Silver Dollar Game for Your Independence Day Party

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We have a Independence Day tradition in our family- Whenever we get together for a family or reunion or party around Independence Day we play the “Silver Dollar” game. The Silver Dollar game is a game my Mom invented to encourage us to remember our American history and important United States facts.

Mom would ask a US history question and the first one to get the answer right would get a sliver dollar. Mom has a fun way off tossing the silver dollar to the winner- I’m not sure how to describe,  it  but basically she just tosses it to the family member that has the correct answer to the question.

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Plan to play the Silver Dollar game at your Independence Day family reunion or party. Don’t have Silver Dollars? How about using 50 states quarters, red, white and blue taffy, or patriotic pencils?

Warning: If your family is competitive, like mine is, you may have to assign someone to be the judge and determine who is the first to raise their hand and watch out- even if you do get the answer right someone may just reach out and snatch your prize right out of the air, Oh well, it’s just part of the game and family fun!

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Below are a list of questions you can use for your Silver Dollar game:

1. What is the title of the National Anthem? 

Answer: The Star Spangled Banner

2.  Which right is guaranteed by the first amendment

Answer: Freedom of Religion

3.  What is the title of the head of a city government

Answer: Mayor

4.  Who has the ability to declare war? 

Answer: The Congress

5.  How many full terms may a Senator serve? 

Answer: No term limits for Senators

6.  How many full terms can a President serve?

Answer: 2

7.  How many years is a full term for a Representative? 

Answer: 2

8.  Which amendment sets the minimum voting age to 18? 

Answer: 26th

9.  Who becomes President if both the President and Vice President die?  

Answer: The Speaker of the House

10.  On July 4th, 1776 we declared Independence from whom? 

Answer: Great Britain

11.  How many branches of government do we have?

Answer: 3

12.  Which is part of the Judicial branch at the federal level?  

Answer: The Supreme Court

13.  Who elects the President of the United States? 

Answer: The Electoral College

14.  How many states are there? 

Answer: 50

15.  How many stripes are there on the American Flag? 

Answer: 13

16.  Who was the President of the United States during the civil war? 

Answer: Abraham Lincoln

17. What is the introduction to the Constitution called?
Answer: The Preamble

18. Who is the President of the United States?

Answer:  Barack H. Obama

19.  Who is the current Vice President of the United States? 

Answer: Joe Biden

20.  Why did the Pilgrims come to America? 

Answer: to find religious freedom

21.  How many total Senators are there? 

Answer: 100

22.  The Constitution has how many Amendments? 

Answer: 27

23. Who was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence?
Answer: Thomas Jefferson

24.  According to the Constitution, a person must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible to become President. Name one of these requirements.

Answer: Must be a natural born citizen of the United States; must be at least 35 years old by the time he/she will serve; must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years.

25. How many Presidents have been impeached

Answer: 2 Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

26.  What is the Official Language of the United States? 

Answer: None

27.  Who was the first Vice President of the United States? 

Answer: John Adams

28.  Who said "Give me liberty or give me death?" 

Answer: Patrick Henry

29.  How many Presidents were assassinated while in office? 

Answer: 4 Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John F. Kennedy.

30. Is it ever appropriate to fly the flag upside down?

Answer: Yes, but only in an emergency. "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

Twenty Questions Game for Birthdays or Other Special Occasions

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When we celebrate a birthday or some other special occasion we like to play a “Twenty Questions” game.  We’ve played Twenty Questions for birthdays for more years than I can remember.  My big problem with the game is making up new questions every time so I decided to be selfish and write this blog so I would have a permanent record of questions to use.

I’ve included three sets of questions to target three different age groups- the “over the hill”, “prime of life” and a version for kids.  These are not icebreaker questions but questions for testing your knowledge of the person whose life you are celebrating.

You can give everyone a copy of the questions and ask them to write their answers down or read the questions aloud and everyone, including the birthday person writes their answers on a blank piece of paper.  (You don’t need to get the answers to the questions in advance.)

These are not icebreaker questions- but questions to test your knowledge of a friend, family member or other loved one.   Their answer IS THE CORRECT ONE!

