My family hosts the annual Chanukah party for my husband’s siblings and their children. Aside from frantically cleaning the house, I’m planning a short program. Almost everyone likes to play games, and they are a fun way to get to know my nieces and nephews.
It’s not so easy to find a good party game, because I have a few important requirements:
- No more than a half hour of preparation before the party, and no expensive equipment.
- Easy entry—i.e. simple rules that even children can understand.
- Multi-level. Children should be able to compete at a similar level to adults.
- Simultaneous participation. Everyone should something to do at all times, or have some action to watch.
- Suitable for indoors, depending on your setup and the weather.
- Suitable for the native languages of your guests.
- No set number of players.
- The game won’t be ruined if someone quits in the middle.
What’s not important: Winners and prizes.
My favorite family party games from over the years:
- As the Wind Blows. My 11-year-old daughter found this somewhere. It’s a simple game that kept the group of about 20 (not many little kids at the moment) interested for well over an hour. Sit in a circle, with enough chairs for all but one. One person stands in the middle and says, “The wind blows over everyone who . . . (is wearing stripes, was born in Israel, played chess today).” The person in the middle must be included in the category. Everyone in the category has to get up and switch seats, and the one without a seat takes the next turn. This was a good-natured group that knew each other well.
- Psychiatrist. Everyone sits in a circle and one person goes out of the room. When he returns, he asks questions to individuals, playing “psychiatrist” to figure out what “affliction” they all suffer from. When he is out of the room, the others decide on a system by which they answer the question. For example:
- Everyone pretends to be five years old, or that it is 20 years from now.
- They pretend to be Queen Elizabeth, or the person on their right.
- The answers start with a vowel, or contain a number.
- They cross their legs before giving the answer.
If a patient lies, as needed when the answer will give away the affliction, everyone shouts “Psychiatrist!” When the psychiatrist has guessed or given up, someone else takes a turn.
- Mafia. This very popular game requires a little time to understand the rules. But if you act as Narrator and direct the activity, people will catch on. Each person is assigned a role at random, with two or three becoming the Mafia. They secretly “kill” victims one at a time. The townspeople win by figuring out the Mafia members before everyone gets killed off. See Mafia on Wikipedia for complete rules.
- Charades. In this classic party game guests act out scenes or phrases without speaking. We’ve done it with scenes from Tanach (bible). Kids love this too. Here are instructions if you need them.
- Pictionary. You need a whiteboard or large pad of paper at an accessible height. Players take turns drawing a picture of something and everyone has to guess what it is. Here’s a sample list of words to draw. Of course you can choose a Chanukah theme.
- Memory. Collect 20 or 30 small household objects on a tray, and cover the tray with a cloth. Pass out paper and pencils, then uncover the tray for one minute. Afterward, each player writes as many objects as they remember.
- Trivia. This works well if you don’t have a lot of smaller children or they are involved in another activity, because if the answers are too easy or hard people get bored. Or you can split into different age groups. I found this list of quizzes and easy crafts for kids (Hebrew).
- Family Trivia. One year we asked everyone to list all of the cousins by age. You could add birthdays, include extended family who aren’t present, or details like schools, favorite foods, professions, etc.
- Interview. This isn’t technically a game, but it worked wonderfully at an event I recently attended. Interview an older family member, trying to draw out stories of what it was like in the “old days.” You will need to prepare the questions and possibly review them with the subject to make sure the material is interesting.
What games have you played at your holiday parties?
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