Exclusive: Gameshow host Stephen Mulhern on why board games are better than computer games (and how you can get your kids to make the swap)

TV presenter and magician Stephen Mulhern has lifted the lid on why board games are more beneficial to families than computer games

Stephen Mulhern drop in and main image of family playing board games
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking for ways to get your kids off screens this half-term, TV presenter and magician Stephen Mulhern reveals why you should swap video games for board games - and there's a simple way to get your kids to start.

It's easy for kids to be kept occupied during half-term by watching their favourite shows or gaming, and it's OK to let them play for a bit. But it can be frustrating when your child or teen refuses to put down their console and even do simple things like brush their teeth or get dressed. And while screens aren't the only reason kids aren't playing outdoors, and you shouldn't feel guilty about screen time, you will want to know how to reduce screen time - even if it ends up being a compromise.

Catchphrase and Dancing on Ice host Stephen Mulhern has revealed how best to get children playing more board games at home - and it's as easy as picking the board game equivalent of their favourite show. Nowadays, board games are so popular that TV shows like Catchphrase, The Chase and even The Traitors have released their own version of the classic gameshow enabling fans to play along at home.

Speaking at this year's Toy Fair, Stephen told GoodtoKnow, “If you do watch the shows on the telly and you like them, then at least with the board games you can be playing those games in your own home. I love playing Catchphrase. Without question, I’ve never seen any computer game that will make families and friends interact like a good board game. I think board games are fun, they can be more intellectually challenging, and I think overall they can be more entertaining rather than looking at a screen and thinking who can race here first? Whatever board game it is, whether it’s a game that has jeopardy, risk, or is funny, it’s a chance to laugh and interact and all be together."

He also warned about the dangers of online gaming. "This whole idea of just sitting there and playing one one-on-one with you and the screen, I think it’s a shame, or playing someone online that you’ve never even met and more importantly don’t know. If someone said to me you’ve got a board game or a high-end computer game which one would I want my nephews or nieces to play, I’d always go board game.

“That’s also how I was brought up. My go-to games as a kid were Guess Who, Operation and Yatzy. It’s just all those sorts of games that, even Snap, just games we could all play along. Scrabble….the whole idea of playing along and seeing their eyes, I think you just can’t beat it.”

There's been a whole host of TV gameshow comebacks including Gladiators, a reboot of Deal or No Deal, and, if you're feeling nostalgic, there are these 90s gameshows that most would love to bring back.

Stephen believes the rise in the popularity of nostalgic shows is down to that viewers "feel safe with them with everything that's going on" in the world. He added, "Deal or No Deal was on for 10 years with Noel Edmonds and now there’s a new generation where the adults or the cousins can go, if you’ve never seen it, watch it, because it’s not crude, it’s just proper family entertainment."

We asked Stephen what show he'd love to be involved in if they ever returned. He replied, "I feel very lucky at the moment, the shows I've wanted to do for a long time, I’m finally getting to do them. If there was any other show to bring back it would be, do you remember You Bet with Mathew Kelly? They had quirky challenges to do or an amazing talent, where they’d go 'I can name 10 car doors slamming without seeing them by just hearing them'."

For parents wanting to strike a compromise over screen time with their kids, Stephen suggests they learn something like how to do magic. He said, "There is YouTube which is also free but that does mean you’re going to be on a computer but at least that is learning something. I think with magic it’s an art form so that’s where I divide the line really, if you do have some sort of access to YouTube for magic it’s great. I’ve brought a third book out now called Max Magic 3 and at the back of the book we teach you some step-by-step how I perform them, all the top tips on how to do the tricks and you get to read it as well."

In other family news, ‘It’s okay to not like playing’ – a parenting psychologist reveals 3 reasons why playing with your kid feels like a chore and 'Are you even listening to me?' If it feels like your teenager is tuning you out, they probably are, but research proves it’s not personal, just science.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)