Creating Family Fun during the Holidays

            By Maida Korte

“Play is the work of childhood.” – Fred Rogers

When I was a little girl we always had dinner together as a family.  All of our school work from the day’s labors at the school mines was placed next to my father’s dinner plate for his perusal while we ate.  He would solemnly pick up a crude but confident drawing of some animal form and comment on it.  “Wonderful work – is this a rhinoceros?”  And the author of this masterpiece would explain with appropriate indignation that it was an ant hill or a mole or a lizard and so the fun began.  At our family table we would rewrite famous literary works into Nash-esque poetry, see who had memorized the works to the latest Gilbert and Sullivan ditty and we children would listen to our parents talk about something interesting that we didn’t quite understand yet.  We would fidget and giggle and exclaim and recite and ultimately grow up.  One day decades later, I reflected that I wasn’t as much fun as I used to be.  This prompted a concerted effort to bring fun back into all of our family gatherings. With four grown daughters, four ‘son-in-loves’ and seven grandchildren it became essential to have a plan where wonderland could be found in our living room.   I have discovered four easy ways to help your family and mine become the place where dreams are formed with laughter.

Hint One:  Create little ‘Pockets of fun’ throughout your home in preparation for holiday gatherings.  Place a jigsaw puzzle on an underused corner table with a sign that asks everyone to place 10 pieces.  This will take on a life of its own as it nears completion and everyone gets in on it.  Take a group photo of all participants and post!  If you have a home with a pool table or ping pong table, then write up a sign up sheet for a round robin tournament with prizes.  The signup sheet should be near the kitchen since that is where everyone wants to be.  Fill the signup sheets early before the main meal is served and post a time for the competition to begin.  For those lucky enough to live somewhere with milder weather, than a flag football game that is co-ed is definitely to be on the agenda.  Schedule this with mock seriousness and prepare simple “flags” of two bright colors out of wide ribbons.  If television will be part of your festivities make sure it is not the central focal point, but do allow for the fun of a broadcast football game or even a cherished movie playing in the background that everyone can enjoy.  By intentionally separating your home into unique game areas, you will provide windows of fun and you will hear the exultant shouts of victory as a welcome background noise.

Hint Two:  Prepare for one family game where everyone plays – all adults and all kids.  This will soon become a signature event that everyone looks forward to.  We play a version of “Ten Thousand Dollar Pyramid” where over the course of the day or evening, small pieces of paper are provided where teams write out names of people and places and then these are folded in half and placed in a large bowl.  Move chairs out of the way to prepare two sides of a space, with a center open area – this does not have to be a large space.  Someone is in charge of a 30 second timer as papers are grabbed out of the bowl amid shouts of clues and answers while whoops and laughter fill the room.  Perhaps charades is your choice or “Guess That Name” but make sure it is a stand up get up move around be dramatic game.  ‘Trivial Pursuit’ works if you abandon the board and just use cards as substitute for your hand-written pieces of paper.  Memories are made of these moments of raucous fun.  For those who only want to watch, they will want a front row seat and let the game begin!

Hint Three:    Story time at the dinner table is a wonderful way to learn a little bit more about each other.  We all have inner lives and sharing out loud our history and our thoughts can at times need to be helped along. We have a family signature of asking couples their love story.  It is always heart-warming to hear these true stories of how two people met.  You can see their faces go back to the beginning and the sharing is real and memorable and we sit at rapt attention, learning more about those we surround ourselves with.  Questions from kids are always interesting so let them get in on the conversation.  “Were you naughty when you were little?” This questions always seem to make its way to our holiday table.  Let the oldest members at your table get the first invitation to share.  Asking Grampa to tell what it was like when he got his first job will definitely be both informative for all and nostalgic for him.  Family foundations are built on these conversations. 

Hint Four:      Show time!  When the kids arrive let them know that they will be putting on a show right before dinner.  Prepare a theme and a place and the kids will take it from there.  Assign a director (generally the oldest child).  Explain simple parameters such as:  The show cannot be more than five minutes in length, everyone must play a part, etc.  It can include music, dancing, acting, reciting and often a talent show becomes the end product.  This will become an annual event and by having the show put on before dinner it is the lull before the storm that always happens as final preparations rear up just before dinner is served.  This will be a welcome moment of calm for all the adults and stands as a signal that dinner is almost ready. 

A final point that is essential to family fun is to wear a smile and a heart of love and acceptance.  The simplicity of a shoulder hugged and a warm look of gratitude will deepen the belief that family and friends are the best things in life.  Your countenance will shine through each event and as your guests prepare to head home, filled with so much more than food, you will have continued to build a platform of all that is good and gracious and warm and inviting, and that is truly what family fun is all about. 

One Response to “Creating Family Fun during the Holidays

  • James Walker
    12 months ago

    BEAUTIFUL POST! Perhaps your best yet… and to quote Dumbledore… that is saying something!

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