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Free entertainment at Christmas! Here are the best games to play with your family.

Claire Masson 8th Dec 2022 No Comments

Reading Time: 6 minutes

You can have great fun at Christmas with free entertainment playing lovely, traditional games that cost nothing. And we all have games that we used to play as kids that we can bring out again and play with our friends and family at Christmas.

It’s hard to avoid conversations around the cost of living crisis, but have you ever thought about how our language influences our thought?  In thinking about that word crisis, I wondered what would happen if I substituted it for another word?

Cost of living challenge?  Cost of living opportunity?  Cost of living remembrance?

As I tried out different nouns, a flood of wonderful memories returned.  Growing up during the 1970s when economic times were tough, the word crisis was never a term used. Perhaps because we didn’t consider economic downturns as anything scary, our joy and imagination was intact.  What an unexpected bounty of ideas came with these memories!

This article includes some ideas on how to substitute creativity for cash when celebrating Christmas.  If you have similar ideas to share, please add them to the comments section below.  We will then periodically update these lists throughout December.

So many games we used to play at home were free before some crafty capitalist thought to put the idea into a box and sell it to future generations.  But you can still play these games if you have your own paper, pencils, dice and shakers. Check these out…


Before we ever heard of the board game, my family used to play this game with pen and paper.  In the allotted time, players write down words that fit a random category for each random letter. You can increase difficulty by including more letters or categories or reducing the time.  Any number of words in the answer is allowed, as long as the first word starts with the correct letter.

After the timer goes off you share your answers with the group.  Similar to Boggle, you only earn a point for a unique answer.  If others said Thames, you earn nothing, but if one person said Tiber, then that person earns a point.  The person with the most points wins the round.

Today, it is even easier to devise your own game as the internet has free online versions, category generators and more.  For example: https://www.scattergory.com/  or https://scattergoriesonline.net/


We had days of fun playing Yahtzee, a dice game that uses a scorecard similar to Poker: three of a kind, full house, etc.  Instructions are online, but the basic premise is to get the highest score.  The only supplies needed are five six-sided dice, a shaker and a scorecard (many free online).  Each player has up to three rolls per turn to help get the needed combination for a particular option in the scorecard. Players can choose to keep as many dice as from each roll in their turn. Strategy comes into play when deciding which attempts to strike off the scorecard.  Yahtzee is the hardest to earn: five of  kind, but scores the largest number of points.


Memory / Match Card Game

Any standard deck of cards can be used for a memory / match game.  It can be simplified for younger players by only pulling out a smaller quantity of matches.  Websites offer digital versions, too!

Rebus Puzzles

Before the internet, my family would create rebus puzzles for one another.  A rebus puzzle substitutes pictures for the sound of words. When strung together, they make a familiar phrase or name of a famous person. In this example, the answer is the first line of the American national anthem: Oh say, can you see.  The female sheep, ewe, sounds like you and the letter C substitutes for the word, see.

After you play a lot you can get some really creative picture / word substitutes.  If you need ideas for puzzles, search Google for this term: rebus puzzles concentration

Combining Games

For an added twist, try combining games!  An American TV game show, Concentration, combined memory matching and rebus puzzle solving.  For every correct match, you earned a chance to solve picture puzzle underneath. To see an episode from the show, check out this YouTube video.

Similarly, you can print out a rebus puzzle from the internet and cover it with matching cards to add to the difficulty level. The person who cracks the rebus puzzle wins the game.

Recycle and Upskill Old Puzzles

If you have some easy jigsaw puzzles of 50 or 100 pieces, try reigniting the challenge by dumping three puzzle sets together in one combined pile for three players to race! Each puzzler must solve their own puzzle before the others two people can complete their puzzles. Just make sure to assign a puzzle per player before starting. This game combines the fun of puzzles with speed competition whilst sorting through unnecessary pieces.

Inside Scavenger Hunt Game

This scavenger hunt is a twist on the traditional game.  It begins with a list of ordinary items such as rubber band, paper clip, pineapple, and so on.  But instead of gathering the items you had to spy the item in plain sight.  The first person or team to cross every item off the list, wins!

Although the items are in plain sight, they are still challenging. For example, the rubber band might be wrapped around the base of a brass candlestick so although it was in sight, it blended in. The pineapple might be in a painting of a still life.  I remember struggling to find a blue cross once. Turns out it was in the pattern of the oriental rug!  This game is creative for players and the game organizer!

Outside Scavenger Hunt Game

For nice weather days, you can play a creative form of scavenger hunt outside.  In this version, teams are given the same list but have to pose as a team near the clue outside. The most creative picture gets points as well as solving all the clues. This allows for family members who stay home to participate as judges.

Clues could be specific, such as a fictional character statue in Kensington Gardens (Peter Pan statue) or open-ended clues, such as a statue of any woman from the 18th century. The trick is finding, posing in a creative way, and returning home within the set time frame.

Once all the teams are home, you can share pictures on a big monitor.  We had a lot of fun and every team felt like a winner.  We did give creative prizes to the teams.  One popular prize was old records from a used music shop.  These old 45 records titles were hilarious.  It didn’t matter no one had a device to play.  But if you can find some old nostalgia type prize, they will work just as well.

Gift Exchange Games

If you have a family of cooks and bakers, consider exchanging a picture of a special food item wrapped in a box. The receiver can then ask for that meal or cake to be prepared at their choosing during the following year.  To make it more challenging have each person open their box wearing oven mitts and set a timer. If they cannot open it, they forfeit their turn and the next person opens their box or can steal a previous opened food item.

The same idea works for services instead of food.  You can put in a gift of babysitting services (a set number of hours or days). Or a handyman project around the house (estimated hours) and so on.

So what are your creative ideas?  Do share them in Comments below


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Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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