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The menu is fixed, the table is laid, the lights are set: now you can focus on how to make your gathering a truly fun one by giving everyone something to talk about—and do.
Food and drink aside, group entertainment and presents can take your lunch or dinner party from merry to memorable—and games are a great way to break the ice and get everyone to mingle, especially if it’s a large-ish crowd where not all the guests know each other.
We’ve rounded up some easy (and entertaining!) games that can work for groups of all sizes and ages.
While it may be tempting to bust out a mic for karaoke or play Guitar Hero, there is a charm to old-school games that require zero technology. Folks from the Mad Men era had plenty of fun with these retro games—and you can, too!
Pass the Orange (or grapefruit, or apple, or even pomegranate), is a game that requires some upper-body dexterity but is well worth the effort. Using only your neck and no hands, players line up and have to pass an orange down the line, neck to neck, without dropping it. Sure, we’ve all seen it and played it, but it makes an appearance on our list because it’s still as fun today as it was in 1960!
Who Am I, the “unbranded” version of Ellen’s Heads Up, is simple: the host writes down names of famous personalities/public figures on cards, and each guest has a card stuck to their forehead. Players must guess who their “person” is by asking other guests yes or no questions. Only 20 questions allowed!
Likes and Dislikes is an easy game, suitable for friends old and new. Guests are asked to write down a list of likes and dislikes on a piece of paper. Have one person (or the host) read the lists out loud. The aim of the game is to guess who wrote what!
Now, if you don’t mind throwing it wayyyy back—you could entertain your guests with Coffee Pot. One player is chosen as the guesser and leaves the room while the rest of the players select a word (usually a noun), which can be easily guessed. Once the word has been decided upon, the guesser returns—and must attempt to guess the word, by asking questions to each individual player. The guesser asks their question replacing the probable word with “coffee pot.” For example, if the group chooses the word “ice cream,” the conversation will sound something like this:
Guesser: Is coffee pot a person?
Player 1: No
Guesser: Can you eat coffee pot?
Player 2: Yes.
Guesser: Is coffee pot sweet or savoury?
Player 3: Sweet.
…and so on.
If the guesser identifies the word correctly, the player who last answered the question becomes the next guesser.
We all have friends with kids, or we may actually be those “friends with kids,” so it’s always good to extend the no-tech rule to the little leaguers and have a few games on hand that are uncomplicated, easy to follow, and suitable for all ages.
Classic board games like Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit are fun, can accommodate any number of people, and are guaranteed to get everyone to loosen up! Plus, it’s a chance to discover one another’s knowledge and drawing skills—or lack thereof.
If your guests are okay with something a little more intense, then there’s nothing quite like Clue: The Classic Mystery Game. There's a weapon, there’s intrigue, there’s a stately British mansion—and yes, a murder that must be solved. If the original is too staid for your taste, you can try one of the newer editions, which includes a Star Wars-themed version of the game.
Word games can be fun and there are plenty to choose from. Taboo is a popular group game that is bound to get loud but in the best possible way. A player from each team picks a card with a word on it and below it, are several words related to the main word. The challenge is to communicate the main word without using any of the words listed below. So, if your word is Christmas, and the words listed below are Santa, snow, tree and elves—you have to make your teammates guess the word Christmas without using any of words from the list.
Scrabble is an oldie but a goldie and works well even in teams. Word to the wise (no pun intended)—it helps to keep a dictionary on hand to clear up any arguments surrounding “invented” words!
If you have younger children in your midst who may not be proficient readers or word-builders, try Dobble, a fast-paced game that relies on imagery and the power of observation. The game comes with a set of circular cards, each with 8 colourful symbols. The players draw cards and place them face up. The cards will have one symbol in common: and the person who identifies the common symbol against any other player’s card—and calls it out—wins.
Dance Hat is an energetic kid-friendly game and all you need is music—and a hat, of course. A mashup of some of the key elements of Musical Chairs and Hot Potato, your guests dance to music while passing around a hat. When the music stops, the person wearing the hat wins!
And, of course, you can always fall back on charades: the best low-effort game that requires no equipment. You can even give it a holiday theme and ask people to choose from a list of ONLY Christmas movies, the kind that fall into the so-bad-they’re-good category!
It is the season of giving, after all, and handing out a little something to your guests will make them feel just that much more special.
If you have a Polaroid camera, a picture for everyone, signed by you, is a nice enough gift—and something your guests can stick on their fridge well into the New Year. If you have the budget, you can rent a photo booth with props, giving everyone a chance to take pictures when they want, using what they want, and with whom they want. And the memories stay with them!
For something more pared-down and eco-conscious, seed stationery like seed pencils and seed paper are great. Now that most of us are working from home, we do need paper and pencils at our desks, so these gifts are useful—and plantable!
Edible gifts are also a good idea—whether it’s a box of chocolates, some specialty tea or coffee, or spices. It doesn’t have to be very expensive—just thoughtful and tasty. The Mason jar cookie or “cookie in a jar” trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so there’s no shame in getting in on it! Layer the dry ingredients for a cookie recipe (like the flour, sugar, baking powder and chocolate chips) in individual mason jars, and attach a label with the recipe. Guests can take their jars home, add in the butter and eggs, and have some DIY cookie fun.
It works just as well the other way around—if you’re a guest and not the host, carry a gift for them. Wine and dessert work well. But what you need to keep in mind is that this is a gift for the host and not an accompaniment to the meal—so don’t expect or request that it be shared with the crowd, unless the hosts want to.
Other appropriate gifts include flowers, potted succulents/plants, Christmas decorations, candles, books, coasters, baked goods, or chocolates—just a little something to show your appreciation. You can make it personalised or simple based on your relationship.
Well, the season is upon us, and we hope that we’ve inspired you to bring your friends and family together for a safe, fuss-free and fun celebration at home. Now… time to make that guest list.
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