No more "How was your day?" ... "Fine," followed by silence. These games, from Laurie David's new book, The Family Dinner, will get your family talking, guaranteed.
When playing a new word game, you want everyone to participate and not feel like they are going to be judged, ridiculed, or teased (so no judging, ridiculing, or teasing). Toss some easy words to the kids at the table who might need extra encouragement. Ask direct questions; call on people by name. Be the leader.

Another tip: Know your crowd. Not every word game works for every group. What my teenager will play now at the table has shifted since she hit the oh-so-pleasant "I refuse to cooperate" age of fifteen. Younger kids are generally game for everything and will amaze you with how quickly they catch on.

Pet Peeves and Idiosyncrasies
Pet Peeves and Idiosyncrasies is a favorite game at the David household; we never get tired of playing it (perhaps because we have so many of both!). It's also a great ice-breaker with new guests.

First of all, pet peeves and idiosyncrasies are very different. It's fun to have your family debate the subtle difference. Ask each person to name a pet peeve and one of their idiosyncrasies (you can do them as separate rounds, together, or one-a-night). My daughter Romy wants me to include her pet peeve here but I hope it won't confuse you because this one actually crosses the line between the two: She doesn't like it when people make dents in their pile of ketchup on their plate. If they dip a fry in it, she feels they should smooth it out afterward to get rid of the holes. I will let you decide that one, but feel free to challenge respondents if you think a pet peeve is really an idiosyncrasy. Our friend Bella's pet peeve is dogs that lick her face. What is yours?

Addendum: If your family has a good sense of humor and they aren't sensitive types, you could also play a version of this game where you name one another's idiosyncrasies and pet peeves (believe me, they know more of your quirks than you do!). Of course, this version is for advanced (thick-skinned) players only.


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