Hi. I’m Allison Laypath and I am delighted to be a new contributor to Or So She Says… I write the family travel blog Tips for Family Trips, where I share my favorite destinations and my best tips for successful family travel. My family is passionate about travel and we believe that travel makes families stronger, smarter and happier.
I am married to my best friend (it’s cheesy, but true) and we have two children – a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. We live near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our daughter on her first road trip when she was just four-weeks-old and we took a “celebration vacation” the day after my son was declared cancer-free last March.
Family reunion season is rapidly approaching, and like many families, we will travel to a reunion this July. My most recent post at TipsforFamilyTrips.com is a review of a great reunion destination near Zion National Park in Southern Utah, the Zion Ponderosa Ranch and Resort. This first post for Or She Says is also dedicated to family reunions and those who take on the tremendous task of planning them.
Family reunions, like families, come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the only thing all families have in common is that nobody wants to attend a “boring” reunion.
Do you need some fresh family reunion ideas for your next get-together? Here are five family-tested ideas.
1. Book Club
Does anyone in your family like to read? With a little advance planning, your family can hold your own Reunion Book Club. Everyone reads the book before the reunion so they will be prepared to discuss the book during a scheduled Book Club activity.
Contact family members at least a few weeks before the reunion to see who is interested and collect book suggestions. Once you have a list of nominees, take a vote.
Consider the length and difficulty of each nominated book. Shorter books may encourage more members of the family to participate. Some books lend themselves to interesting discussions more than others. A young adult novel may be a good choice, as there are many that are well-written, but don’t require a huge time commitment.
2. Game Shows
If your family is competitive and outgoing, consider adapting your favorite reality game show for your family reunion.
Minute-to-Win-It games are increasingly popular at family reunions because all you need is a stop watch and a few simple props to bring on the laughs. Click here for a list of goofy games.
My brother-in-law’s family held their own Amazing Race during a reunion in Sun Valley, Idaho. His parents set up clues and activities all over town and then set their seven adult children and their spouses loose. They were required to use public transportation and my sister describes a crazy foot race against several other couples to the finish line.
Don’t forget the prizes! If your family can afford it, spring for some worthwhile prizes such as gift cards to motivate the competition.
3. Cooking Activities
Add flavor to your next reunion with one of these culinary activities.
Iron Chef – If you don’t have the kitchen space for a head-to-head cooking competition, this is an activity that could be prepared in advance. Assign a “secret ingredient” a few weeks before the reunion, sample all the creations, and vote on a winner sometime during the first day.
International Night – Invite everyone to prepare or bring a dish from a place they have visited. Don’t think that you need to have traveled internationally to participate. I once lived in Oregon where blackberries grow wild. My blackberry cobbler is a hit at events like this.
Family Cookbook – Have everyone prepare a favorite dish to share. Collect the recipes, take photos of the food, and include some other photos from the reunion. Put it all together and publish your own family cookbook. It will be a great reunion souvenir. If you have any old family recipes, be sure to include those too!
4. Pinewood Derby
You have a few of those wooden cars in the family, do you not? Wouldn’t you like to find out which is the fastest? Rent a derby track near your reunion site, or build your own.
5. Create a scrapbook or DVD
Online programs such as Shutterfly or Apple’s iPhoto make it easier than ever for anyone to compile a beautiful hardbound photo book full of reunion photos. They also make it easy for other family members to view the album online and order their own copies. Books on these sites start at around $10, plus shipping
A similar, but less expensive option is a DVD slide show. You can collect reunion photos and videos in iPhoto or Premiere Elements, add your own music, use cool built-in effects, and voila!, you have a slide show. Share it online for free or burn copies to DVD.
Family reunions are a great way for families to connect and create shared memories. Whatever activities your family chooses, the most important thing is to enjoy your time together.
Thanks for the fresh ideas! My poor father-in-law is in charge of planning this year’s reunion, so I promised to keep my eyes open for good ideas to help him out. This definitely qualifies!
Thanks for the fun ideas. I love the pinewood derby idea and the family cook book idea.
Really fun ideas, Allison! I have a friend whose mother hosts a Grandkids Camp every year. She assigns a book for them all to read before they come, such as Tom Sawyer. Then when they get there, the whole camp is themed around the book…activities, food, costumes, etc. They camp for a whole week. It’s super fun for the kids, a break for all the parents, and a great way for a grandmother to create memories. Your book club idea made me think of that. Thanks for the great post!
I love the theme idea. I bet there are some families who could do some fun things with the right theme.
Your friend’s mom sounds like a brave and ambitious woman, but Tom Sawyer Grandkids Camp would pay off with a lifetime of good memories.
wandering educators says
i love the family cookbook idea (well, they are ALL great). ty!
Jan Tanner says
Loved the Iron Chef idea! I would like to more about how it worked. We have a family reunion at a beach house and will have a big kitchen, so it will probably work for every family team to cook. Thought we’d start off with giving them the secret ingredient and each family will go to the grocery store to get needed items (besides staple items that we will have- flour, sugar, etc.) Once back at the house, how long is good for time to cook/ create their dish? How about judging- who, criteria, etc. Any ideas for great secret ingredients? Any other tips? THANKS!!
allison l. says
That’s so great that you have nice kitchen facilities at your reunion. You can really have a lot of fun with this competition.
Our reunion was held at a park, so it was more of an Iron Chef Potluck, where everyone brought desserts. Our secret ingredient was cherries, which were in season at the time. We decided the winner with a simple vote.
I like your idea of letting everyone purchase their own ingredients. From there, think of how long teams might need. Nearly anything can be baked in 30-45 minutes and stove-top dishes often take less time. How much prep time is reasonable? 20-30 more minutes? Will they be allowed to search for recipes online, or just work with their kitchen know-how?
I think that fruits in season make good secret ingredients because they are so delicious and versatile. Limiting the competition to desserts worked well for our competition because it was easier to compare the entries. Desserts are usually easy to share among a group and store for later too.
As for judging, giving everyone a vote is a simple and fair way to go, unless you really want to have judges like the show. You might want to give everyone two votes, so they can vote for their own and one other. If you decide to have judges, you could do a blind taste test, so the judges don’t know who made what dish. You could have multiple awards like Best Presentation, Best Flavor, Fastest Finish, Most creative use of Secret Ingredient… You could have Grandma and Grandpa judge, or choose a judge or two from each generation so everyone is represented.
Of course, the most important thing with a competition like this is to have fun with it. Adapt it to your family’s needs any way you like, and I’m sure you’ll have a great time.
Jon Blog says
I love the idea of a food game. We have tried Iron Chef as a few date nights with some of our friends and it was really fun. I think my reunion might have too many people to make it work though. What I have planed for our reunion this year is to rent a soft serve ice cream machine and tso that the kids can get ice cream cones all day long. My wife just heard of this from a friend so I have not done it yet but am really excited to try it next month.
allison l. says
The ice cream machine sounds so fun. Thanks for sharing this idea!