Genealogy Icebreaker Activities for Your Family Reunion

Icebreaker Activities

Family Tree Photo

Make a live family tree and take a photo. Arrange family members as they would be on a genealogical chart of the family.  Begin  with Grandma and Grandpa.  Add a branch consisting of their children and spouses.  Add additional branches for each of their children and so on. Be sure and take a picture- preferably from an elevated position.

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Birthday Game

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Mix family members up and divide into groups or ten or so. Challenge family members to put themselves in order of their birth date (day, month and year). If you have mostly young children the challenge should be to get in a line, oldest to youngest.  To make the  challenge more difficult try doing it blindfolded and tell them “No Talking!”  It’s amazing how resourceful they will be communicating in other ways.

To involve your entire family ask those that were born in January to get together in one group; do the same for each of the other months. Then have the members of the January group give their birthdates, such as January 21, January 9, etc. and  line up  accordingly. This is fun activity that forges an immediate bond between those that share the same birthday or even birthday month.  This activity is especially effective with reunions of 100  or more participants.

Family Reunion Concentration Game

This activity takes some  advance planning.  Create a "memory" or "concentration" game. You will need 54 cards with 26 pairs of pictures on them.  With so many digital options this is a fairly easy but still a time consuming idea.  Make two copies of each photo- be sure and include name, birthdate and birthplace of each person.  You can make a game using ancestors or using photos of family members that are attending the current reunion.  With this game you will reconnect with the past or make connections with the present.

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Family Tree Chart

Make a huge family tree on and display it during the reunion. You can have large 36” x 48” “engineering prints” made at Staples for under $10.00 that work perfectly for this kind of presentation. Be sure and make 8 1/2 x 11 copies of the tree for each family to take home.  The chart pictured above is another option.  It is available from My History and is a fill in the blank type chart.

Name Tags for Your Family Reunion

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Be creative  with  your reunion name tags.  When family members check in at your reunion site give them each a name tag.  But instead of the same old  “my name  is” name tags be a little creative.  Put different design on name tags so that everyone with design sits at the same table for meals and are on the same team when dividing for activities.  This helps family members get acquainted or Reacquainted with family members they don’t see often. The tags above are from the family reunion helper Heritage Reunion.

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.

Giant Activities for Your Family Reunion

Miscellaneous” Activities for Your Family Reunion

I considered calling this post ”Miscellaneous” activities for your family reunion because they aren’t theme driven but have proven to be great time fillers for small groups of people during our family reunions.

Giant Checkers Rug

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I have had this giant Checkers Rug for more than 20 years.  We set it out at every family reunion and you will always find two people playing Checkers no matter what time of day it is, usually with a small crowd gathered around cheering for the underdog to win.

Giant Coloring Pages

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Giant coloring pages are always a huge hit at our  family reunions. Of course, there isn’t room for a lot of people to sit around coloring, but it’s a great activities for someone looking for a little down  time.  Coloring pages come in different themes that would go along with your reunion theme- jungle, circus, Medieval etc.  Some pages come with markers for coloring but you’ll need to bring extra.  When your page is complete, roll it up carefully and then enter in your county fair or have it framed for Grandma.

The giant Checker rug and giant coloring pages are both available at the family reunion helper  store  for under twenty dollars.

Remote Control Car Racing for Your Family Reunion

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We attended a party sponsored by my husbands company this summer and when we walked into the huge warehouse all the boys faces, young and old, lit up with excitement at what they saw.  A simple remote control race track had been set up in the warehouse and party goers were able to organize their own races against family and friends.  What a great party idea and what a fun idea for a family reunion!  Here’s how it works-

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The Cars

If your reunion committee has the funds, purchase a few cars and at the end of your reunion auction them off  or have a prize drawing.  Another option is to invite family members to bring their own remote control cars to the reunion. If you’re planning in advance, a good time to purchase remote control cars in during the Thanksgiving Black Friday sales.

