11 Fun Family Activities for the Holidays (and One for Adults Only)

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There’s a reason movie theaters are open on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. After the meal and the presents and the tryptophan-induced naps, you’re still sitting there with your extended family with little to do — and perhaps excellent reasons not to engage in political or religious discussion. Here are 11 options (plus one) that don’t involve staring at a screen, be it silver or small. Have more suggestions? Share them in the comments or on our Facebook page.

1. Card games

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The humble deck of cards cannot be overestimated as a form of entertainment. It’s about as portable as it could be. It can be used for dozens of games at skill levels that will challenge people of all ages. And it can scale up from one player to a dozen (it might take a second or third deck for the really big numbers). With small children, there’s Go Fish. An action-packed game of cards for all ages is Spoons, which also requires the use of ordinary spoons. Or, if you have some bridge players, see if you can launch a holiday-long tournament. With a simple deck of cards, the possibilities are endless.

2. Jigsaw puzzles

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Everyone can get in on this one. Get one of those 500- or 1,000-piece puzzles and clear the dining room table. Again, people of all ages can participate. And you don’t have to sit there the whole time. It’s easy to drop in, place a few pieces, and drop out again when your eyes start to glaze over. Best of all, everyone’s around the table, so conversations can start.

3. Jenga

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In some ways, this block-stacking game is also a puzzle, but with more suspense and drama built in. The rules are simple, and lots of people can be involved.

4. Charades

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No equipment required, everyone can play, and it’s easy enough for the introverts to drop out when they want.

5. Apples to Apples

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This smart card game, available in a regular version and one geared to younger kids, generates lots of laughs.

6. And, the adult version…

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After the kids go to bed, you can switch to a similar, but decidedly more adult version, Cards Against Humanity. Better check it out first, because it might not be appropriate for some of the stodgier members of the family. On the box, the game actually bills itself as “A party game for horrible people.”

7. Pictionary

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As in charades, the idea is to get others on your team to guess the person, place, thing, phrase or concept that you are assigned. But instead of acting it out, you draw it. Sure, you can buy the boxed version of the game, but if you’ve played it before, you probably realize how easy it would be to make up on your own.

8. Scavenger hunt

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You can do this one around the house. Split into teams and go to different parts of the house, each team makes a list of items, then switch. See who can finish their list first.

9. Board games

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We’ve come a long way since Monopoly. Like card games, there are board games for every kind of person, from quick and casual, to games with multiple layers of strategy that can take a good five or six hours (it does take that long, no matter what the website says), or more. Boardgamegeek is a great resource, though the site can be tough for the uninitiated.

10. Dreidel

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You don’t have to be Jewish to play, but it helps. It’s easy to learn, and it’s an excuse to eat M&M’s.

You spin the dreidel (a top), and depending on what side lands up, you either put items into the pot or take them out. Often, people play with things like M&M’s, though chocolate coins are also popular, as well as pennies. It’s not really gambling, but it could look like it.

11. Dominoes

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Play the actual game of dominoes (there are dozens of variations), or just set up a course to have them tip over in sequence.

12. 20 questions

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For about $20 you can buy 20 Questions as a board game, and there’s an electronic version on the store shelves as well. But this game really doesn’t require any equipment and can work for everyone. And it’s easy enough to give the little ones a few extra questions if you’re feeling generous.

What are your favorite family activities to pass lazy holidays? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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