Over the Hill

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Past

  1. What did you want to be when you were small?

  2. What was your favorite song during your young adult years?

  3. What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?

  4. What’s the tallest building you’ve been to the top of?

  5. How many the cities have you lived in?

  6. What was your favorite family vacation?

  7. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?

  8. Is there anything you wished would come back into fashion?

Present

  1. What is your favorite book to read?

  2. In the evening, would you rather play a game, watch a movie, or read?

  3. Who is your favorite author?

  4. What was the last movie you went to?

  5. How many pillows do you sleep with?

  6. How many languages do you speak?

  7. How many time a month do you go grocery shopping?

Future

  1. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?

  2. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

  3. Would you rather vacation in Hawaii or Alaska?

  4. What one thing could you not go a day without?

  5. If you could share a meal with any 3 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?

Prime of Life

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Past

  1. How many houses have you lived in?

  2. What time of day were you born- morning, noon or night?

  3. What is the best roller-coaster you ever went on?

  4. What was your favorite toy as kid?

  5. What was your first job?

Present

  1. How many pairs of shoes do you own?

  2. What’s your favorite type of foreign food?

  3. What spice do you use the most?

  4. What was the last thing you recorded on TV?

  5. Are you a clean or a messy person?

  6. What is your favorite form of exercise?

  7. What time do you usually wake up in the morning?

  8. What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?

  9. What is your favorite pizza?

  10. What was the last sporting event you attended?

  11. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

Future

  1. Where do you want to retire?

  2. If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be?

  3. If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?

  4. What is your dream car?

Kids

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People

  1. When you grow you will probably be __________?

  2. What is your teachers/coaches name?

  3. Who is your tallest friend?

  4. What super hero/Disney princess would you like to be?

Places

  1. Where would you rather live- ocean or moon?

  2. What was the last restaurant you ate at?

  3. Best fieldtrip you’ve been on?

  4. Where would you like to go on vacation?

Things

  1. Right now- is your room clean or messy?

  2. What was the last book you read?

  3. If you could play any musical instrument, what would it be?

  4. What magical power would you like to have?

Favorites

  1. What’s your favorite zoo animal?

  2. Which sport do you like to play?

  3. What sport do you like to watch?

  4. What is your favorite toy?

  5. What is your least favorite chore?

  6. What is your favorite school lunch food?

  7. Favorite thing to do in the summer?

  8. Favorite color?

Cat Eye Flashlight Hike

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Cat-eye Hike for Family Reunions or Parties

One of the most requested activities at our  family reunions is a Cat Eye hike.  You do a Cat Eye hike in the dark so it’s a  perfect activity for a “camping” family reunion. We have also done cat eye hikes in apartment complexes and residential areas.  We’ve done cat eye hikes with family reunions, girls camps and for kid parties.  It’s a fun activity but does take some time and thoughtful strategy to set up.

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How to Organize a Cat Eye Hike

This hike is best done when it is very dark. Cut cat’s-eye shapes (squares work fine too) from reflective tape, available in the Family Reunion Helper store. Another product you might want to consider is “Trail Tacks”.  They are basically just thumb tacks with a reflective paint on the top.  They are visible for up to 200 yards and are great  for sticking into wooden fences etc. You will probably want to use a combination of the two products- tape and tacks.  Just be considerate of others when you set up the hike- you don’t want to be shinning flashlights into peoples windows or causing  damage with reflective tape or tacks.

 

It is best to set up your hike the night before guiding groups on the hike. Put cat eyes on markers or apply cat eyes to index cards and then use the cards to mark the trail. We like to set up our hikes the night before the cat eye hike is scheduled.

How to Set Up a Cat Eye Hike

When making the trail, place the eyes in such a manner that you can see only one more set of cat’s eyes from the location of one set. Hikers will shine their flashlights on the first set of eyes and then run to the second set of eyes where they will shine their flashlights around the area until they locate the next set of eyes. They will continue searching for eyes and following their path until they arrive back at camp.

If you have a large group, instead of a mass start, send groups of ten or so at a time. You can group hikers as children, teenagers and senior citizens.  Every participant will need a flashlight- you will want to remind your family members to bring a flashlight on your reunion invitation.