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The RC Track

First you have to decide if you want a dirt track or an inside track. As far as size goes, you won’t need more than a 20-foot by 20-foot area. You can chart out the obvious oval course or focus on hard turns to make it more challenging. If you are racing on a hard surface, you can easily chart out the borders of the track using chalk or tape. Use 2x4s to make a sturdy track. A garden hose may also be a solution to keep the RC cars on the track. Depending on how many cars and racers you have the track should be within 5 to 7 feet wide.

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A barrier in the center of your track helps keep cars roaring around the track and may help keep younger racers from getting stuck in the center.  It can also be used as a control central for racers.

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RC Jumps and Obstacles

Now it’s time to have some fun adding obstacles and jumps. If your car is a cheaper model, add only slight jumps but medium cost remote control cars can fly right over jumps without being damaged. You can use 2 liter bottles that you spray paint bright orange as obstacles. Put a little sand in each bottle and use them for obstacles to weave in and out  off.  (You can use orange cones but the smaller ones get pushed out of place.) Another fun obstacle for your track is a tunnel made from plastic or metal that a remote control car can fit through.  If you are creating a dirt track the pipe can also double as the base for a jump if dirt is piled around it.  You will have to experiment to get the dirt at the right angle.  Tunnels can also be made out of cardboard boxes.

Race Day!

Have your track set up when reunion goers arrive.  Invite them to practice racing cars around the track then choose a few cars to race for prizes at the end of the day. Gift bags of “Hot Wheel” and “Cars” goodies are fun awards.

Race Day Party

  • You can find race day printable invitations, decoration ideas,printable Pit Passes, water bottle (fuel) labels and award certificates in the familyreunionhelper store at Race Day Party.
  • Whether for a family reunion or birthday party it’s a great party theme with plenty of ZOOM!

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Time Capsule Dig

Family Reunion Time Capsule

Five years later and we finally got to dig up our time capsule!  Five years ago at our Stewart family reunion we had every family member fill out a questionnaire.  We asked questions about the present, their predictions for the future and invited everyone to set some goals that they hoped to accomplish by the time we opened the capsule in 2013.

On the 2nd day of our reunion this year, we went to Grandma’s house where the time capsule was buried to begin our search for the capsule we had buried five years ago.  We followed a very funny set of clues that cousin Tyler made up to find the capsule. 

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The first clue took us to the "”three pronged wooded fork” and then led us to a spot under Grandma’s bathroom window…. but there was no capsule there.

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Retracing our steps we realized that we had misinterpreted the clues and on this attempt found the time capsule buried at the corner of the house.  It took a little digging and we broke the lid off of the capsule but we found all our questionnaires safe and sound.

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Family History Church

We read our questionnaires at  the conclusion of our annual family history “church” we hold at each reunion.  Some of us found that we had remained focused during the five years and completed our goals and some found that their goals had been forgotten.  Some of us predicted what the price of gas would be in 2013 pretty accurately and some found they were living in a fantasy land. We had questioners from old boyfriends that had attended our reunion that year and from a dear Grandpa who had passed away.

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Our family time capsule was a big hit and family members voted to make another time capsule next year.  We’re already working on the questions for our new questionnaire.

Famous Aunts & Uncles Family Reunion Game

How well do you know the aunts and uncles in your family?  Well,here’s a test to find out how well you know “famous” aunts and uncles that you’ve come to love through TV, books and in the movies.  Pass copies of the test out to older family members when they arrive at your reunion or during down time. Give prizes for the best(WHOPPERS, SMARTIES,100 GRAND) and worst (Milk DUDS) scores.

