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merry! merry! minute to win it games & gift exchange ideas!

Monday, December 19, 2022

Whew! The hustle and bustle of the season is gearing up and hitting high speed as we enter this final week before Christmas!! We both had to giggle when we read the following meme… sadly, this is what life often feels like these days! Do you agree?

Honestly though, we both feel blessed that, as recent retirees, we are able to find a few peaceful moments each day, however brief, to reflect on the true reason for the season! We pray that you, too, are able to carve out some solitude during these busy days!

As moms and Grands, we often think that we can do it all (and, let’s face it, we usually can 😉)... However, speaking from experience, taking the time to re-energize and making it a priority each day is so important and ultimately allows you to be fully present for those you love!

Once you’ve caught your breath, check out this week’s blog post which focuses on ways you can add some merry! merry! to your family’s Christmas celebrations! Whether your family is celebrating on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or on another date that works for everyone involved, we’ve got you covered!

Today we offer 2 ways to make your Christmas celebrations more memorable with suggestions for each! First, we share our Minute to Win It activities - definitely a crowd pleaser! Then we offer our take on Gift Exchange ideas. Many families plan a white elephant game to exchange presents. But did you know that there are fun alternatives to give this time together a new twist? With our help, your Christmas preparations won’t have to feel like this…


We hope, as you scroll through this post, you’ll find a few silly, simple, practical and FUN activities to add to your holiday festivities!

My family has had many Minute to Win It! parties over the years... The latest one was held last Christmas when we gathered with my husband’s family the week before Christmas. We rented a nearby park shelter to accommodate our large family so we were lucky to have lots of space.

Getting Started

  • We divided our family into 3 teams - each sibling was the head of his team

  • The teams weren’t even, but they were close enough. We’d planned enough games so that everyone could participate

  • Someone who was not participating in a specific challenge was the time keeper. Each game ran 1 minute

  • One person from each family participated in a given challenge

  • Points were awarded as follows - 1 point for first place, 2 points for second place and 3 for points for third place

Minute to Win It Games

🎄Peppermint Stack! See who can stack the most unwrapped mints (we used the Starlight mints) on a craft stick held in your mouth.

🎄Unwrap the Presents! Place 10 wrapped Hershey Kisses on a plate. Each player places one hand behind their back. Players must unwrap as many kisses as they can in one minute!

🎄Reindeer Race! Each player needs a die (I made them from wooden cubes) with the numbers 0, 1, 2, and 3. You will need to create a race track and reindeer. (Not feeling creative? Use a poker chip or game piece!) Players roll die as quickly as they can and move their reindeer up the track and back. The winner is whoever makes it back first!

🎄Nutstacker Xtreme! Players balance a paper plate on one hand and using a candy cane only, must stack metal nuts end to end (not flat). The most nuts standing when the timer beeps is the winner.

🎄Best Tree on the Block! Best Tree on the Block (this is a great one for the young Littles!) - Two players from each team participate. One is the tree, the other the decorator. The decorator is given a roll of crepe paper (or use toilet paper and make a snowman) and must wrap the tree in a minute. To find out which team is the winner - measure the crepe paper that is left. The winner is the team who used the most!

🎄Merry Fishmas! A player from each team lines up candy canes on the edge of the table. (Yes, they can hang over the edge) Create a fishing pole by taping a candy cane to a string which is then taped to a stick (we used a skewer), The player tries to catch as many candy canes as they can holding the fishing pole in their mouth and not using their hands - in one minute, of course!

🎄Snowball Fight! This was our finale… it is family against family in a heated (yes, you will get very hot!) and active game. Place a piece of tape in the center of a room. One family gathers on each side. Each team is given 20 snowballs which are crumpled pieces of paper or tissue paper. At go, you try to clear your pile by throwing the balls to the other side, as the other team is tossing their snowballs to you. Keep going! The winning team is the one who has the least amount of snowballs at one minute. There are some important rules for this one!:

  • You can only throw one ball in each hand. That means you cannot hoard all the snowballs in your arms and throw them at the end.

  • If you throw snowballs after the timer goes off - you have to take them back to your side PLUS one more!

  • Note: If you have more than two families, you will have to play with a tier. For example we had 3 families. Team 1 played Team 2, Team 2 played Team 3 , Team 1 played Team 3 . We kept this up and once your team has lost twice, you’re out!

While we are not playing the Minute to Win It games this year, It HAS been requested that we have a snowball rematch this year and so, get ready, we ARE having one!!

Look for us to post more Minute to Win It fun on Instagram later this week - @our-grand-lives. For more inspiration, simply google “Christmas Minute to Win It Games’ - there are SOOOOO many options available there, and on Pinterest, too! Here’s one of our favorites, if you’d like to check it out for even more Minute to Win It fun!!

Gift Swaps - White Elephant with a Twist!

Do you play a fun game when exchanging gifts with family and/or friends? When my (Laura’s) extended family gathers together, we often do! Over the years we’ve played the classic White Elephant version where everyone brings a wrapped gift to exchange…

Typically the gift is something you already have or something from a thrift store (we’d usually have a $5.00 limit). Some gifts were desired, others were goofy and others made us wonder, what in the world? We’ve also played several variations of the game, focused on different themes (again, we always put an agreed dollar limit on our purchases - never more than $10; sometimes the challenge involved spending no money at all). Here are some of our favorite themes:

🎁 An Ornament Exchange! This version has always been a favorite and provides a wonderful keepsake of our celebration!

🎁 Christmas Socks or Christmas Mugs Exchange! Choose one and see how creative people get with their contributions to the game! You could also exchange Christmas books or movies… or simply make it a “Christmas Anything” exchange! (Such a fun way to recycle!)

