During these next few months we call the "holiday season," from Thanksgiving to Christmas and Hanukkah and right on through New Year's, our homes will be filled with family and friends. It's a perfect opportunity for kids to get to know their elders and vice versa.
But how do we get the generations intermingling and avoid the adults huddling in the kitchen while the kids are off on a screen or dismantling the house? Simple, with a bit of purposeful play.
Here are eight ideas to get you started:
This is a case of "if you build it, they will come." I used ready-made photo props from Paper Source, hung two lengths of festive gift wrap side by side down a section of wall in my foyer, provided an instant camera and good lighting, and said next to nothing. NO ONE can resist a photo booth opp. Unless they're a Grinch. (And the photos you end up with at the end of the day are priceless).
This game takes the traditional game of pantomime and turns it on its head. Instead of one person trying to get their teammates to guess their word, one person guesses, while the rest of the team works together to act out a bigger concept. Team work + ridiculousness=family bonding awesomeness.
Forego your fancy tablecloth for a roll of butcher or chalkboard paper. Cover the table, add pretty containers of crayons and washable markers, and have your guests decorate the space in front of their seat, draw funny pictures, and write special notes to each other.
My husband came up with this activity during a recent family gathering and it's now one of our most favorites. He bought an old typewriter and paper on eBay, set it up, and typed the first sentence of a "story." He asked guests to take turns going over throughout the day and adding one sentence at a time to the story. At the end of the evening we read the story out loud and laughed until our sides hurt. And it was fun trying to identify who had written which lines.
I discovered this silly, song-based game last year at the New York Toy Fair and it's brilliantly fun. The game, Spontuneous, has all players trying to be the first to sing the correct lyrics to a song containing a specific word like fire, sky or friends. You find out quickly what random songs everyone has dancing in their heads.
Head outside on the lawn with giant poster board letter tiles and instead of playing Words with (fake) Friends on your iPhone, play Words with Family with, well, your real friends and family. It's basically Scrabble, people.
A couple weeks before your gathering, have your guests send you several photos of themselves at different ages. Copy photos and shrink down to a 2-by-5 inch size and place in inexpensive frames from the Dollar Store. Place the photos around the table or on the mantle or coffee table and watch as everyone tries to guess who's who while stories of what's happening in the pictures unfold.
We begin every Thanksgiving Day with the parade on State Street. We bring blankets to sit on, hot chocolate in thermoses and muffins to munch on. It's become a beloved tradition and we bring whatever guests happen to be visiting. It's over early enough that we are back home by noon and ready to nestle in for the long day of cooking and football games.
Meredith Sinclair is a freelance writer and blogger living with three quirky guys on Chicago's North Shore.
See more of Meredith's stories here.