Playing games is a key part of my childhood memories. While my parents were busy working two or three jobs, there was something so special about that rare opportunity when mom or dad would sit down with us at a table to play Euchre or Yahtzee. Years later, I've come to understand a little about how those opportunities really helped prepare me for life. Playing games with my parents, the titans who controlled my life and provided for me, I learned how to interact with them on a safe peer level.

I often struggle to teach my children fair play and how to respectfully deal with adults and peers, but it was during these gaming sessions that I first realized for myself that mom and dad were people too. Looking across the table, in a friendly competition, gave us a safe, friendly playing field where we could discuss our thoughts and step outside the traditional parent-child roles.

My dad was my partner or my opponent, and while we didn't always win, those opportunities gave my parents the opportunity to show me how to be a good winner, and sometimes how to laugh at my defeats and pick right back up to win. It taught me that winning at all costs wasn't the important part of playing the game, it was sharing strategy and watching, observing how my parents handled the situations. I adapted their approaches into my own and learned by osmosis.

I didn't know it, but family game night also taught my parents a few things about me. How did I handle stress? How did I work in teams or groups to meet a goal? Where did I need their help and experience to guide my reactions? These weren't tests or purposeful discoveries for any of us, they were just the natural outcome of time spent together.

The other unforeseen outcome, one I use today with my own children, is it gave us a chance to talk as a family without the pomp and formality or stress of a formal family meeting. Our lives are so busy with activities, work and life that the sit-down meal of the past never seems to happen in the Sines household. Those interchanges don't happen as organically as they once did. Instead of the 6:00 family dinner we play games together.

Video games, board games, card games really the games themselves are secondary to me, a means to an end. The learning happens without your notice, the walls drop and the defenses lower when you're having fun together. Make it a point to play the games your children enjoy and introduce your own family game night tradition and watch the results.

I think you'll be surprised how much everyone can learn.

-- Shawn Sines, Columbus Parent games reviewer