Famous Aunts & Uncles

www.familyreunionhelper.com

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1. Andy Griffith’s Aunt

2. Mr. Television

3. “Wizard of Oz” aunt

4. Uncle on “Adams Family”

5. Forgetful Aunt on “Bewitched”

6. Uncle housekeeper on “My Three Sons”

7. Common sense aunt on “Fresh Prince of "Bel-Air”

8. Harry Potter’s strict uncle

9. Trademark for pancake flour and syrup

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10. Luke Skywalker’s uncle from “Star Wars”

11. Tom Sawyer’s aunt

12. Cissy, Buffy & Jody’s uncle on “Family Affair”

13. Whitney Houston’s famous singing Aunt

14. Motorcycle riding uncle on “Full house”

15. George Clooney’s favorite singing aunt

16. The richest duck in the world

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17. Aunt that Amy stays with in “Little Women” 

18. He wants YOU (for the US Army)

19. Spiderman’s uncle and adoptive father

20. Who lived with her aunts at 133 Collins Road?

Famous Aunts & Uncles Answer Key

Answer Key

1. Andy Griffith’s Aunt- Aunt Bee

2. Mr. Television Uncle- Miltie

3. “Wizard of Oz” aunt- Auntie Em

4. Uncle on “Adams Family”- Uncle Festus

5. Forgetful Aunt on “Bewitched”- Aunt Clara

6. Uncle housekeeper on “My Three Sons”- Uncle Charley

7. Common-sense aunt on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” Aunt Vivian

8. Harry Potter’s strict uncle- Uncle Vernon

9. Trademark for pancake flour and syrup- Aunt Jemima

10. Luke Skywalker’s uncle from “Star Was” Uncle Owen

11. Tom Sawyer’s aunt- Aunt Polly

12. Cissy, Buffy & Jody’s uncle on “Family Affair”- Uncle Bill

13. Whitney Houston’s famous singing Aunt- Dionne Warwick

14. Motorcycle riding uncle on “Full house” – Uncle Jesse

15. George Clooney’s favorite singing aunt- Rosemary Clooney

16. The richest duck in the world- Uncle Scrooge

17. Aunt that Amy stays with in “Little Women”- Aunt March

18. He wants YOU (for the US Army)- Uncle Sam

19. Spiderman’s uncle and adoptive father- Uncle Ben

20. Who lived with her aunts at 133 Collins Road?- Sabrina the Teenage Witch

A “ready for printing” copy of this game as well as other fun “Pencil and Paper” games is included with every family reunion theme package purchased at familyreunionhelper.com/

Looking for another fun game to test your knowledge?  Try the Older Than Dirt game and find out who is older than dirt at your next reunion.

Fun Party Games for Your Family Reunion

Are you looking for a fun game for your family party or reunion? Here’s a few fun  party games that also work well for  family reunions.  These games  work well for most ages  and abilities.

Paddle Ball Contest

I bought a dozen paddle balls, for under $10.00) from Oriental Trading (http://www.orientaltrading.com) so that we could have 12 people compete at a time. Everyone needs a partner so count off in twos. One person will compete, the other will count. I suggest coming up with some rules, for example, competitors must hit the ball down not up, they must not touch the elastic or the ball.

Give everyone a 1 minute “warm up” to practice and develop their technique. Time for 1 minute and award medals to those that hit the ball the most times.  Then reverse and let the counter have a chance with the paddle.

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Feeding Frenzy Pudding Game

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You will need one single serving of pudding for each participant. Teams of two sit one behind each other. The person behind puts their arms underneath the person in front. (See pictures) The person behind must feed the person in front the pudding. First team done is the winner of that round. Teams then reverse and the person that was in front now sits behind and its their turn to “get even”!

Spray Bottle Relay

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Set a garbage can 12′ from the foul line and place container of balloons behind the foul line. When the clock starts, player may toss balloon in the air from behind the foul line and attempt to direct it into the trash can using only the spray bottle. If the balloon hits the ground, the spray bottle, or any part of the player’s body, it’s void. A player may reuse an old balloon or use a new balloon to make a new attempt from behind the foul line. To complete the game, player must move 1 balloon through the air and into the trash can using only the water from the spray bottle within the 60-second time limit.

Pool-ategories!

