Let’s start with shuffle board which is usually considered an old person’s game. In my life, it was a picnic or vacation game—multiple generations together and everyone was invited to participate. It was the Klein uncles that showed me how much fun intergenerational games could be: grab a young partner, do outrageous things that help them compete with the adults like move them half way up the to the goal, carry the toddlers while they hold the stick and push the puck along, cheer like crazy, laugh until you cry. And during card games, wait until the kids are watching you and blatantly cheat so that they can catch you and make a big fuss—laugh until you cry. Make games out of everything. Put a saved sign on your favorite chair every time you get up. Enlist one of the young kids to be your server and tip them a quarter. Make the kids feel important and loved. And then it was okay (usually) when the adults said it was their turn to play by themselves. Okay, we often still had a young “partner.”
Inspired by the Klein uncles, I thought up ways to have kids play adult games. I made stacks of Q&A cards based on my children’s knowledge and experience levels which allowed the whole family to play Trivial Pursuit and Facts in Five together. My grandkids and I spent hours with magazines, 3X5 cards, glue, and magic markers to put together cards showing familiar people and objects (both pictures and identifying words). This kids’ version of Catch Phrase was as fun to make as it still is to play. With minor updating, new generations of children are enjoying this game at my house. It only takes a few alterations, including not keeping score, to enable kids to join adults in Dutch Blitz. Add M&Ms or pistachios as treats when certain goals are reached, and even a two-year-old can focus for a short time.
We have plenty of kids’ games, too, except not Chutes and Ladders. I refuse to play that never-ending game.
Intergenerational game-playing invites kids into an “adult” activity, shows them we are willing to adapt to enable them to participate because we want to do things with them, and teaches us to occasionally play “picnic-style” rather than competitively. In junior high an attitude shifts changes their eagerness to participate to, “I wonder what game Grandma is going to try to rope me into this time?” But they still come over and wait for you to draw them in.
Intergenerational game-playing says, “You are not less than. You are someone I want to spend time with, have fun with.”