Games. They’ve certainly changed over the years. Way back when, it used to be that a game of horseshoes or croquet in the backyard was the pinnacle of excitement. Then, maybe a rousing game of “Go Fish” or Parcheesee. Then, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Uno. Card and tile games such as Bridge, Pinnocole, and Mah Johng still hold sway among the 60+ group. I understand that Poker’s also still a strong contender, but even Poker’s popularity stats fall far behind today’s leaders: video games.
I’ll admit it right up front: I’m not a video game fan. Even the Super Mario games that came out a good 20 years ago made me nervous, and they’re nothing compared to today’s games.
My objection to these games isn’t primarily focused on the violence and sex. My focus is on what those games take away. They take away contact. They diminish engagement. For me, even the convenient on-line games fall short of the mark. In my book, players should be face-to-face. Otherwise, it’s simply not as much fun.
Fast forward to a family reunion, and the key role that activities, including games, play in making family reunions successful.
“I think it’s fair to say that the activities pretty much are the glue that holds it all together.” comments Janet who has attended her family’s reunion of 200 people for “about a zillion years.” She adds with a laugh, “Well, the food’s mighty important too.”
The trick to planning activities is coming up with activities that appeal to the wide age span and that provide something for everyone. Below are three tried and true activity suggestions followed by a new suggestion:
- What’s Special About You?
Have each family member write something interesting about themselves on a slip of paper and put it in a bucket. Draw out a slip, read it, and have everyone guess who wrote it. An example is, “I can put both of my feet behind my head.” They can write anything that distinguishes them.
- It’s All About Teams
Organize a softball game. Pitting the older players against the younger players is always popular.
- Calling Julia Childs
Well, no one in your family may cook a fantastique boeuf bourginon, but I bet there are lots of relatives interested in a fun cooking competition. It gives talented cooks a chance to show off and the hungry masses something to smile about. Pick a popular theme such as baked goods or chili, and invite an all-age panel of family members to judge the competition. Remember to take snapshots of the submitted dishes as well as snapshots of the recipes. (You can upload these as pictures and text files to your family reunions stories on Saving Memories Forever.)
New Activity Idea: Pass the Phone
Pass-the-Phone is a new activity idea. It uses smartphone apps and storytelling so it appeals to the folks who like “high-tech” as well as others who value oral history.
It requires only a committed game leader (who does some advance preparation BEFORE the reunion) and family members who are willing to answer a question or two. Ideally, the game leader has a smartphone and is comfortable with using the Saving Memories Forever website.
The activity can be played by “going around the circle” or picking names from a hat. The game involves asking a question, recording the answer, and saving those recorded answers on the Saving Memories Forever website. The Saving Memories Forever apps provide some question prompts, but players can always ask their own questions. The game goes quickly and is flexible. Interviews last only 5 minutes apiece with each question and response; the leader decides when to end the game.
Family reunions invite this Pass-the-Phone activity to be a group experience. You can be sure that family members will interject their comments and those unedited comments will also be fun to listen to down the road. For more details about how to play Pass-the Phone, check our website.
Meanwhile, let the games begin!