🎁 Re-Gift Exchange! In this twist you must find something from your home (no money spent at all) to wrap and bring. You can even award prizes for best wrapped, most practical gift, most desired gift or silliest gift! (Be sure to let everyone know ahead of time what the award categories will be!)

🎁 Our Favorites Exchange! For this version everyone wraps up a gift that is something they love and think others will appreciate, too! This meat chopper was my contribution one year! You can also set a different theme each year…. Favorite candy bar, favorite cracker, favorite BBQ sauce and favorite tool are fun options!

🎁 A Gift Card Exchange! By far, this has been our family’s favorite twist! Each person purchases a $10 gift card to contribute to the exchange. We wrap them up - some of us get very creative with our packaging! We then play our version of the dice game (see below). After Round 1 we unwrap our gift cards and that’s when things get going with lots of “stealing” taking place! Starbucks, Kwik Trip, Panda Express, Chipotle… we all have fun trying to come up with the most coveted gift card of the year!

Our Favorite Gift Swap Game - Seeing Doubles!

Now that you've picked your theme and your gifts are wrapped and ready to go, we've got a fun and spirited way for your group to exchange them!

💚 Seeing Doubles Dice Game - Our Fave!

This game gets competitive and sometimes one person ends up with more than one gift while others have none! If it is important to you that everyone receives a gift, announce ahead of time how this will be resolved at the end - usually the person with “extras” shares their winnings! Sometimes, I’ve even wrapped and purchased a few extras to insure that everyone ends up with a gift of their own! No matter what, we always make sure our Littles are happy and no one else really minds the outcome since the laughs during the game is the true prize!

For this game you will need at least 2 dice and a container for them to be passed in (we use a pie tin) as well as a timer. We usually play with a crowd, 12-20+, so we typically have 3 sets of dice (and 3 pie tins) ready to go and we spread them out among the group.. All of the gifts are put in the middle of the group (we sit in a circle as best we can)! For Round 1 we do not use the timer. As play begins, each person rolls the two dice in the tin. If doubles are rolled, that person chooses a gift from the pile. There is no limit on how many gifts a person can get! Play continues until all the gifts have been taken. As Round 2 begins, the timer is set for 3 minutes. and the tins with dice are passed from person to person. This time, when doubles are rolled, that person can "steal" any gift from any player of their choice. Again, there are no limits on the number of gifts a person can have. When the timer goes off, play stops. Then everyone unwraps the gifts and we take time to go around the room and share what each person has opened. (Yes… some people still may have nothing to open at this point!) Round 3 then begins (again the timer is set for 3 more minutes). The tins of dice are passed and when someone rolls a double, they can once again “steal” a gift from another person (although this time everyone can see what each gift actually is)! Sometimes we’ve had a family member with 5 or more gifts stockpiled in the corner! Again, play continues until the timer stops. This game can get quite competitive, especially as it nears the end!

This game of Seeing Doubles is our family standby and we all look forward to playing year to year! However, just for fun, I did some surfing and found a site that offers a variety of gift swapping options (for all ages) that are worth considering in the future! We’re adding the link to our resource library! Feel free to tap on the link below the graphic if you, too, are interested in learning more!

Whether you are celebrating with extended family, gathering with friends in your home or at a holiday party with colleagues, each of these gift exchange ideas would be a lovely addition to your festivities! Everyone (Littles, Middles and Grands alike) can participate and lots of giggles are sure to follow!

AN UPDATE FROM LAURA... In last week’s post, “Grand Gift Giving,” I promised to share the Sensory Bottles I planned to make to add to Little L’s stocking this year! All three turned out so well! I had most of the supplies needed taking up space in my Christmas crafts bin, I adapted a few and made a quick Michael’s run for a couple things. I had the bottles at home (left from my years as a Kindergarten teacher) but empty water bottles work just as well. Here’s the link if you’d like to check out the directions for making your own!

I wonder which one will be Little L’s favorite?

Will it be the Starry Glitter version, the Holiday I Spy sensory bottle or the Jingle Bells one?

Each of our Christmas holidays will look a bit different than in year’s past!

Laura’s immediate family will not be together until the day after Christmas - our younger daughter (a pediatric nurse) is working holiday shifts all weekend and our older daughter and family, including Little L, will be celebrating their first Christmas together in their new home in a nearby state! We’re grateful for FaceTime and we’re sending a few surprises for Little L to open on her first Christmas Eve! Hubby and I will have a quiet Christmas Eve together. Then, on Christmas Day, we will host his extended family which will provide treasured time with his mom and siblings. Both daughters, our SIL and Little L will join us at the lake for a few days right after Christmas so we’ll patiently wait for our family celebration to take place then! I can’t wait for lots of Little L snuggles and the precious family time to come!

Laurie’s Middles will be spending the majority of the holiday with their in-laws this year - we will get them for Christmas Eve morning for our cinnamon roll Christmas tree tradition and presents! We are celebrating with hubby’s extended family the weekend before Christmas and some of Laurie’s extended family on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day will be quiet with the two of us relaxing together.

During these next few days as we each prepare our homes and hearts for the celebrations ahead, may we take time to breathe deeply as we take in all this season offers! Christmas is such a magical time of the year and the Littles in our lives certainly add a new depth to the family gatherings we treasure. Seeing the wonder in our Littles's eyes as they take it all in brings joy to all of us blessed to be around them!

Yet, it is another babe that we celebrate this week - one born in a manger so long ago - who adds the greatest wonder and joy to our lives! What a marvel, indeed!

We are delighted to join these link up parties and blog hops this week:

1 Comment

Paula Short
Paula Short
Dec 26, 2023

These are great game ideas 💡. You guys are sooo creative.

Thanks so much for sharing these games with Sweet Tea & Friends this month ladies.

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