It’s time to embrace your playfulness.
This season kicks off a series of celebrations that bring people together for family and social gatherings. Whether or not you have children at home, it’s a time for making merry and having a little fun. Especially this year. The pandemic put the kibosh on so many get-togethers — for almost two years — and we’re not out of the woods yet. But with the vaccines in place and boosters in the offering, I know that many tribes, family or otherwise, are starting to meet up. And that feels so good.
Of course, we have all become such homebodies that the first dinner party with friends, colleagues, and even relatives we haven’t seen it a while might feel a bit awkward. So here are a few hacks that have proven to get the conversation going and the laughter flowing.
Uncorked: As you uncork the wine, check the label for the year it was bottled and ask everyone to share a favorite memory from that year. It doesn’t have to be expensive wine, and not everyone has to drink for this to be fun. It’s all about prompting stories worth sharing.
Bring Back the Board Games: Dust off a few old classic games from your kid’s room and reintroduce them at the next gathering of grown-ups. My adult children had fun bringing out The Game of Life the last time we were all together. Our whole family likes to play dominoes. Or go board-less. There are so many ice-breaker games available that are easy for everyone to engage with even if they are lounged around your living room or seated at a long dinner table. My family favors the game Catch Phrase, because it’s a fun way to get to know people, see how they think, and enjoy a laugh. (Here’s a free iPhone app.)
Phone Jockey: After the meal is through, invite guests to pull out their phones and take turns DJ’ing the after-dinner music. Kick it off yourself, and if you’re inspired offer some guidelines that will motivate both players and listeners. Invite people to play favorite recordings others may not have heard before. Or challenge everyone to play a genre not yet covered, or to suggest different musical styles, new artists, or under represented generations, from past artists or those just emerging. As the evening progresses, you’ll discover that the music becomes more eclectic. I love it when songs that are new to me pull me right out of my comfort zone and into unexplored worlds; it’s even better when the experienced can be shared with a group.
The truth is, playing is good for us as adults. It has been shown to counter the effects of stress and help improve our creativity and brain function. So don’t worry if you don’t look cool playing Charades. Don’t hold back if your family likes to hold sing-a-longs. And feel free to roll up your sleeves, clear off the card table, and play Gin Rummy all night. Think of it as therapy.
As we lean into the coming year with renewed hope, my wish is that we all find meaningful ways to connect with those we love, those we’ve missed, and those who enrich our lives in myriad ways. Celebrate however it seems best, but along the way, rediscover the art of playing.
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