Reunion Buddies!

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Get the family reunion started early!

If you’re looking for a fun ice breaker activity and a way to generate interest in your upcoming family reunion try “Reunion Buddies” and get the  party started before the  reunion even  begins.

Reunion Buddies

About four weeks before your reunion make a double sided copy of the “Reunion  Buddies”  printable using the same  information on each side of the paper.

Match family members up into buddies making sure everyone, young and old has a reunion  buddy. 

Write one buddies name on the line that says “My Name Is” and write their buddies’ name below it on the line that says “My Buddy Is”.  You will need to do this on both sides of the  paper but reversing the information.

Send a copy of the reunion buddies printable to one of the  “buddies” with  the  instructions to fill out their  personal information and then mail the  completed  form to their buddy. Be sure and provide an address and if your reunion has the funds, a stamped envelope.

The buddy they mail the form to will complete the form and return it to back to their buddy.

Encourage buddies to spend some time with each other at your family reunion  perhaps even bringing inexpensive gifts (such as their favorite candy bar) to share.  You may even ask some family members to share what they learned about their reunion buddy.

The idea behind  “Reunion Buddies”  is to  make long lasting friendships  between cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents.  Get a new buddy every year!

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Eats Are On The Way

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If you’ve hosted a party, shower or other gathering you know how difficult it can be to pull yourself away from the festivities in order to prepare the refreshments.  This simple game is the perfect solution! 

Just give your guests a copy of the game below and a pencil.  Tell them to solve the puzzle by answering the questions correctly.  As they get to work on the puzzle you sneak into the kitchen to prepare the refreshments.

The simple solution to the puzzle is, “eats are on the way”.  It doesn’t take much time to solve but it does distract for a few minutes and when they read the answer to the puzzle they’ll be content to wait until you return with the  “eats”.

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Family Reunion Right Left Game

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I love “Right/Left games!  It’s a great way to exchange “white elephant” gifts but… I absolutely hate the “Mrs. WRIGHT RIGHT “ games that you can find on the web (let’s get creative people!) so I wrote my own right/left game that is designed for use at a family reunion.  Hope you like it.

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First thing you need to do  is assign each family member to bring a white elephant gift to your family reunion or party. Decide if you want them to bring their gifts wrapped or unwrapped.  Most people will bring funny, used items they no longer want so I always like to  include some more desirable gifts that will get everyone excited about winning.  Large candy bars, money, and 2 liter bottles of soda are always a hit.

Everyone sits in a circle. As you read the story, they pass (the gifts) left when you say left, and pass them right when you say right. When the story ends, everyone opens the gift they are LEFT with. I have capitalized the words RIGHT and LEFT in the story for easy identification.  Be sure and read with lots of expression and pauses- the children in your family will have fun anticipating RIGHT or LEFT.

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Family Reunion Right/Left Story

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Let me tell you what happened to Uncle Harv and Aunt Ethel on the way to this reunion. Harv and Ethel decided to get an early start because they didn’t want to be LEFT out of all the fun. Since both of their cars were in the shop, they borrowed their neighbor’s two ton truck. (These are the neighbors to the RIGHT of them, not the LEFT.) Harv sat in the driver’s seat and Ethel sat RIGHT next to him. The kids all climbed in and took the space that was LEFT.

It’s a long way to this reunion from Harv and Ethel’s house and I guess Harv began to get a little sleepy. The truck began to serve to the LEFT and to the RIGHT and then to the LEFT again. Before Harv knew it, the truck had LEFT the road and was going RIGHT into the burrow pit.

“You get RIGHT back on that highway!” Ethel screamed.

“I’m trying!” Harv yelled back as the truck bounced around. “I just hope I can keep this truck upRIGHT!”

Just then a house appeared RIGHT before their eyes and sure enough the truck ran RIGHT into the big, locked gate that stood RIGHT in front of it. Everyone began screaming and soon the people that lived in the house came running from all directions- from the RIGHT and from the LEFT. They were RIGHT neighborly though and invited us RIGHT into what was LEFT of their house to have breakfast with them. Although Harv and Ethel were anxious to get RIGHT back on the road, and Uncle Harv’s RIGHT knee felt a little stiff, they decided the nice thing to do was to eat breakfast with the family.