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This game is as fun to watch as it is to play. First, chose a leader to be the “caller”. After you have chosen the caller, they will think of a category (colors, animals, ice cream flavors, etc).  People will line up at the diving board. One person will jump off the diving board and the caller will say a category as soon as they leave the diving board. The person who jumps off has to name something in the category before they hit the water. If he or she does, they return to the line. If they do not, they are out. Then the next person in line goes.  The last person in the game is the caller for the next round.

Balloon Stomp

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I think this is Uncle Scott’s favorite party game and it really does work well with a large group of people.

An area of your family reunion site is cordoned off or you could use an inside area. Participants tie a balloon to each ankle. On a whistle all the contestants have to try to stomp on each other’s balloons and pop them. If both of your balloons are popped you are out. The winner is the last one with a un-popped balloon on their leg.

Family Reunion in an Afternoon

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You want to have a family reunion but…

You don’t have a 3 day weekend for your family reunion.

You don’t think you can stand listening to Uncle George’s lame jokes  for an entire weekend.

You can’t stand the thought of feeding all those hungry people.

Planning all those games and activities is just too overwhelming.

In my family reunion presentations I tell people that ANYTIME you get together with your family can be a family reunion.  There are no rules that say you have to spend a certain amount of time with your extended family to make it an “official” reunion.

A typical family reunion will assemble grandparents, aunts and uncles and tons of kids that share the same surname for a meal, some games and activities and maybe even some genealogy discussion and if all you have is a Saturday afternoon in the park then start planning!

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Let’s look at a possible schedule for a possible family reunion in an afternoon.

Things to do in advance

Be sure to reserve your location if holding your reunion at a park or hall.  Ask family members to bring a sack lunch for the noon meal and make food assignments or ask everyone to bring a potluck dish for the evening meal.

Send out invitations

Include food assignments and items such as swim suits or softball equipment.  If you are planning to go swimming, golfing, bowling etc. include how much these activities will cost.

Choose a theme.  A family reunion doesn’t have to have a theme to be successful but creating a theme for a family reunion is a great way to interest people and make them more likely to attend. A reunion invitation that invites you to a “Prehistoric” reunion for Brontosaurs burgers is more interesting than an invitation that invites you  to a family reunion at “the park”. It also makes things more fun when it comes to being imaginative with food, games, activities, invitations and just about every other aspect of the reunion. 

10:30 Registration

Set up a registration table for attendees to receive a name tag and schedule of activities.  This is a great time to get family member’s phone numbers, email and home addresses.  Provide an activity  that family members can participate in while waiting for everyone to arrive.  Try a huge game of badminton or volleyball for the teenagers, sugar cookie decorating or a coloring page for the youngsters and printable Older Than Dirt Game for the older generation.

11:00  Ice Breaker getting to know you games.

  My favorite ice breaker game is DO YOU LOVE YOUR RELATIVE?

The group sits in a circle with room in the center.  The person that is “IT” does not have a chair and stands in the center of the circle. “IT” walks up to one of the people in the circle, points to someone and asks, “_________, do you love your relative?” The individual pointed to can say one of two things:

“Yes I love my relatives (everyone sitting in the circle must move to a new chair)

“No, I don’t love my relatives but I love everyone _____________________.” Fill in the blank with things like- everyone that is wearing green, everyone that likes chocolate, everyone that has a dog or everyone that wears glasses. (Only the people that meet the requirements move to a different chair.)

In both situations, the person that asks the question runs to sit on a chair. The person left standing, without a chair to sit on, is the new “IT”.

Family Reunion Helper has lots of fun Ice Breaker Games.  You will need to plan on playing two to three games.

12:00  Sack lunches and family photo

After lunch you will want to take a picture of your family.  It doesn’t need to be professional, just a record of who attended the reunion.

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1:00  Extra Curricular Activity

Arrange in advance for your family to go swimming, bowling, roller skating, hiking or a road rally scavenger hunt. Some families like to split up during this time so people can participate in several activities- some may go golfing while others shop or make a craft. This will be your major activity.  For some activities such as boating or visiting an amusement park you may need to schedule more time.

