Mobile-free zone: Go old-school with family-friendly board games

Forget Fortnite, nix Netflix and dig out some old-fashioned board games for quality family time

This year might be the tipping point where parents finally say no to little heads buried in tablets and touchscreens for the duration of the Christmas holidays.

A digital detox is one way to avoid all those arguments about screen time, according to Joanna Fortune, who is a clinical psychotherapist and author of the book 15-Minute Parenting. She says "aiming to reconnect by disconnecting", is an idea this Christmas.

“I’m a huge advocate of family play time for strengthening and enhancing the parent-child relationship,” she says.

It may also help stave off the inevitable Christmas family row by keeping things on a more even keel. “Time spent playing with their parents can be a really good way to support emotional co-regulation for children,” says Fortune. “Young children don’t self-regulate their emotions – they co-regulate with their parents and caregivers.”


She recommends going old-school in a bid to have fun, while also learning some essential life skills. “Investing in some board games is a great way to connect and experience some shared joy,” she says.

“Games like snakes and ladders are a great way to practise the highs and lows of winning and losing . . . there can be no strategy, it’s just the roll of a dice. It’s also great for turn-taking.”

Keeping it even simpler is to write various words or phrases or TV show titles on scraps of paper and place them in a bowl for charades, adds Fortune. “This is great for practising imagination, interpretation and non-verbal communication, as well as reading cues in others,” she says.

For busy families finally getting to spend some valuable time together over the festive season, making it a tech-free zone can help make it even more special, adds Fortune.

“All of these also invite moments of meeting and shared joy between parents and children – this Christmas let your presence be your present.”

The kids may not be happy – after all, the turkey doesn't vote for Christmas. But if you want to forget Fortnite and nix Netflix, you'll need some innovative ways of keeping young brains occupied. Flick off the Wi-Fi (pretend it's broken?), ignore the grumbling, and try one of these options.

Board games

This is the definition of an oldie but a goodie. Dig out some old favourites such as Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble, or invest in an up-to-date version of a classic – Monopoly Game of Thrones or Harry Potter Cluedo anyone?

Jigsaw puzzles

These promote the development of cognitive, visual-spatial, collaborative and social skills. The new generation of puzzles are a bit more demanding, for example, the Wasgij ('jigsaw' backwards) puzzles use a unique concept where the picture on the box is not what you have to piece together but merely a clue to what the finished product should look like. 
Try: Wasgij Christmas 15 Santa Christmas Treat Puzzle (Argos, €15.99)


A book that the whole family can read together – and engage in raucous debate about – is a rarity, but they do exist.
Try: The Great Irish Science Book by Prof Luke O'Neill (Gill, €24.99)