Family Thanksgiving Games To Play That Don’t Require Much
Your stash of board games has probably gotten quite a bit of use this year. If you’re tired of playing the same games over and over again, but don’t want to purchase anything new, these 20 family games to play on Thanksgiving that don’t require much are a fun way to change it up.
These classic games require little to no equipment. What you will need for some are likely things you already have at home — pens, paper, a deck of cards. Turkey Day might look different his year, but with just a few supplies and a whole lot of imagination, you can have hours of family fun right in your living room. (Or on Zoom during a virtual celebration.)
Several of these classic parlor games are also easy for family members of all ages to play together. Even the youngest participants can get in on the action without the frustration of learning a bunch of complicated rules to follow.
Plus, with no fake money to exchange hands, it’s unlikely your Thanksgiving game night will end with an entire Monopoly board flipped upside down in a fit of rage because
somebody can’t count. Win-win.
Playing Simon Says is such a fun way to get the whole family up and moving after enjoying a big Thanksgiving dinner. One person is “Simon” and calls out actions for the other players to do by saying “Simon says…” before each action. The actions can be things like “wave your arms over your head” or “hop in a circle” to get everyone’s blood pumping.
If “Simon” doesn’t say “Simon says…” and a player does the action anyway, that player is out. The last player standing wins!
If you’ve ever played the board game Scattergories, this is a similar game you can play without a game set. The group decides on a main category to start the game, and then each player takes a turn stating an item within that category. (Examples: types of fruit, restaurants, TV shows.) If a player repeats an item or can’t think of anything else that fits, they’re out.
Some families play this game in a circle set to a clapping rhythm so that if a player doesn’t say anything on their turn before the designated clapping sound, they’re out. The last person left is the winner and gets to choose the next category.
Even if you don’t have an actual Pictionary board game, all you need to play the game is some paper, something to write with, and a timer. Before the game begins, players can write different topics on slips of paper to draw from. To allow everyone to see what is being drawn, it’s best to tape the paper up on a wall and use a dark marker, or if you happen to have a white board (I’m looking at you homeschool families!) that will work even better.
You can play in teams or just take turns trying to guess what is being drawn. Either way, playing a game based on having successful drawing skills is most always an absolute blast.
There are multiple ways to play 20 Questions, but the way my family has always played is by having one person choose a proper noun (like a specific person or place) and then the other players take turns asking questions to try to figure out what the topic is.
After the player whose turn it is asks their question, they get to make a guess. If that person guesses correctly, they win, but if not, the game continues. If nobody guesses correctly before 20 questions have been asked, the person who is “it” wins.
This is one classic game that most people already know how to play. Players take turns acting out something like a movie or an animal without talking at all, while the other players try to guess what is being acted out.
Charades can be played in teams if you have enough players, but you can also play by simply taking turns and having the person who guesses correctly take the next turn.
If you have a deck of cards handy, Slap Jack is one easy card game to play with family members of all ages. Players are dealt an equal amount of cards and take turns flipping the card face-up in the middle of the group.
When a jack is laid down, the first person to slap their hand on top of it collects all of the cards underneath it. The person who collects the entire deck of cards is the winner. Just be aware that this game can get intense rather quickly, so the faster you are with your hands, the better!
Hot Potato is a great game choice if you want to incorporate music into your Turkey Day. Have one person crank up some tunes while everyone else passes the “hot potato” around in a circle. When the music stops, the person holding the “hot potato” is out.
You don’t necessarily have to play this game with a potato — any ball or small object will work just fine — but if you happen to hold a yam back while cooking, you totally could.
Another card game that is super simple to play is War. While it works best to play with two players, you can play tournament style with more than two people and crown an ultimate game winner.
To play, divide a card deck in half. Players then simultaneously flip one card over, face up, and the player who has the higher card gets to collect both cards. Keep flipping cards until one player holds all of the cards, making them the winner.
If you’ve never played before, think of Fishbowl as a combination of the board game Taboo and Charades. Each person playing writes a different proper noun (like NASA or Joe Biden) on three slips of paper, folds them in half, and places them in a large bowl. (This is where the name Fish
bowl comes from.)
Players are divided into two teams with one team leader on each side. Played in three two-minute rounds, the goal is for the team leader to get their team members to correctly guess out loud as many items drawn from the bowl as possible during each round. Every correct answer scores a point and the team with the most points after three rounds wins.
