Try these fun activities to get the whole family to play together

Every year when Kathy Thomas’ “Big Catholic Family” gets together for the holidays, everyone plays bingo. Her mother, Rosemary Doyle, 91, calls the game up. The awards make the game more exciting – even teens look up to their phones, participate and post progress reports on Instagram.

“It has always been a fun way for the whole family to play something together,” says Thomas. Bingo does the trick because “when you have several ages and generations at a gathering, you have to find something that everyone can do together.”

Shared activities like bingo mean more than party fun, says Matthew Kaplan, professor of intergenerational and aging programs at Penn State University. They provide a chance for families to connect across generations.

“We have less and less time and we live further apart,” says Kaplan. “It has a profound impact on all facets of our social life. Sociologists note that even under the same roof, family members spend less time together.

This holiday season, why not give a gift the whole family can enjoy while you are together? We’ve compiled these intergenerational gift ideas, suitable for all ages.

Give one for a family gift exchange or as a gift for a senior family member. Gifts that come with time spent together are a great option for a tough-to-buy grandpa or a grandma who doesn’t need another knick-knack.

Rosemary Doyle calls the family game of Texas Party Bingo at her home in Dallas.(Shelby Tauber / Special Contributor)

Game changers

Look for games that everyone can play together that won’t strain the attention span of young players.

After years of playing bingo with his family, Thomas created Texas Party Bingo, a Lone Star version of the traditional game with playing cards featuring Texas icons like a cowboy hat and an armadillo, with some explanations for each in English and Spanish.

Regular Cards Against Humanity are too racy for kids, but last year's Home Edition and 2021 Glow in the Dark Home Edition provide hours of fun for kids and their parents.
Regular Cards Against Humanity are too racy for kids, but last year’s Home Edition and 2021 Glow in the Dark Home Edition provide hours of fun for kids and their parents.(Courtesy Cards Against Humanity)

This game is a real intergenerational collaboration. Thomas enlisted the help of family members to find elements for the cards and design help, and his mother helped with the Spanish translations. Players learn a bit of Texas history and folklore while having fun. Thomas’ tip: Sweeten the pot with prizes. “If you want your children and grandchildren to play with you, you need good prices. We play for gift cards for Target, Starbucks, and hamburger restaurants. »$ 13.99 plus shipping,

Look for family options of your favorite games. Cards Against Humanity is a very popular, but far too daring, blank comedy game for children. The manufacturer proposed Cards Against Humanity Family Edition for ages 8 and over in 2020, followed by a Glow in the Dark Family Edition in 2021. Both family editions feature larger cards, some written by children, and have been tested with thousands of families. Note: The game features potty humor, with cards such as “Fill My Butt With Spaghetti” and “Raining Cloud With Diarrhea”. If you’re worried, have an adult go through the cards ahead of time and put aside any that might offend. $ 20 to $ 25; Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other game retailers.

Hedbanz is a fun twist on the classic Who Am I? »Game. Players wear a banner that says who or what they are; teammates give clues and the player guesses. This year Take off from Hedbanz! Editing adds a timer integrated into the banner. If you fail to resolve your card in time, the cards drop out of the banner and you lose the round. 6 years and over. $ 19.99,

Remember playing Mad Libs with your siblings on long car rides? The classic game is still here and still fun for kids and adults alike. Look for holiday-themed editions like Happy Kwanzaa Mad Libs and Christmas fun Mad Libs. $ 4.99, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. Tip: You can also print one-page Mad Libs for free online at

Cooking Ideas

You can’t go wrong with an activity that involves favorite foods. How about a gift that allows the family to cook together?

Challah, the braided egg bread that is eaten on the Jewish Sabbath, is never out of season. The challah box includes five pre-measured, labeled ingredients and simple instructions for making eight challah loaves – enough to enjoy Friday night dinner, share with neighbors, and bake French toast the next day. There is also a subscription option. $ 45;

A whole generation of baby boomers grew up with Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls, originally published in 1957. This authentic reproduction edition is filled with the same step-by-step recipes suitable for ages 8 and up and retro photos that many Baby Boomers will remember from their childhood. Older family members will enjoy remembering, the younger ones will enjoy trying the recipes, and everyone will enjoy sampling the book’s classic, easy-to-make treats like the cover pigs, Good Kid cookies and cakes. with ice cream. $ 10.68 to, Amazon and Walmart.