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3:00 Theme Activities Craft or Fund Raiser

If you have chosen a theme for your reunion now is the time to do some of those activities.  This is also the time to do any fund raising such as an auction or raffle.

4:30 Genealogy Spotlight and Business Meeting

Ask someone that is a good story teller to share an interesting story from your family history.  It is very important that this presentation appeal to all family members and includes pictures and props.  You may also want to take a few minutes to discuss any family business such as when and where to hold you next reunion.

5:00 Dinner

You may do a potluck dinner, a meal that reflects your reunion theme (dinosaur theme- Brontosaurus Burgers, western theme- chuck wagon beans etc.) Other simple meal ideas are a baked potato or taco bar, grilled burgers or have your favorite pizza place deliver a variety of pizzas.  Do not serve dessert at this time.

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6:00 Talent Show Free Time

This is the time to let family members share their talents.  Play Let’s Make A Deal to keep everyone interested between acts.

7:00  Wrap it Up

Serve dessert and thank everyone for attending your reunion.  You will be tired and ready to clean up and go home but some family members will want to hang around and visit.  Put them to work helping you clean up. 

The  Branson Family Reunion web site list five reasons to have a family reunion.  One reason it lists is “Tradition”. “Tradition should be a big part of your family.  Taking the time to come together and teach (in a fun way) the tradition of your family will keep it alive and strong.”  Although planning a reunion can be a lot of work bringing your family together, if only for an afternoon, can be a rewarding way to keep traditions alive.

 

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Baby, Bronco, Backpack

 

If you’re looking for a fun game that any number of people can play and that doesn’t need a lot of advance preparation or props then “Baby, Bronco, Backpack” is the game for you.

Gather your group together and have them split into groups of two.  It’s usually best if groups are fairly evenly matched- same size and strength etc. but mismatched teams can add to the fun.

Explain the three poses teams must be able to form.

 

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If the leader of the game says “BRONCO” one person in each group of two will jump down on all fours and the second team member will sit on their back as if they are riding a horse.

 

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If the leader says “BABY” one of the players in each team of two will jump into the arms of the second team member as if they are being cradled like a baby.

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If the leader says “BACKPACK” one of the players in each group of two will jump on the back of the second player like they are getting a piggy back ride.

The last team of two to form up the combination is out of the game and teams are eliminated until there are two teams left and the winning team is determined.

 
For larger groups you may need to say that the last three are out.
As teams get a little more experience you can make the game more fun by yelling out combinations of movements such as “BABY, BRONCO, BACKPACK, BABY, GO!” The teams of two will frantically go through all of those until they perform the last “BABY.”

BABY!

HINT: One rule that may help you keep some control of the game is to explain before hand that the teams can not move until you say “GO!”

Fun Pizza Party Twist

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To add some suspense to a traditional pizza party divide you family and friends into teams.  Give each team a premade pizza crust a jar of pizza sauce and a bag of cheese.

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Wrap pizza toppings in gift wrap or newspaper and let each team pick 2 or 3 of the wrapped toppings.  These are the toppings that they must use on their pizza.

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After all the teams have “decorated” their pizzas and baked them, set them out for everyone to try.  Cut pizza in small slices so there are lots of samples.

Below is a list of popular pizza toppings:

MEAT

  • Pepperoni
  • Ham
  • Canadian Bacon
  • Salami
  • Proscuitto
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Chorizo
  • BBQ Chicken
  • Meatballs
  • Ground Pork
  • VEGETABLES
    • Artichoke Hearts
    • Bell Peppers
    • Spinach
    • Sun Dried Tomatoes
    • Asparagus
    • Cauliflower
    • Red onions
    • Herbs (Fresh if Available)
    • Portobello Mushrooms
    • Kalamata Olives
    • Leeks
    • Mushrooms
    • Corn
    • Tomatoes
    • Zucchini
    • Chili Peppers
    • Squash
    • Eggplant
    • Jalapeno Peppers
    • Olives