The catch here is that the rules are different for each round. The first round is like Taboo, where the team leader can describe what’s written on the paper without saying the actual word. During the second round, the team leader can only give a one-word clue. By the third round, the team leader can only act out what is written on the paper without talking.
My grandma taught me how to play Go Fish when I was in kindergarten, so it’s safe to say that even little ones can get in on the fun with this card game. The basic goal of the game is to collect the most hands of four cards of the same suit as possible by asking for cards from other players and “fishing” them out of a center pile when a player doesn’t have the card you asked for.
If you haven’t played in a while, you may want to glance at these detailed instructions from playing card company Bicycle, lest you teach your 5-year-old the wrong way to play.
To play Spoons, you’ll need a deck of cards and enough spoons that equal one less than the number of people playing the game. You can read more detailed instructions here, but basically, players sit in a circle and pass cards around to try to make four-of-a-kind. When someone collects four-of-a-kind, they covertly grab a spoon from the center of the circle. The last person to grab a spoon loses.
My 6th grade math teacher used to let his students play Spoons when we had free time during class. We would use pencils or pens instead of spoons, so you truly can use anything you have laying around if you don’t feel like doing the dishes between dinnertime and game time.
To play this game, players sit in a circle. The fist player says the first and last name of a celebrity and the next player in the circle must name another celebrity whose first name begins with the first letter of the last name of the celebrity named by the player before them. For example, if player one names Brad Pitt, the next player could name Post Malone, and the player after that might name Michael Jordan.
One twist on the rules to this game is that if a player names a celebrity whose first and last name start with the same letter, the direction of play reverses.
Two Truths & A Lie
To play this game, the player who is “it” stands up and tells the group two things that are true and one thing that is a lie about themselves. The rest of the players then shout out the statement they think is the lie. The first person to guess correctly wins that round and gets to be “it” next.
Would You Rather?
While there’s no real way to determine a “winner” when playing this game, it’s always a fun way to get silly conversations going. Asking questions like “Would you rather have an extra arm or an extra leg?” and “Would you rather never eat pizza again or only eat pineapple-topped pizza forever?” can really spark some creative debates.
OK, at first glance you might think this game sounds juvenile — I get it. I remember having epic staring contests with my little sister growing up that ended in an argument about whether one of us
really blinked or not.
But, with a large group of people, you can play staring contest in epic fashion and it’s actually a lot of fun. Make a bracket (basketball tournament-style) and have different people complete round by round until a staring contest winner is crowned.
Sorry I’m Late
During this game, each player takes a turn explaining why they’re late, and the reason is the plot of a movie. Whoever guesses the movie correctly gets to take the next turn. One example is “Sorry I’m late…I went to Harvard to try to win back my ex-boyfriend.” (The answer here is clearly
To make it easy for everyone, you can pick popular movies or movies from one specific category like kids movies or action films. But, for families full of movie buffs, it can be fun to try and outwit one another with what some people might call “useless” knowledge of obscure movies.
An old-fashioned game of telephone is sure to bring some laughs to your family’s Thanksgiving Day. Everyone sits in a circle to play and tries to pass a message originating from the first player through the whole circle by whispering in the ear of the person sitting to their immediate right.
At the end of the circle, the last person announces what they heard out loud. The answers are typically a hilarious rendition of the original message that has been altered thanks to people’s inability to hear whispers.
Rock, Paper, Scissors
This is another one of those games that will transport you right back to your childhood, but in the best way possible. For Thanksgiving, you can play Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament-style and have family members match up against one another. Play best out of three turns in each round with the winner advancing on to the next round. The last person standing is the champion!
Who Am I?
To play this game, one player picks a famous person (a celebrity, historical figure, politician, etc.) to be, but doesn’t reveal who they are to the rest of the group. Players then take turns asking yes or no questions about the person’s identity. After each question is asked, that player can make a guess. The first player to guess correctly wins.
Similar to 20 questions, this game centers around the ability to only answer “yes” or “no” when another player asks a question about who you are. Questions can be about the famous person’s appearance or why they’re well-known, but must have a yes or no answer.
Sitting in a circle, players take turns saying the name of a film that is connected in some way to the one the previous player named. The connection can be through the same actor that is featured in both movies, movies that have the same director, or producer, etc. For example, if the first player says
Finding Nemo, the next player might say Toy Story since both films are Disney/Pixar films, but then the next player might say Forrest Gump because Tom Hanks is in both Toy Story and Forrest Gump.
If a player cannot think of a movie, that player is out. The last player left wins.
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