The family consisted of Ma and Pa Dowinkle and their eight kids. (Everyone in their family was LEFT handed- isn’t that odd?) Harv and Ethel LEFT their coats RIGHT by the front door. As we Harv and Ethel and their kids sat down at the huge kitchen table the Ma Dowinkle asked that they sit on their RIGHT side so that they wouldn’t bump elbows. Ethel sat RIGHT next to Ma Dowinkle and Harv sat RIGHT next to Pa Dowinkle. There was room for everyone RIGHT at the big table, in fact there was even some room LEFT- over.

Breakfast was so good that no one LEFT anything on their plate. After eating, Harv and Ethel gave all ten of the Dowinkles a big hug and LEFT.

“I’m driving the rest of the way to the reunion”, Ethel said, “Is that  alRIGHT with you?” She asked the kids. The kids cheered and Ethel turned RIGHT out of the Dowinkle’s driveway and LEFT their new friends in a RIGHT big cloud of dust. She headed RIGHT for the freeway and before anyone knew it, they arrived at the family reunion RIGHT on time.

So, if you see Uncle Harv and Aunt Ethel at the reunion be sure and ask them if they are feeling alRIGHT and give Uncle Harv a pat RIGHT on the back and Aunt Ethel a kiss RIGHT on the cheek and let them know how glad we are that they could come to the family reunion.

Well, that’s the end of the story- there isn’t any more LEFT- I know I’m RIGHT because it was my job to WRITE the RIGHT/LEFT story- and WRITE it I did. Isn’t that RIGHT?!?!

Aunt MO

Cooking With Pie Irons

 

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No, we’re not talking about the loved ones that will be attending your family reunion- we’re talking about Pie Irons! Pie Irons are known by many different names, Pudgie Pies, Pioneer Pies, Fire Pies, Toasties and Jaffles, but each name is referring to ingredient-filled "pockets" of bread toasted over a campfire. Cooking with pie irons is a long time tradition at our family reunions.

The Basics of  Cooking With Pie Irons

Camp cooking doesn’t have to be just hot dogs and roasted marshmallows. Our family reunions wouldn’t be complete without a delicious raspberry pie cooked over the campfire and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. With a pie iron, you can cook anything from a simple grilled-cheese and ham sandwich to a delicious berry pie for dessert.

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In its most basic function, a pie iron is a way to cook grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit pies over an open fire. This is done by placing the food inside the pie iron and then locking the two sides closed with a metal hook. Metal rods with wood handles extend from the castings so the user can easily maneuver the pie iron over a campfire. A few minute over the heat, usually 4 to 6 minutes, and you will have perfectly toasted sandwich or pie.

Pie Irons are available in both cast iron & aluminum. Our family prefers cast iron. They come in several different shapes; round, square, oblong and double. For our family reunions, we only use square irons. Aunt Lynn doesn’t think she’s had breakfast unless she has had a piece of toast so we’ve even used our pie irons for toast.

To make the most simple of pies, just take two slices of bread (buttered on the outsides), fill with jam, cheese, meat or pie filling- you don’t need much, then place inside the pie iron and lock it closed. Hold it over your campfire for a few minutes on each side and you’ll soon be eating a grilled cheese sandwich or a scrumptious apple pie.

At our family reunions, we like to make fruit pies in the evening while we are sitting around the campfire visiting, singing or playing games. About ten years ago, at a family reunion, cousin Mindy suggested that we sprinkle our freshly baked pies with sugar and cinnamon when we dump it out of the pie iron. Yummy! Some of our favorite flavors of fruit pies are lemon and raspberry.

Pie Iron Fruit Pies

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Instructions

 Step 1

Build a campfire. Pie Iron pies do best over a hot bed of coals. Try to start your campfire an hour early to let it burn down.

 Step 2

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice, butter side down, in one half of the pie iron.

