5 Crazy Simple (& Free!) Ways to Fill Family Game Night with Fun

Family game nights always sound like a fun idea– but have you found yourself acting as a referee in the “what game should we play?” battle? Then, once you broker peace with a game everyone is happy with…you need to track it down, drag it off the shelf, confirm all the pieces are in the box, set it up, and re-read the rules (maybe that last one is just me).

GAME NIGHT DOESN’T NEED TO BE THAT COMPLICATED! We like to keep family game night simple – these ideas are old favorites – with some new twists.

The best part? They are free!

Bonus points because there is no cleanup. Just recycle the paper and put the pencil back!

1. The Power of Pencil and Paper Games

Remember the days when all you needed was a piece of paper and a pencil to have hours of fun? Let’s bring back those memories with some classic and new pencil and paper games that are perfect for family game night.

Draw a SILLY Story

Unleash your family’s creativity with this fun and interactive game. It’s all about storytelling, but with a twist!

Drawing and storytelling come together in this hilarious game. The first person starts by drawing a part of a story on a large sheet of paper. They then narrate what they’ve drawn before passing the paper to the next person. This continues with each person adding to the drawing and the story. The result? A collaborative and often silly story that’s sure to have everyone laughing.

Modify It: Little ones can easily join in on this game. They can either add to the drawing or come up with their own part of the story.

Paper Telephone

Remember the classic game of telephone? This version adds a visual twist, making it even more fun and unpredictable.

The game starts with each person drawing a picture on a piece of paper. This paper is then passed to the next person who writes a caption for the drawing. The drawing is then folded over, leaving only the caption visible. The next person reads the caption, draws a corresponding picture, and so on. By the end, the original message has often morphed into something completely different and hilarious.

Modify It: For younger participants, ensure they get to draw. The person before them can whisper the caption to them, making it easier for them to understand and participate.

2. Engaging Exploration Games

Exploration games are all about discovery and adventure. These games will have your family moving around, working together, and having a blast.

Scavenger Hunt

Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? This game is all about finding specific items in a set amount of time.

Divide the family into two teams and assign each team a room. Each team then creates a list of items for the other team to find. The goal is to find all the items on the list as quickly as possible. To make it more challenging, be specific in your descriptions. For example, instead of just “shoelace”, specify “a red shoelace out of a shoe”.

Modify It: For younger players, read out the items on the list to them. This ensures they understand what they’re looking for and can fully participate in the fun.


A classic game that never gets old. Charades is all about acting out and guessing, making it a hit for all ages.

Divide the family into two teams. Each team takes turns acting out a chosen word or phrase, while the other team tries to guess what it is. The catch? No speaking allowed! Only gestures and actions can be used to convey the message.

Modify It: For the little ones, give them familiar topics to act out. This ensures they’re comfortable and can enjoy the game to the fullest.

3. Classic Board Game Alternatives

How to Play Pictionary visual

Sometimes, you don’t have access to board games or are looking for a simpler alternative. These games capture the essence of board games but with minimal setup.


If you love drawing and guessing games, Pictionary is perfect for you. It’s all about conveying a word or phrase through drawings.

Similar to charades, but instead of acting out the clues, you draw them. Players take turns drawing a word or phrase while their team tries to guess what it is. The key is to be as creative as possible with your drawings.

Modify It: For younger players, let the adults do the drawing while they join in the guessing. Alternatively, they can draw their own clues, announcing what they’re about to draw.


This game is all about categorization and quick thinking. It’s a hit at family gatherings and is sure to challenge everyone.

Each player creates a 6×6 grid. Agree on five categories and choose a five-letter word. Set a timer for 10 minutes and try to come up with an item in each category for each letter of the word. It’s a race against time and a test of your knowledge.

Modify It: This game might be a bit challenging for younger players. However, they can team up with an adult or older sibling to play as a team.

4. Brain-Boosting Word Games

How to Play Hangman

Word games are not only fun but also great for enhancing vocabulary and cognitive skills. Let’s get into some word games that are sure to challenge and entertain your family.

Word Association

This game is all about quick thinking and making connections between words.

The game starts with one person saying a word out loud. The next person then says a word that is associated with the previous word. For example, if the first word is “beach,” the next word could be “sand.” The game continues with each person building on the previous word. The challenge is to think quickly and avoid repeating words.

Modify It: For younger players, give them a bit more time to think, or allow them to pass their turn if they’re stuck.


A classic word-guessing game that’s always a hit.

One player thinks of a word and draws a blank line for each letter of the word. The other players then guess letters. For each incorrect guess, a part of a stick figure is drawn. The goal is to guess the word before the stick figure is fully drawn.

Modify It: For younger players, choose simple words or give them hints to help them guess the word.

5. Strategy and Logic Games

How to Play Dots and Boxes

These games are perfect for those who love challenges and putting their strategic skills to the test.

Dots and Boxes

A classic pen-and-paper game that’s all about strategy.

Players take turns connecting two adjacent dots with a line. The goal is to complete a box. When a player completes a box, they get to put their initial inside and take another turn. The player with the most boxes at the end wins.

Modify It: For younger players, use a smaller grid to make the game quicker and easier.

20 Questions

A guessing game that’s all about deduction and logic.

One player thinks of an object, and the other players have 20 questions to figure out what it is. The catch? They can only ask yes or no questions. It’s a game of deduction, logic, and clever questioning.

Modify It: For younger players, you can give additional hints or allow open-ended questions.

Final Words

In conclusion, family game night doesn’t have to be about expensive board games or handicraft projects. With just a pencil, paper, and a bit of imagination, you can have hours of fun.

These games are not only entertaining but also educational, promoting creativity, strategic thinking, and bonding. So the next time you’re thinking of a family activity, consider these simple yet engaging games.

Remember, it’s not about winning or losing, but about spending quality time together and making memories. Happy gaming!