Family Game Night, Appalachian Style

Published on January 30, 2015
Written by Ray Access

Family time together builds memories.

Appalachian families have been sharing time together ever since the original settlers started having children. Of course, back then, when life was more difficult, family night might have featured games like Chore Time, Learnin’ Your Letters and Bible Reading.

Today, families continue the tradition of Family Game Night, but with a whole new array of choices to entertain and to teach. Some of the activities are inspired by the past while others are brand new. All involve the whole family. Perhaps some of these will inspire you to start your own family tradition.

Family Games

  • Sardines. This is the opposite of Hide-and-Go-Seek, so it’s best played in a house that has more than a single room. The rules are simple. One family member hides. Everyone searches separately. Whenever someone discovers the hider, they hide there together… until the last person finds the rest of the family.
  • Snowball Fight. Regardless of the weather outside, this game is played indoors, using crumpled-up pieces of paper as “snowballs.” It’s fun for all ages. There are many variations on this game, including making forts before the fight and a snowball-making competition. Try it and see for yourself!
  • Board Games. Appalachian families who play Monopoly or Scrabble might find this fun new game an excellent addition to their collection. This game (released in 2014) teaches skills that can benefit everyone, especially if your family is active. It’s the Appalachian Trail Game. Learn how to prepare for a hiking adventure as you progress up (or down) the Appalachian Trail. It’s a game of chance and knowledge.
  • Jigsaw puzzles. Ever since the first puzzle in 1760, families have enjoyed the challenge of piecing together pictures and maps of various complexities. Add a wrinkle by playing a book on tape or podcast to keep everyone occupied (or distracted).

Family Activities

  • Scavenger Hunt. If you’re creative, you can make this family activity last for hours. Create a list that makes your children think, such as “a tool that begins with the letter R” or “something you put in your mouth, but not to eat.” Start with ten items. Divide up your family into teams.
  • Vacation Jar Art. If you want to encourage your family to save for a vacation, select a large empty jar or bottle for collecting change. Then let the kids decorate it with ideas for a destination. You can use paint, paper and glue, or whatever you have on hand.
  • $5 Shopping Night. If you’re in a city or town, take the family to a dollar store. Give each person five dollars with the instruction: “Whoever buys the best item (or items) for the family — something we can use — wins another five dollars to spend on whatever they want.”
  • Arts and Crafts. No one wants to paint the mailbox by himself, but when you get to decorate it as a family, everyone has fun. Or have the kids construct projects from empty cereal boxes and milk cartons — things like storage boxes and desk organizers or boxes to hold Christmas ornaments.

Family Education

  • Family Storytelling. The original entertainment for Appalachian families, kids love hearing family stories, especially if you have extended family members staying with you. Let Grandpa talk about his favorite boyhood pastime. Have Mom tell a story about her mother. The children learn about their family history, and everyone is entertained.
  • Learn a New Song. Many families enjoy making music together, whether singing or playing musical instruments. Spend a night learning a new song, but don't make it too easy. If you’re singing, learn the harmonies too. If playing, teach everyone on a new instrument.
  • Gun Safety. Once the children are old enough, it’s time to teach them about gun safety. Dad can start by taking apart and cleaning his rifle, letting the kids lend a hand. Instruction and common sense tips get passed along the way. Just leave the bullets hidden.

Appalachian families no longer sit around whittling together, not when there’s much more to do. Spend time together without any electronic devices to build lasting memories and strong familial bonds. Just as the Appalachian families do!