 Step 3

Put a spoonful of pie filling in the center of the bread slice. Keep the filling away from the edges, as it may leak while the pie is cooking.

 Step 4

Place the second slice of bread, buttered side up, on top of the pie filling.

 Step 5

Place the second half of the pie iron on the bottom half, squeezing the bread and filling together. Latch the two halves of the iron together, to keep it from opening up while the pie is cooking.

 Step 6

Place the pie iron over the campfire, and let it cook for several minutes (4-6 minutes). Turn the pie over, and check for doneness. The pie is done when both sides are golden brown and toasted.

 Step 7

Put the pie on a plate. If you have crispy edges you may want to carefully trim them. Be careful, as the filling is HOT! Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and enjoy!

Family Reunion Tug Of War

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New and improved is not better than tried and true!

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It seems like I spend a lot of time trying to dream up and create new family reunion games and activities to excite and entertain family members.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen back on the old “tried and  true” activities and in the end they become the new favorites of our family.

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For instance, this year we’ve done tug of war at several reunions and parties and our families have LOVED it!  We did several categories- family vs. family, girl cousins vs. boy cousins, the original “big 6” (my husband’s  brothers and  sisters), great grand girls vs. boys and so on.

The most difficult part of a tug a war is finding a rope.  We borrowed a rope from our neighbors who  are ranchers.  When looking for a  tug of war rope I look for a rope that is 75- 100 long, a thick  sturdy rope (1” in. 1.5 in diameter) and 100 percent cotton.  This rope is available from the family reunion helper store.

The rope pictured above is soft on your hands to manila ropes. These 100% cotton ropes reduce rope burn and splinters.  Professional tug of war competitions like to use manila ropes but for a family reunion I suggest cotton ropes. Ropes like this one can cost between $150.00- $200.00 but I think you’ll find it’s an activity that can be used every year and adapted to every theme.

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Preparing the tug of war rope

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Find the center of your rope and mark with a piece of colorful tape or a bandana. Make a center mark on the ground for your starting point. You can make your marks with logs, ropes or create obstacles such as water or a mud puddle.

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Make two more marks on the ground  (I suggest 13 feet) equal distance from the center line.

The teams start with the rope’s center line directly above the line marked on the ground.  We like to  start with the rope on the ground and have the official/judge tell the participants to “pick up the  rope” before the contest begins.  When the official gives the order to “pull” teams begin pulling in an attempt to pull  the other team across the center line or obstacle.

Tug of War Hints

Never make a loop by wrapping the rope around the hand to get a better grip.

Don’t tie the rope around the last persons waist.

On your family reunion invitation add “gloves” on their list  of things to  bring.

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Did you know that tug of war was part of the Olympic Games from 1900 until 1920.

Five Things I Will Never Do Again at a Family Reunion

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1.  I will never make a fish print t shirt. 

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Fish  print t shirts- it seemed like a great idea- and it fit our theme perfectly but in the end it was an epic fail.   To make the shirts you generously paint one side of the  fish with fabric paint. Then you place the T-shirt front side down on the painted fish and pat in place.

When you lift the t shirt  off the fish you have the imprint of the fish, scales and all, on the shirt. 

I’ve seen cute shirts done this way but the only fish we could  find were HUGE catfish- in most cases bigger than the shirt.  Everyone worked hard to make the shirts successful but when only half of the fish fits on your shirt it’s kind of disappointing. This activity goes down as the worst one I’ve ever planned.

Never again will  I plan an activity or craft without trying it out on my immediate family before using it at a family reunion.

2. I will never let a scientist be in charge  of making gravy

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At a huge family dinner I was in charge of I gave the  responsibility for making the gravy to a scientist who had all the correct formulas for making gravy but couldn’t seem to get it to thicken up.  It looked like brown water.  I had 300 people sitting at tables waiting to be served and no gravy for their potatoes.  Panic mode! 

I finally enlisted the help of a school lunch cook who swooped in  and easily thickened the gravy.  It was kind of a touchy situation- I didn’t want to offend the  scientist but I really needed to get that gravy thickened so I had to turn to the REAL expert.

