Mister Spiffy Keeps People Busy

Activity – n. A specific action, pursuit, or sphere of actions.

Mister Spiffy Says: "You young people of today; thinking you always have to be active. What ever happened to the activity called ‘shutting your yap and letting your elders alone to talk to each other’? Whatever happened to that? I liked that one."

When deciding on the activities for the family reunion, kindly remember that the main reason for a reunion is to spend time with as many family members as is humanly possible, both mentally and physically. Plan activities that achieve this goal by having family members do things together, but make sure you don’t plan so many activities that nobody gets a chance to just sit around on their duffs and visit for a while. And finally, try to select activities where a large number of people can participate at the same time so that you can avoid splintering out into small groups of close-knit friends. You want activities where people will need to talk to each other. Here are just a few activity ideas. If you have had a successful reunion activity that you would like to share with others, Mister Spiffy would be grateful if you would please let us know.

Get Acquainted Activities (Icebreakers)

There are a number of activities which are specifically designed to help people get acquainted with each other. Here are just a few of Mister Spiffy's favorite icebreakers.


The most common family reunion activities are, of course, Mister Spiffy’s favorite – the games. There is a huge variety of games, from sports (like softball and volleyball), to "kids" games (which are especially fun if the adults join in), to board games. Here are ideas for some games you can use.


Sit around in a group and tell stories (preferably embarrassing) about each other. The best story wins! Try to aim for funny and embarrassing (therefore funny) areas. Kids always love to hear grandpa and grandma tell stories about their parents (you know why kids and grandparents get along so well... they have a common enemy). And don't forget to ask the kids to tell stories – they’re the best way to get the good stories about their parents. Mister Spiffy warns that you may need to act quick to stop them from telling some stories.

Keeping the Kiddies Busy

Kiddie pools, coloring books, and sidewalk chalk are good ways to keep those kids busy when the "growed-ups" want to sit around and talk. Keep plenty of crayons handy to prevent squabbling, and make sure it’s a hot day so kids won’t protest the cold hose water in the pool. And make sure they only use the sidewalk chalk in places the rain can reach (if they color on the floor of the garage, it’s never going to go away).

Craft Table

Provide the supplies and let the kids creativity keep them busy. Set up a table outside and cover it with butcher paper. Then set out construction paper, scissors (round tip), glue, water soluble paint and paint brushes, markers, and other arts and crafts supplies. You can even put out some newspapers and paper mache (remember that water and flour paste)? Mister Spiffy says you can either assign specific activities, or just let the kids do whatever they want with what's available. Here's a place to purchase inexpensive craft supplies of all kinds and themes.

Family Memorabilia

Create an attractive display of old photographs and family paraphernalia. Ask everyone to bring something to display. Set aside a table for "missing persons" – pictures of ancestors whom you can’t identify. Maybe someone else will recognize them. Mister Spiffy recalls a reunion where just that happened. You might get lucky.

Group Photos

A family reunion is the perfect place to use that camera that Mister Spiffy is always toting around, just out of sight. Where else could you possibly get a photograph of four or five generations of a family all together at one time? Other groups that Mister Spiffy likes to photograph include: grandma and grandpa with their grown-up children, all the young cousins or all the older cousins. Make sure that after you get the pictures developed, you write down who each person in the photo is, so that twenty years from now people aren’t asking, "Who was that"? Mister Spiffy made that very mistake earlier, when he wasn’t a family reunion expert. If you aren't a photography wizard, here's some photo tips to help you become one.

Family Reunion Video

Creating a video of your family reunion can preserve memories that last a lifetime (unless TVs go obsolete sometime soon). There are many options, from recording family members in activities (everyone loves watching dad fall into the mud in slow motion) to interviewing family members and hearing stories all about their past. If you plan to do a video interview, make sure the family member is comfortable with that. Ask questions that trigger memories, and let the family member do most of the talking (reminiscing). If a question appears to cause anguish or distress to the family member, just change the subject to something else. This is supposed to be a fun activity.

Family Map

A fun way to help the reunion guests see where they live in relation to everyone else is to create a family residence map. Honest, Mister Spiffy claims it’s more fun than it sounds. Simply buy a large map of the United States (or whatever countries you and your family reside in). Make sure the map is fairly detailed, so that family members can easily find where they live on the map. Mount the map on cardboard, so that family members can write their names on small pieces of paper and pin them where they live. This doesn't work real well though, if everyone lives in the same town.

