Our family has always enjoyed playing games together as a way to connect with one another. It couldn’t just be any game though.  Monopoly always lead to fighting. My step-dad would create a high stakes family game night  by including Kit-Kat candy bars and Big Red gum in the prize pot.  There were disagreements about teammates, equitable wealth distribution, and cut-throat real estate negotiations. (He was a Realtor.)

Thanksgiving 1990- (Probably the last time I played a full game of Monopoly)

Thanksgiving 1990- (Probably the last time I played a full game of Monopoly)

Our family is competitive, and games can be a way to unite a family rather than starting quibbles over house rules.  I like games where I can win.  I like games that require some strategy, but also a bit of luck. If I have to focus too much on winning, I find it difficult to relax and share stories with family and friends. I have only played one entire game of Monopoly in the past 25 years as a result. I would rather play Yahtzee.

I remember learning to add quickly and multiply by playing Yahtzee with Grandma Kohler. My aunts and uncles may have had difficulty coming to a consensus about best child rearing practices, or how to spend leisure time, but we could always agree on Yahtzee.  The game moves at a quick pace, allowing us time to talk, connect and share stories. (Which is my favorite part of spending time with extended family. ) Yahtzee is a game that balances strategy with an element of chance to level the playing field.  The surge of excitement I felt as an eight year old winning a game against adults was addictive.

Here were some rules we developed over the years to keep it fun:

  • Put the dice in your cup and pass to the left before marking your scorecard.  It speeds up game play. (That’s important if you have focus issues like we do.)
  • Feel free to offer your opinion about strategy for someone’s roll, but they don’t have to do what you suggest. (They might be more of a risk taker and go for that inside number on a straight. We’re still working on this for advice we give each other about everything else. )
  • Cheer for others.  Talk to the dice. (It can’t hurt right?) Groan in sympathy when someone’s dice don’t cooperate.  It builds understanding and family unity. Never gloat, or verbalize dismay for someone’s roll. (Even if it’s your younger brother Jeff, and he always gets Yahtzee.)

We save used scorecards. The name, date, event are recorded with the scores.  Grandma’s Yahtzee box contained scorecards from my mom, aunt and uncles from the early 70’s.  There were cards from family reunions, Sunday dinners, holidays and vacations. Cousin’s scorecards marked the passage of time with barley legible scrawled names to scorecards shared with their children. Our Yahtzee boxes are time capsules. It’s a glimpse into our family and time we have enjoyed together.

Genealogy Jen’s weekly tip– Play a game. (You don’t have to wait for extended family to show up.) Choose a game you enjoy, so your mind can wander a bit, and you can carry on a conversation with the other players. 

Bonus points– Allow yourself permission to relax, have fun and not have a meltdown if someone else to wins. (But only if they legitimately beat you, because if you’re like me, it still feels good to win.) If you’re feeling really, motivated, create your own game like I did. You can read about it here.

This post is featured as part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education monthly blog hop.  To enjoy other posts about surviving the holidays with a house full of gifted folks, please click here.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  Basically, if you clink the links and buy stuff, I might get a few cents.  I’m saving my pennies to upgrade my website and remove ads. 

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