This “never” item  isn’t about gravy it’s more about assigning people responsibilities that they can be successful  at completing.  I learned to make sure I matched the right people with the right assignment!

3. I  will never hold a reunion without having a plan for bad weather.

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Look at this picture- these are not happy times. A rainy family reunion  is not a happy family reunion. 

We’ve been  holding the Stewart family reunion for 30 years and have only had bad weather two times.  So what am  I complaining about- that’s a pretty good record.  It’s great, unless it’s one of the times it rained for three days. 

Rain and other bad weather can really put a damper on your  family reunion.  Our family were really great sports when it came to this family reunion in 2012 but a break from the rain would’ve been nice.  Now when  I  schedule our reunion I also reserve a nearby church’s cultural hall where we can do activities, eat a meal and get out of the weather for awhile if needed.  We also come prepared with large tarps and portable heaters- just in case. 

Of course, if you hold your reunion at a hotel this won’t be as much of an issue- unless, you plan on attending a theme park or other outdoor activities.  Talk to hotel officials in advance about the use of large conference halls for a bad weather day.

4. I  will never reserve a reunion site without shade.

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Several years ago, we had a difficult time finding a location for our family reunion.  Someone beat us to the punch and we  lost out on our normal reunion site.  (That hasn’t happened since.) In desperation we reserved a campsite at a hot springs thinking that swimming would be great fun  for everyone- it was.  However; there was no shade whatsoever and it was HOT!  We put up some tarps to give us some relief but the sun beat down on us relentlessly.  Everyone was exhausted from swimming in the hot springs pools and then baking in the hot sun. 

Since that reunion I have made it a policy to check out our family reunion sites personally.  A couple of things I look for in a suitable site are:  proximity  to the bathrooms
        suitable sites for tents  and trailers
        Enough parking (most campsites restrict the number of cars) 
        cooking facilities & eating arrangements
        open space for games and activities
        and SHADE!

5.  I will never contribute to a boring reunion.

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This is a picture of the really awesome obstacle course we put together for a family reunion.  Where’s Waldo?  You won’t  find Waldo or any other human in this picture because nobody wanted to do anything- BORING!

I was asked to plan activities for a large family.  My family worked hard at hauling bales of hay, ladders and other props for a dynamite obstacle  course.  We  also organized Frisbee golf and volleyball tournaments- BUT… nobody wanted to participate.  Their reunion consisted of eating, visiting (which  is important) and holding  an auction.  The most frustrating part of the reunion for me was when we finally got enough people together to play volleyball and the reunion  organizers shut us down so they could start the auction.  UGH!

When  I attend a family reunion I want to get to  know family members better- I want to  play with  them, laugh with  them and get a little crazy with them, but if that’s not what’s  important at your reunion  don’t ask  someone  to plan activities. 

I learned from this experience that I had better know who my “audience” is and plan activities (or no activities) depending on their  family makeup and interests.

Getting It Right– Choosing A Family Reunion Location

This is a freelance article authored by Sally Fain

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Getting It Right – Picking A Family Reunion Location

A family reunion can be great fun, but it can also be fraught with difficulties. Every family is different, and therefore likely to react differently to different situations. While some family reunions may work best if the family remains closely grouped and in proximity to one another at all times, other families may understandably feel that being around one another 24/7 is a high-speed route to irrevocable family breakdown! Choosing the right location for your reunion is therefore crucial to ensure that everything goes according to plan. Luckily, there’s an ideal place out there for everyone!

Reunion Locations- Consider The Kids

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One major factor to take into consideration is how many children will be attending your reunion. If it’s not very many, or those that are attending are older teens, then finding somewhere with child-friendly activities is not so much of an issue. However, if a lot of attendees have young kids, then it is crucial to make sure that you book a place which will give the kids plenty to do.

While chatting, reminiscing, and catching up over a few beverages can keep adults occupied for hours, the same is not necessarily true of children. While many kids will, to a certain extent, play together and keep each other entertained, relying solely on the capacity of your children and the children of your relatives to play nicely together can be a recipe for disaster.

