Play Together this Thanksgiving

Just in time for the holidays, a new family activity book promises to provide hours of screen-free fun, bonding, and connection for the whole family to enjoy. Play Together, by Laura Haver, is sure to become your go-to guide for family entertainment, featuring over 60 games and activities for all ages and stages to enjoy. Here are a couple of examples from her book to get you started:

 1.  Smile Contest (Duration: 5+ minutes). A couple of years ago, I began thinking about a fun, easy way to help others connect. I couldn’t think of an easier way than smiling.

How to Play: Have two players stand face to face. Then on the count of three, have each player smile at each other and look into each other’s eyes. The first person to laugh, look away, or stop smiling is out. You can play Smile Contest as a one-time challenge or a mini-tournament. You can play it last-person-standing style or you can set it up however you’d like. Whatever way you choose, I recommend that you keep the focus on smiling, laughing, and connecting rather than on competing.

In addition to smiling, I like how this game gets people to look directly at each other. Like smiling, eye contact is another great skill that people of all ages can use to build connection and rapport.

2.  Thanksgiving Journal (Duration: 10+ minutes). This activity has been a family favorite since before my boys could even write. I love how it is an annual record of all the things we are most grateful for. Not only does it get everyone thinking about what they are currently grateful for, but it also becomes fun to look back on old entries. Over time, the journal becomes a precious keepsake, as it documents a slice of family history, hand-written by each person.

How to Play: Get a new journal (or some paper) and invite each person at your gathering to write down one or more things they’ve been grateful for over the past year. To keep it playful, people can write (and read) as little or as much as they’d like. You can also use it as a way to open up conversations on gratitude. I recommend dedicating a new journal as your annual Thanksgiving Journal but feel free to use whatever you’ve got. For example, if you don’t have a journal, you can use paper and save them in a folder, or you can each write on small slips of paper and store them in a mason jar. The key is to look for things that you are grateful for, write them down, and share them with one another.

On Thanksgiving Day, I place our Thanksgiving Journal on the coffee table. Since we’ve been doing it for years, everyone leisurely fills in their entries throughout the day. When the kids were younger though, I would ask them what they were grateful for and then I’d fill it in for them. They could also draw their own pictures. Now everyone thinks it’s a kick to go back and look at their funny drawings and see how their handwriting changed over the years! Once the holiday is over, I store our journal with our decorations, which helps me keep track of it and remember to pull it out in time each year.

Wishing you and yours a playful and smile-filled holiday season!

Laura Haver is a play, happiness, and communication expert, author, speaker, and life design coach. She has been featured on the Today Show, CBS, Fox and more. For more family games and activities see Haver’s new book, Play Together: Games & Activities for the Whole Family to Boost Creativity, Connection & Mindfulness, and visit to learn more.