Conversation starters

Table Subjects is a simple idea: a question box to spark conversation. Choose a question card, read it aloud, and family members take turns giving or responding. The Genius of TableTopics: The questions are tempting and participants can’t help but put their two cents in.

In addition to the original edition, there are special editions for Family gathering, Holiday conversation, and Grandparents and grandchildren. The latter was written by a TableTopics fan who wanted to ask questions to use when talking with her grandchildren, such as: what song makes you want to dance no matter what? Child, who were your heroes? What’s the most exciting thing you’ve received in the mail? What nicknames have you been called? $ 20-25. First edition available at Dillard’s and Barnes & Noble. Special editions available online at

The Lego Super Mario Adventures Starter Course with Luigi offers the nostalgia bonus to young parents who grew up playing the original Super Mario video games.
The Lego Super Mario Adventures Starter Course with Luigi offers the nostalgia bonus to young parents who grew up playing the original Super Mario video games.(Lego)

Constructive play

Find a gift that everyone can build together. “Construction toys are a fun activity for families to put together,” said Jennifer Lynch, Toy Trends Specialist for the Toy Association. “With so many different themed building sets, they can also be a great way to tap into the shared interests within a multigenerational household. Lynch likes it Lego Super Mario Adventures with Luigi Starter Course ($ 59.95), which offers the added bonus of nostalgia for young parents who grew up playing the original Super Mario video games. Family members can bring Super Mario Racecourse to life and enjoy it together. $ 59.95, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and toy retailers.

Gingerbread houses are also festive family projects. Many retailers and supermarkets offer kits with all the hardware you need to put one together. Target’s Wondershop line features a wide array of homes in different sizes, designs, and flavors (gingerbread, sugar cookie, and Oreo), including four edible projects that are new for 2021: Beach House Sugar Cookie Kit, Glittering Castle Sugar Cookie Kit, Holiday Barn Gingerbread House Kit and Holiday Log Cabin Gingerbread Cookie Kit. (Be sure to spread out newspaper or a plastic tablecloth; this project can get messy!) $ 9.99 to $ 19.99, Target stores and

Demystify it

This holiday season, set up a card table and prepare one of these puzzles for the family to have fun working together.

Try this merry Santa Claus Puzzle created by Dallas artist Rita Hendricks. With 504 pieces, it is suitable for ages 8 and up. $ 25.95 plus shipping costs; order from

Or how about a puzzle suitable for all ages and skill levels? MasterPieces offers a variety of 400 pieces Family time puzzles, each with pieces cut from small to large to accommodate puzzlers of different skills. Available at Amazon, Walmart, and other retailers. $ 8 to $ 10.

Shared viewing

If your family has a habit of watching a particular movie during the holidays (or if you want to start a tradition), consider this fun DIY gift idea from Kaplan, the professor at Penn State: a family movie kit. It’s a bag or box of props and props to spice up movie time. If your family likes Elf, for example, assemble a collection of wacky elf hats, toy tools for making toys, and packages of hot chocolate. If your family is watching Miracle on 34th Street each year, assemble Santa hats and beards along postcards addressed to the North Pole. Pause the video for an intermission; let family members swap accessories. Invite everyone to write a card to Santa and read them together.

“The idea is to transform watching movies from a passive, individualistic activity to an active, shared activity,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan adds that intergenerational gifts don’t necessarily involve a trip to the store. Consider giving a shared activity as a gift. Try a virtual tour of a famous museum. If you make a special dish every holiday, invite family members to cook it with you and give copies of the recipe for everyone to take home.

The bottom line: Find ways to make memories and share time together this holiday season.

Intergenerational giving “helps us locate ‘we’ instead of ‘me,’ Kaplan said. “We can use this gifting season as a time to travel beyond our private worlds and feel – and be – closer to our loved ones. “

For more ideas

The Penn State University website has a reference book on intergenerational activities and other gift ideas that connect the generations. Visit

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