If camping, have S’mores for hikers when they complete the hike.

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

Cookies to Feed a Crowd

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My husband has a favorite cookie recipe that he remembers from his youth.  These cookies are great for family reunions because they make about 120 large cookies and they keep really well- oh, and they have chocolate chips in them.

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It’s been awhile since we made them and my husband got the urge to mix up a batch last week.  Unfortunately we couldn’t find the recipe.  I searched online thinking- no big deal you can find any recipe on the web- wrong.  This recipe is not there!  (Well, now it is.)  Eventually we found the recipe and my husband made this huge batch of delicious cookies.

I’m including the recipe in this blog just in case you want to whip a batch of cookies for your family reunion or gathering.  I’m not sure how many generations of Stewarts have made this cookies but there are some oddities with  the recipe that I will  try and clarify.  Actually, there are no instructions for mixing these cookies- I just use the traditional- cream sugar and shortening and eggs etc. method.  Here’s how we do it:

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Sour Cream Cookies

Ingredients

1 pound brown sugar (1/2 of a 2 pound bag)
1 1/2 cups shortening
2 cups sour cream
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 heaping tsp. soda
1 heaping tsp. baking powder  
6 cups flour
1 cup chopped nuts
1 large bag coconut
1 jumbo (2 regular bags) sized package chocolate chips

HEAT oven to 350°F.

BEAT shortening and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sour cream, eggs and vanilla; beat until well blended. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips, coconut and nuts.

DROP tablespoonfuls of dough into 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon and roll until lightly coated.  Put dough, 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheets.

BAKE 12 to 15 min.- do not over bake.

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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.

Plan a Caroling Party for Family and Friends

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Gathering your family and friends together for Christmas caroling or a family sing-a-long is an easy party to plan.  Consider these helpful tips when planning your family caroling party.

Tips for Successful Christmas Caroling

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Choose Your Music

Choose songs that are short, easy to sing, and fun. You should plan on singing 1 or 2 songs per house and end with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. 

To build your song list you can type and print your own caroling sheets or make copies of the free family reunion helper caroling book by clicking here- free Christmas caroling book.  The book is designed so that you only have to print off the music that you will use for your caroling such as- Santa songs, snow songs or spiritual songs etc.  Once you have your music you can plan the other elements of your caroling party.

Choose your caroling route

Caroling was a favorite family tradition when I was growing up. We weren’t the most talented group of singers but we were enthusiastic.

My Mom would choose 3 or 4 families that she knew would enjoy a caroling visit and she always made a few goodies to give them.  (Perhaps as payment for listening to us sing off key) We would end our caroling at a local nursing home.  Many of the children were reluctant to sing at the nursing home but as the years have gone by caroling at the nursing home has become one of their most talked about memories of the season.  HINT: If you visit a hospital or a nursing home, ask for permission ahead of time to make sure your visit comes at a good time and that they can accommodate a large group.

Consider Using a Variety of Instruments

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Jingle bells, cymbals and drum sticks are an easy way to make your caroling fun.  Carolers that are too shy or just don’t want to sing can participate by keeping the beat with drum sticks or shaking the bells to the beat.

Dress for the Weather

If caroling outside dress for the weather.  When sending out invitations for your caroling party be sure and let your guests know that you’ll be caroling outdoors so they can bring their hats, gloves and scarves.  A fun party favor for your party could be hand and toe warmers. You can dress things up by asking everyone to wear a fun Santa hat or reindeer antlers.

Light up the night

Ask carolers to bring flashlight to the party or purchase inexpensive lights to help with reading the sheet music.   A flashlight will also help as you navigate sidewalks, stairs and uneven ground.  If you will be caroling with children give them glow in the  dark sticks and necklaces. 

Christmas caroling Water Bottles

Give carolers a water bottle to keep their throats lubricated. You can even customize your bottles with personalized labels.

Plan Refreshments for Your Carolers

At the end of your caroling party meet back at your house or rec hall and provide your carolers with bowls of chili and mugs of hot chocolate and marshmallows or cider.  You can keep your refreshments warm in slow cookers while you’re caroling.

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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.