Tis the season for big ol’ family gatherings. From Thanksgiving through New Years Day many of our houses will be brimming with relatives ages 8 to 80. And if you happen to be hosting any of these events, then it’s your job to make sure everyone has a grand old time and that all of the relatives enjoy hanging out together. Unfortunately, so many generations under one roof can end up looking like a bad Jr. High School dance. Folks in separate spaces, sticking primarily to their own social group, and barely co-mingling. Grown ups chat with grownups, all the little kids are sequestered to the basement to play it out, and the tweens and teens spend most of their time getting better acquainted with their current digital obsession.
So how do we help bridge the generation gap during our upcoming family gatherings? Let playfulness lead the way! As Plato once said, “You can learn more about a person in one hour of play, than you can in a year of conversation”.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Put the kibosh on the kids’ table.
Anytime I’ve left the kids to dine amongst themselves during family gatherings, it’s NEVER resembled the Pottery Barn version of “the charming kids’ table”. 5 minutes into the meal and someone’s tipped over their drink, their chair, one of their sibling’s chairs, and the artsy homemade centerpiece. And one mom ends up getting up 27 times trying to wrangle it all. This year, bring the kids back to the main table and set them up for suppertime success. Use decorative butcher paper as the table covering and allow them to color on it if they get antsy. Give them their own pretty, but plastic, plates so no one’s afraid of breakage, and enlist a few flexible family members who are willing to take a kid under their wing during the meal. They may surprise you with their willingness to help.
2. Set up a few games that everyone will enjoy playing.
When it comes to getting people to play games together, my words of wisdom are…”if you build it they will come” Don’t just put the unopened games on the table. Actually SET THEM UP. They won’t be able to resist. A few of my current favorites are Wits and Wagers, Colorfall (think dominoes meet design), Words with Friends, and Tellestrations.
3. Let your tweens strut their digi-selves.
If you have teens in your life then you know that they are deeply in love with their smart phones. And they know way more than most of us when it comes to their digital devices bells and whistles. SO instead of banning their hand-held BFFs, why not let them teach everyone what they know? At least for part of the day. My Mother in Law loves it when my 15 year old son sits down with her for an smart phone tutorial. She’s just happy to spend time with him, anyway she can get it…and she always walks away having learned something “epic”.