Family Talent Show

You would probably be surprised at the talents of your various family members. Put on a talent show at your reunion. Make sure you tell everyone about this in the invitation or information packet, in case they need to bring something with them (like their violin, juggling balls, or blowtorch). Print up certificates or awards for the various categories.

Family Skits

Every family has some major league hams in it, just dying to show off their acting skills. Have various branches of the family put on short skits for the whole group. Have each group come up with their own skit, or assign a skit for them to perform. Don't know what a skit is, or need some ideas for skits? Here ya go.

Family History Research

A family reunion is a good time to get the old family history updated. Ask family members to bring what information they have, so that it can be shared with each other. Create a large wall chart of the family and hang it on a wall. Ask the family to write on this chart with any information that might be missing, including missing people, as well as missing dates and places for each person. That way, everyone walks away a little bit more knowledgeable.

Time Capsule

This is an activity which also needs to be announced prior to the reunion. Ask each family to contribute something which represents themselves or their family to be placed in a time capsule. Choose a date when the capsule should be opened and store it someplace with the instructions as to when it can be cracked open (ten, twenty, fifty years). Mister Spiffy wants to point out that even though it would be fun to open a 50 year old time capsule, those who add to the capsule often aren't around 50 years later.

Family Reunion Quilt

When you mail out your invitations, include a request for each family to bring a quilt block that depicts something about their family, and shows their names and the date. Outline the measurements that the square needs to conform to, but don’t be too prohibitive. Encourage everyone to use their imagination and be creative (Mister Spiffy is always creative). Turn over the block to the volunteer quilting people for the assembling. The finished quilt can be given to a special person in your family (like dear old Grandma Gertrude), displayed at future reunions, or raffled off to earn money for the next reunion.

Since people may forget their square, a nice variation is to have a pile of pre-cut cloth squares at the reunion, and have each family member decorate one at the reunion with their name and a picture using puff paint. Then have someone connect them with strips of fabric (this can be done after the reunion). Finish the quilt with a back and batting and use ribbon to tie the quilt.

Puppet Shows

These take some work if you want a specific show, but if you have some creative teenagers with nothing to do, they can improvise a puppet show for the little kiddies. And when the show isn't going, hand puppets are amazing tools for keeping those young-uns busy.

Pie-Eating Contest

These are the best. Mister Spiffy has mentioned pie-eating contests at every single planning meeting he has ever been to. They rarely use that suggestion, but it has been scientifically affirmed that pie-eating contests are extremely fun. There are two methods – the person who can eat the most pie in an allotted amount of time (usually five minutes or so), or the person who can eat the most period. The second is funnier to watch, because many get sick. Of course, for the best results, no hands or utensils are allowed.

White Elephant Exchange

Have everyone bring a wrapped gift (a white elephant). Don't ask Mister Spiffy why they are called that. Make sure you set a price limit on the gift (under $3 for example). Then during the reunion have someone blow a whistle which means everyone has to find someone to trade gifts with. Do this several times during the day, until everyone has a white elephant of totally unknown origins. Then they get to take it home. How fun, eh? If you want, you can limit this to the kids.

Guess Who?

Ask everyone to bring a baby picture with their name on the back. Have everyone walk around a display table and try to guess who each picture is. "Why look, that’s Grandma Gertrude! She hasn’t changed a bit, has she? A bit more wrinkled, perhaps…"

Church Service

If the majority of your family is of the same faith, attending a church or memorial service together can strengthen your family bonds. This can be especially memorable if you attend the same church you attended as a child.

Dinner and Dance

A dinner and dance can be a fun activity, especially at reunions with mostly adults. Most adults would appreciate anything that would give them an excuse to get away from their kids and stay out late – it helps even more when that’s fun.

Mister Spiffy’s Helpful Hints – There’s absolutely no reason to follow strictly the outlines on any of these activities. If you come up with something unique to your family that would put a twist on any of the ideas, Mister Spiffy says go for it. He knows that differentiating from the old standard of family reunions is what makes these things successful. If you have done something different that was a success, tell us about it so we can share it with everyone else.