Let the Games Begin!

The first day of summer is finally here, and your family is enjoying the languid, warm days with little to do. Just a few weeks into this long-awaited break and you hear it. No, I'm not referring to the usual “I'm bored” summer anthem, instead your kids whine, “no, not again!” as the seasonal family reunion looms in the horizon.

Kids, especially teens, might think it's boring to be with people they only see once a year. Perhaps even if visiting with family once a week is a challenge, there's a great way to stop them from dreading these gatherings … just let the games begin! If it's your turn to host the family picnic, make sure you organize some games the whole family can play, and you'll see what a difference a little Bingo can make.

I have never been one to segregate the children from the adults at family events, and have always looked for ways to be inclusive. Our multi-generation celebrations had to change once the children were no longer toddlers. Having a wide age range in one place for 4 to 5 hours at a time made for some uncomfortable moments between the adults who were trying to have conversations, and the kids who had nothing to do. Sound familiar? The key to harmonious reunions in our family has been to play games. Now, our family has found a way to be together while having fun and creating lasting memories!

In her blog post “20 Tween and Teen Conversation Starters”, Vanessa Van Petten, author of “You're Grounded!”, wrote that games can help with family communication: “The biggest problem is how to get us young people talking and engaged. I find that some of the best ways to do this is to play games like Scrabble, Clue or Sorry that you can all engage over the common game.” Playing board games certainly contributes to family bonding, but playing physically or skill challenging games are also a great ice breaker and quickly unite a large group in uproarious laughter.

Keep in mind, that to successfully enjoy playing games during a gathering greatly depends on preparation and quantity. When planning, try to have more games than you'll need, and most importantly, take the time to prepare them; if you need to print up trivia sheets or set up a skill challenge, make sure you have what you need on hand so you don't break the momentum once the fun has started.

Here are some other helpful tips to successfully lead games:

*Form teams with equal numbers of both adults and kids.

*Write up trivia questions including things from both children and adult movies, TV shows or current events. This way they need each other to succeed.

*Have prizes. Anything from candy bars to $5 gift cards from Starbucks, Game Stop or Barnes and Noble work well. You can also ask everyone to bring a couple of gift cards or presents to use as prizes.

*If at home, use your yard as well as the living room. Try to plan several games to be played in succession once the group has settled in one area.

One more piece of advise, don't let anyone talk you out of playing. Teenagers will probably protest at first, but when they see how much fun everyone is having they will want to join in – at the very least, they'll want to get their hands on one of those gift cards!

Books: Penny Warner's “Games People Play” and “The Best Party Book Ever; 1001 Creative Ideas for Fun Parties”.

Websites for games: http://www.partygamecentral.com/; http://www.party411.com/gameguide.html; http://party-games-etc.com/

Trivia websites: http://www.triviaplaying.com/; http://www.funtrivia.com/

Would you like to share a game or suggestion that worked for you and your family? Post it in the comments (requires registration) or send me an email. Thanks for reading!

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