with a grin that defies your teen to challenge you and risk losing a turn.  Especially when they do and you were right. Then you can take to social media and taunt them in front of their friends. (What? just me? I told you we were competitive, right?), but I digress.

The only thing that makes a games night better is being able to rope in unsuspecting victims…er…I mean… open up the games to friends and family. And while quarantines and #stayhome promises make it tough, I have discovered a few online options that can feel almost exactly like the real thing.

Here are a few that you can try. Let me know if you are able to assert your dominance play nicely with your loved ones from afar.

Stay well friends,


Family Games Night
Mother beats son at a game of Pong at the Computer History Museum in California and humbly acknowledges her win. Photo credit: Emily Polar

1. Card sharks beware

The site:

The games: They’ve got everything from the tender childhood favourite “Go Fish” to a maybe-just-the-adults, Cards Against Humanity type game. By logging into a private room on the site you and your virtual playmates can see each other’s moves. You won’t however be able to chat or view your adversaries, so be prepared to have another device/window nearby where you can use one of your favourite video talking platforms to see the look on their faces when you out-manoeuver them.

2. There’s an app for that

The link:

There are so many games out there that have been recreated as online shareable fun. Among the app options we’ve investigated: ScrabbleGo (though I’m more partial to Words with Friends), Uno and Heads Up. There are a ton of options in the AppStore (pro tip: Most of these show up in the mobile store but not on the desktop). Pro Tip: If you do play HeadsUp with your kids, opt for topics like 90s trivia for the win.

3. Draw your quarantine feelings

The link:

Terrible artist and a fan of games that involve shouting? This one is for you. Pictionary is a popular game and you can use your favourite video conference option to replicate the fun online. The link above provides random words to draw (or you can just come up with one on your own) and then you can use the whiteboard function on Zoom to involve your competition across the screen.

Video Game playing
Cameron perfecting his Pac-man video game skills at the Computer History Museum. photo credit: Emily Polar.

4. Act it Out

The link:

When the kids were little, Charades was one of those go-to games that we could do anywhere. Our even-sided family also meant that the competitions were well-balanced. This on-line version makes it Covid19 friendly. Use the generator to get an idea and then act it out for your partner to guess.

5. Gamers Unite

The link: Minecraft online

I am not a gamer though I can be talked into a good round of Mario Kart. Still, I know that my kids are going nuts over the online gaming options out there right now. The one that seems to get the most attention from Cameron is Minecraft. Yup, the same one that haunted us parents all those years ago. He has started sharing tips and tricks on his YouTube page as well. I could complain, but at a time when my kids can’t have their friends over for a get-together, knowing they can stay connected while having fun online has helped ease the strain. Plus, all that time on Minecraft means he’s not looking up new words to beat me in Scrabble. Win-win.

Did we miss any? Share your favourites in the comments below.