You don’t want to spend the whole of your reunion breaking up fights over toys etc, and dealing with bored, grizzly kids. You also would like your offspring to enjoy the reunion as much as you will. As such, it’s probably a good idea to plan ahead and book a place which gives the kids plenty of scope to run around, enjoy themselves, and be nicely tired out by the time the grown-ups retire to the bar for that all-important gossip. Many theme parks like Walt Disney World family reunion packages which are sure to delight both adults and children. If this is perhaps a little too child-centric, try picking a venue with a play-park, a crèche, or a toy-room attached.

Relaxation

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Ideally, many people want to combine their family reunion with a vacation. Meeting up with the relatives can be stressful, so many people try and choose a relaxing location in order to ease the pressure a bit. There are plenty of spas and country retreat which offer a relaxing family reunion package, but smaller families could do a lot worse than to book themselves onto a cruise. While some may quail at the thought of being stuck on a boat with their extended family for days, others will be surprised at just how much scope for family fun and gentle, solo relaxation is provided by cruise lines these days. Even the kids will be happy, as plenty of cruise lines offer a considerable amount of child-centric activity. Most cruises make plenty of shore stops in diverse locations, meaning that you can cement your family bonds by experiencing new places and cultures together, or escape from them all in a foreign port for a couple of hours – whatever floats your boat (excuse the pun).

Accommodation Without Compromise

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Most families, of course, do not fall neatly into any particular category. They are made up of diverse elements, all of which want different things out of a family reunion. Ideally, therefore, a family reunion venue should provide the opportunity both for teenagers (for example) to be alone with their phones, and for grandparents to spend a reasonable degree of time with their grandchildren without compromising either party too much. Parents will probably need a certain amount of space in which to corral their children and recover from familial overload, while at the same time having lots of facetime with relatives they’ve not seen for years.

A cabin vacation can accommodate a variety of such needs, without too much compromise. Retiring to individual cabins (or the beautiful countryside in which many such cabin facilities reside) gives those who need it some alone time, while those who wish to can gather and chat in one of the other cabins. Family can gather together at mealtimes, thus ensuring that time for connection and catch-up is given to everyone. A cabin vacation (or similar) gives individuals a degree of independence while ensuring that family connection still remains at the forefront of the reunion. Perfect for large groups with diverse needs!

5 Gallon Bucket Seats For Your Camping Reunion

Making and decorating their own 5 gallon bucket seat is a great ice breaker activity for your family reunion.

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5 Gallon Bucket Seats for Your Family Reunion

If your family reunion is held at a campground you might find these 5 gallon bucket seats a fun and useful addition to your reunion. They’re easy to make and handy for storing anything you might want to access quickly such as flashlights, sunscreen, bug  spray, gloves etc.

What you’ll need:

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5 gallon bucket (Have everyone bring their own bucket.  If you have family that will be traveling long distances to attend your reunion, purchase their buckets for them.)

Fabric-I like using bandanas

Polyethylene foam or quilt batting for the cushy part of your seat.

Particle board or for a more economic solution use cardboard.

Scissors

Sharpies

Staple guns

NOTE: Be sure and have plenty of scissors and staple guns so that people are not standing around waiting to use them.

Step 1. Cut the circles out of particle board or plywood scraps

Trace the lid for your pattern then use a jigsaw to cut circles from particle board or any scrap wood you may have.  You will want to have these cut in advance if you are camping.  Of course,if you are using cardboard they can be cut at the campsite.

Step 2:  Add The Padding.

For the first buckets we made we used very thick (2- 3 inch) foam but we found that any padding at all makes the bucket more comfortable- even a couple of layers of quilt batting works well.  Our best buckets were made with  1/2 inch Polyethylene Foam.

Place the wood circles on the foam and trace them. Cut the foam to fit.

NOTE: Be sure the handle of your bucket can move up and down. If your foam is too thick the handle won’t be able to move.

Step 3: Attach the fabric

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Lay the wood piece on top of your fabric and add three inches to the circle. Cut out the fabric and then  using staple guns attach the batting and  fabric to the wood circle. Pull the fabric tight before stapling it on the board.

