What's the secret for peaceful family gatherings? Hint: it's not a discussion of politics and religion.
If you are bracing yourself for the family to descend, the best weapon you can have at your disposal is a brain teaser or a magic trick.
Why is that?
Kids love it because they can feel powerful in the face of a grown-up with a dropped jaw or a parent/aunt/uncle/grandparent who can't seem to figure out even the simplest of magic tricks.
Adults love it because they can laugh at their own foibles, realize that their kids are getting smarter by the day all the while avoiding the political rantings from Cranky Uncle Joe.
Everyone will love family brain teasers and magic tricks because of the closeness they encourage, the ice they break and the laughter they provoke. They are a refreshing alternative to traditional family games.
Have I convinced you yet?
Try one of these and see what I mean. Some of the ideas include videos below so your kids can learn the tricks ahead of time. If the brain teaser or magic trick has template or printable you can get it by clicking on the title link of the activity -- there are also more thorough instructions in each individual post.
Brain Teasers for Family Gatherings
The Impossible Paper trick, which I originally spotted as this paper illusion. This flipping paper trick is great for kids to show each other.
Put together a T Puzzle. (Click the link for the template.) Most adults need 30 minutes to solve this puzzle, and most will think they only need 5 so it's good for lots of laughs!
Bead and rope puzzle. This one will keep determined kids and grown ups busy!
When the grown-ups give up, work collaboratively to solve the cubic riddler. (Click for the template)
Solve the epic tower of hanoi puzzle. This is a common puzzle on phone apps, but try the original 3D version - a puzzle as old as time!
Magic Tricks for Family Gatherings
Reverse an image using water refraction. This is just cool science that will seem like magic to us regular folks.
Symmetry reversal paper trick. Only people who watch veerrry closely will see how it works. (Template in the link.)
Turn two circles into a square. Yes, you can perform a little geometry magic!
Cut up a mobius strip. Ask the others to guess what will happen.
Walk through a piece of paper. Yes, you can!
More Brain Puzzles
Balance forks on a toothpick. Just wait until after everyone has finished eating!
Make a magic wallet, but be sure to give back the money!
Money roll over. Even little kids can do this one easily.
Magic paper clips. More tricks with money, get out your wallet!
Disappearing coin. Where did it go?
Matchstick puzzles. These classic puzzles will stump even the cleverest among you!
I love ALL of these! And I have a whole slew of Martin Gardner books prepared for this holiday season!