How to Play Non‐Physical Games for All Ages at Family Gatherings

Family Gatherings

The meal has been devoured, no one is tempted to eat even a wafer thin mint, and inertia has taken hold. Establishing a tradition of quiet, mental games that do not involve a lot of running around or bats and balls allows the entire gang to laugh together, share memories, and flex their creative muscles. A few simple guidelines can make your time together enjoyable and productive. Wait! What about the big game on television? Turn it off and create your own happy memories.


1. Form a circle with chairs. Bring everyone in the room, from the youngest to the oldest, and, with a person in charge, announce the ground rules: speak clearly, concisely, and project your voice. Assist those who require assistance.

2. Begin with an introduction. Each person must rhyme his or her name. It’s fine to use middle or last names if they lend themselves to rhyming better. For example, my name is Sue, and I am a zookeeper. I’m Bob, and I’m not a snob. Yes, it’s corny, but it’ll get people laughing and relaxed.

3. Play the game Here Comes the Tray. Who hasn’t played this at a birthday or bridal shower? Distribute mini legal pads, pencils, and a tray containing 10 or so common items. Allow a volunteer, perhaps the person who chose the items and will not be participating in the guessing, to walk slowly around the group for about 3 minutes. Tell the participants to take a long, hard look because once the tray has been removed, each person must try to remember all of the items displayed and write them down on their pads. Work in two-person teams if there are a lot of young people. Finally, have the person with the most items on their list read their list aloud to the group. People should raise their hands if they have accounted for the item. Determine which team or individuals came the closest to remembering the most items. Prizes are optional, but keep them small and unimportant. Not loot, but fun is the order of the day.

4. Play another memory game, Word Repeat. Begin anywhere in the circle and have that person say a word related to the holiday you’re celebrating. For instance, “cranberries” for a Thanksgiving dinner. The following person must repeat the first word and add a new one. “Cranberries with gravy” Then “cranberries, gravy, and mincemeat pie,” and so on around the circle. People will start calling out helpful prompts after linking five or six words, and it may get a little silly. All the more reason to laugh and have a good time.

5. Family History is a game. It is a game that is based on the accomplishments of various members. On a prepared handout, ask questions about the participants’ lives, whether they are alive or dead. Who participated in the Civil War? Who left home at the age of eighteen to work as a secretary? Who wore a wedding gown handcrafted by her mother and aunt? Who travelled to Paris for a college course? Who made the best chilli in the family? Give

6. Questions for discussion How would I spend the money if I won the lottery? Who influenced your life? Share your “whys” and “hows.” What was your favourite teacher’s name, and why? What piece of advice did you receive that you still use today? Prepare a series of questions, read them aloud, and give everyone time to respond.

7. As a final exercise, have each person write a note to the person on his or her right and compliment them. Even if that person is unfamiliar, perhaps a party guest, there will be nice things to say about them. “I like the colour of your sweater,” “I noticed how helpful you were with the dinner service,” and so on.

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