Step 4: Decorating Your 5 Gallon Bucket

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Here’s the fun part!  If someone in your family has a vinyl cutting machine such as a silhouette, ask them to cut a variety of shapes and designs that can be used to personalize buckets.  Supply alphabet stickers, glitter glue, sticky jewels, buttons, ribbon  and permanent markers so family members can decorate their buckets in their own personal style.

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Turkeys and Robbers Thanksgiving Game

If you’ve played “Cops & Robbers you can play “Turkeys and Robbers”.

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Feeling a little “stuffed” after your Thanksgiving dinner? Here’s a fun game to get your Thanksgiving guests up and moving.  Before you know it they’ll be ready for pumpkin pie.

How To Play:

  1. Divide participants into two groups-the "Turkeys" and the "Robbers." If you have an odd number of people, add extra people to the robbers.  It is better to have more robbers than turkeys.
  2. Make a “nest” for your turkey eggs by making a circle (hula hoop) and placing soft balls or bean bags in the center. Start with three “eggs” but for a longer game you use more eggs.
  3. Mark off an area to be the "barnyard". When a turkey tags a robber they take the robber to the barnyard.  The barnyard could be a tree or an area you mark off.
  4. Mark off a home base for the robbers. Turkeys may not enter the home base.
  5. Robbers can get their friends out of the barnyard by touching them. 
  6. To win the game, the robbers must take the eggs while not getting captured by the turkeys.
  7. The turkeys can tag the robbers to remove them from the game or send them to the barnyard (jail).
  8. The robbers win if they successfully steal the turkey eggs and take them back to their "home base."
  9. The turkeys will win the game if they capture all of the robbers and send them to the barnyard.
  10. You will need to decide if the robbers can throw the turkey eggs from one another to keep them from the turkeys. We like that option especially when playing with an older group.
  11. If a robber is tagged while running back to the safe zone with a turkey egg, the turkeys must return the object directly to their nest. At no other time may the turkeys carry the eggs.

Turkeys and Robbers is basically just Cops and Robbers with a Thanksgiving twist.  There are many variations to the game and I’m sure you have your favorite rules so feel free to tweak as necessary.  For instance,you may want to create a safety zone around the nest for the robbers or decide on a time limit for robbers to be inside any of the safety zones. 

Whatever variations your family decides on, Turkeys and Robbers is a great way to burn off that stuffed feeling after you’ve gobbled up Tom Turkey and all the trimmings.

Punch Board Game

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Punch Board For Your Family Reunion

You’ve seen punch boards on the popular TV game show, The Price is Right, but a punch board can be a fun addition to your family reunion.  A punch board can be an exciting way to award prizes at your family reunion.  You can use a punch board to make assignments or choose what activity you will do next.

A larger board can also be a fair way to divide into teams- for example- write families names on slips of paper (Aunt Geri’s family or Uncle Dan’s family etc.)  Punch two or more holes- those families join  together to make a tug a war, softball or family skit group.  You can use the same strategy to assign seating for meals to mix things up a bit.

Creating Your Punch Board

To create your punch board you will need:

  • sturdy poster board or a piece of cardboard
  • tissue paper
  • Plastic disposable  bowls, lunch sacks or sandwich bags
  • prizes
  • tape & hot glue
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  • The first  punch board we created we used one  sheet  of tissue paper to cover the entire back of the board.  Since then we have found that covering each hole with individual squares seems to work best as  punching one hole may pull the paper from around other holes.  Tape each square securely around individual  holes.

  • Behind the Punch Board

There are several  options for hiding prizes behind your punch board.  My favorite option is plastic bowls. Carefully run a line of hot glue around the rim of your bowl and attach it to the inside of the tissue covered holes, with the prize inside.  Be sure and put your prize or secret message inside the bowl before attaching it to the board. Other options include taping a lunch sack to the back of each hole or plastic sandwich bags.

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Punch boards also make fun advent calendars.  Create yours with 24 holes and 24 prizes.  Punch out one prize each day to help count down days until Christmas or your favorite holiday.