Sometimes family gatherings leave the younger members rather bored. Here are a few ideas that revive fun and enthusiasm when the doldrums set in.
Be Prepared!
Round up or buy some simple toys and keep them hidden in reserve. Get paper, pencils, a jump rope, a set of jacks, soap bubble solution, and a set of dominoes.
Paper Airplanes
Making and flying paper airplanes can be made into a game. Set out something as a target, the “airport,” and see who can land their plane closest to it. Let everybody have a turn for several rounds before deciding who is the best pilot. If some of the planes are not airworthy, let their owners borrow a better plane for their turn at flying. Have the kids try to fly their planes between two obstacles, “through the mountain pass.” Those who succeed get a point, and the pilot with the most points after ten tries is the winner.
Jump Rope
Do you remember some rope skipping rhymes? See if the kids know them. If kids tire of skipping rope, try this variation. Have one child turn around and around, swinging the rope in a circle close to the ground. The other kids stand close and jump over the rope each time it comes around.
In addition to the usual games of jacks, one can exploit the fact that they make pretty good tops. Have a jack spinning contest.
Soap Bubbles
Save cardboard paper towel tubes for use as bubble blowers; they make nice big bubbles. Wands can be made from wire. Mix one part liquid dish soap to four parts water to make bubble solution (add a little more soap if the bubbles pop too soon). Pour the solution into a dish so that it is easy to dip the blowers and wands. If interest begins to dwindle, propose a competition to see who can herd a bubble the farthest before it breaks, or have a bubble shoot-down where one kid blows bubbles and another tries to hit them with balls of crumpled paper.
Friends in a Row
Give all players a sheet of blank paper. Have them fold the long side in half, then in half again. Now turn the paper and do the same thing to the short side. Everyone should have 16 squares on their paper when it is unfolded. Now have the kids take turns calling out the names of their friends. Each player writes the names, one to a square, at random. The leader does the same. When the paper is full, the leader calls the names in order as they are written on his or her paper, either horizontally or vertically. The kids mark off the names as they are called, like Bingo. The first to fill a row in any direction is a winner, and the first to fill three rows is the grand champion.
Golden Spike
Stand up one domino on its narrow side in the middle of a table, it’s the “golden spike.” Have two players: one kid at each end of the table. Give them each half the package of dominoes. They start from the table’s edge, standing dominoes on end, building track to the golden spike. The first kid to set up a line of dominoes to the golden spike can tip his or her first domino, and all will fall, driving down the golden spike. Any player who accidently knocks over the golden spike loses that round.
Barnyard Riot
This requires setting up in advance. Get a bag of peanuts in the shell. Hide the peanuts around the play area. When the game starts, have the kids count off to divide them into teams. Each team will pick a captain and select an animal they want as a mascot. Animals that can whinny, roar, or cackle make good mascots.  Quiet animals such as turtles make poor mascots for this game. Now the peanut hunt can begin. Only the captains can pick up peanuts. The other kids on the teams can look for peanuts, but they are not to talk or point. They can only make the sound of their animal mascot to attract the captain’s attention.
Sixteen Cent Decision Maker
Deciding who goes first or breaking ties can be done fairly using a dime, a nickel, and a penny. Have each player shake the coins and toss them. Tails don’t count, but heads count as follows: the dime is three points, the nickel is two points, and the penny is one point. The highest score wins.

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