The chaos. The post-meal slog. The difficult guests who want to argue over politics. What can be done to make a holiday gathering more enjoyable for everyone? Amy Schlessman has answers.
Shlessman, D.H.Sc., D.P.T., is an assistant professor in the University of Findlay’s Physical Therapy Program and serves as a school-based physical therapist. She is the author of “Recycle Bin Boogie: Move and Learn with Recyclables”; will soon publish “STEM: Simple Ways to Move and Learn”; and has conducted numerous presentations for teachers, parents and therapists that promote physical activity in creative, fun ways. As an approved instructor for Step Up To Quality, which is a tiered rating system for early childhood learning and development programs in Ohio, Schlessman’s ideas have been incorporated into schools and daycares across the state.
Common household items can be used to create learning-based games for all ages, Schlessman said. “My big thing is combining movement with learning,” she explained. “It’s good for the mind and body to move, whether you’re age 2 or 92.” Make things simple and as easy as possible so that everyone can take a turn, she suggests.
Here are some of Schlessman’s ideas:
- Read a favorite book and act out the scenes. Laughter is, after all, its own delightful form of physical activity.
- Play musical chairs by having participants match a question to an answer on a chair. Corresponding information can include subjects such as family history, geography, social studies and other compelling themes.
- Have a scavenger hunt using common items such as bottle caps or spoons, but incorporate questions that are age and context-appropriate, such as what a child’s first spoken word was or what year a significant cultural event occurred. This game can also serve as a social ice breaker.
- Wrapping paper tubes, wrapping paper, boxes and other items can be used to create a Rube Goldberg-type wall track. Form teams of individuals who aren’t likely to interact with each other, and have them tape to the wall items that will allow a wadded ball of paper or tinfoil to bounce and slide down.
- Make a modified tossing game using paper and boxes. For participation, have players rhyme words, spell, or answer trivia questions.
- Turn a shopping bag into a piñata that holds funny fortunes or inspirational messages along with treats.
“If everyone puts their heads together, they can usually come up with fun activities,” said Schlessman.
Also, such games go beyond their entertainment value. Schlessman pointed out “there is an ever-growing body of research that shows combining physical activity with learning improves academic aptitude, increases concentration, and contributes to better test scores.” This Psychology Today article elaborates on those findings.