Jim Burns often speaks and writes about the importance of families playing together. There’s no doubt that in our fast-paced culture, finding the time to play together as families is a significant challenge. Yet, as Jim has said many times, “The family that plays together stays together.” If you’re looking for some practical and simple ideas to increase the “play” factor in your family, this article is for you! Here are ten simple games with minimal props, little preparation, and (perhaps best of all) no digital technology or wifi required!
One day, I looked out of my home office window and saw my neighbors across the street: Mom, Dad, and three kids playing four-square in their driveway. What a great idea! All you need is a decent-sized flat area, a ball that bounces (rubber ball, volleyball, etc.), and maybe some chalk to draw some lines. Need more info? Check out www.squarefour.org/rules for rules and set-up. Don’t get hung up on all of the rules or the size of the court. Just go out and have fun!
2. Hide and Seek
You might think that this one only works with young kids. But you’ll be surprised to find that even your teens can have a great time at this oldie-but-goodie when Mom (and/or) Dad play. Get started by having mom (and/or dad) hide – and have the kids find you!
3. Tag Variation
A simple game with no props required. All you need is some space and established boundaries. In this variation, everyone is “It.” The goal is to tag everyone else. When someone is tagged, he or she is out. The last untagged person is the winner.
4. Water Balloon Fight
Buy some water balloons, fill them up, and divide them into two equal numbers. Then, divide up the family into two teams and have at it. No rules (other than perhaps something like, “No head-shots allowed”) are necessary. This is a fun summer or warm climate activity.
5. Beach Ball Golf
This can be a front-yard, backyard, open space, or park activity. Blow up a beach ball. Assign a place on the course as the starting point (to “Tee-off,” so to speak.) Assign another place (a tree, a rock, shrub, or even place a rope in a circle) to be the “hole.” The game is played by moving the ball forward toward the hole by hitting it with your hand. Each hit counts as a “stroke.” Keep track of how many strokes it takes to get the ball to the hole. Take turns playing and the person who has the least number of strokes wins the hole. Determine ahead of time how many holes you’ll play during the game. The person with the least amount of strokes overall wins.
6. Neighborhood Service Scavenger Hunt
The goal is to have fun together as you perform as many acts of service in the neighborhood as possible in the amount of time you designate. Divide your family into two teams. Then, decide what constitutes your “neighborhood.” For example, you may only want your family attempting to perform acts of service on your immediate block or to a specific group of homes. Use the point system below to determine who racks up the most points by the end of the game. Offer a special prize (a custom-made ice-cream sundae, for example) for the winning team. This is a great way to have some fun and also expose your family to serving others. Your family will likely have some great stories to tell after the conclusion of this game!
Mowing a lawn – 10 points
Washing a car – 5 points
Sweeping out a garage – 3 points
Vacuuming the inside of a car – 3 points
Pulling weeds (20 minutes) – 3 points
Walking a dog – 3 points
Sweeping a porch – 2 points
Vacuuming a living room – 2 points
Sweeping a driveway – 1 point
Washing a window – 1 point for each window
7. Nerf Power Ball
For this game, which is best played outdoors, you’ll need to set the boundaries of the game (as large or small as you desire), a Nerf ball, and whatever you choose to serve as two “goals” placed on opposite ends of the area of play (chairs, trees, etc.). Divide your family into two teams. Each team tries to advance the Nerf ball toward its opponent’s goal by running with the ball or by throwing the ball to a team member. A goal is scored each time the Nerf ball is thrown and hits the opponent’s goal. The team without the Nerf ball tries to intercept the Nerf ball as it is being thrown or attempts to tag an opponent who is holding the ball. When the ball is intercepted in the air, the ball becomes the possession of the team that intercepts it. When an opponent is tagged while holding the ball, the ball changes possession to the other team. Whenever there is a change in possession, the team gaining possession cannot run with the ball, but gets to have one “free” throw to another team member and then play resumes as normal. After scoring a goal, the opposing team gains possession of the ball at their goal and is allowed one “free” throw to another team member. The team with the most goals at the end of the game wins.
8. Jello Slurp
For this game, ahead of time, prepare one bowl of Jello for each family member. Set out the bowls of Jello and one straw for each person. The goal of the game is to be the first person to slurp up the entire bowl of Jello with a straw.
9. Potato Obstacle Course Race
Needs: One potato, one broom, and a watch with a second hand. Before the start of the game, set up an obstacle course using chairs, or other obstacles. (If playing in your yard, even natural obstacles will work.) The goal is to use the broom to “sweep” the potato around the obstacles and return back to the starting point in the least amount of time. Before starting, you’ll want to demonstrate the proper way to navigate the obstacle course. Time each contestant as he or she goes through the obstacle course and the person with the fastest time wins.
Have one family member sit in a chair. Have another family member stand in front of the chair. This family member has one minute to make the person sitting in the chair laugh. The standing person (who is attempting to make the sitting person laugh) may not touch the person sitting. If the standing person is successful in making the sitting person laugh within one minute, he or she receives one point. Trade-off so that during the game all family members sit in the chair and that all family members have a chance to attempt to make the other family members laugh. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins.