24 Family-Friendly Games to Play at the Holidays

published Dec 22, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

The holidays are a time for being together — gathering around the tree, baking cookies, wrapping presents. But sometimes the Christmas cheer needs an extra dose of fun and laughter! That’s when you can pull out the holiday-themed games to add some novelty, spruce up the celebrations, and bring out your guests’ more competitive and irreverent sides.

From work parties to days spent entertaining rowdy nieces and nephews to that one week where all your siblings and cousins are home, these family-friendly holiday games provide built-in fun that will keep everyone smiling. You’ll find games like movie bingo, which is perfect for cozy evenings, and charades, which will (hopefully!) tire out the kids after their sugar rush. There’s a fun party game for every family holiday celebration, and we wouldn’t be surprised if a few become an annual tradition!

1. Holiday Movie Bingo

Whether it’s a classic like It’s a Wonderful Life or your favorite Mario Lopez Hallmark movie (we’re partial to Feliz NaviDad), everyone will love this twist on a traditional movie night. Pop some popcorn, put on your PJs, and keep an eye out for the traditional holiday movie motifs.

2. Guess the Scent: Holiday Candle Edition

Do you know your Frasier fir from your fresh pine? What about cranberry from holly berry? Holiday candles come in every possible cozy scent, and we like the idea of turning them into a blind tasting (er … smelling?). Buy all the holiday candles from one of your favorite retailers, put on blindfolds, and see who can guess the most correctly.

3. Candy Cane Hunt

For an old-school activity, hide candy canes all around the Christmas tree and throughout your home. Give the kids (and the adults!) Santa hats to fill with as many as they can find.

4. White Elephant

This classic gifting game can take on endless iterations. Everyone brings a wrapped gift to the event. Then, everyone draws a number. You go through the numbers, each picking and unwrapping a gift. The advantage to a higher number is you can steal from any of the previous gifts — but a gift can only be stolen twice (or three times, you make the rules!). You can set the theme, whether it’s bring an item you love, bring a silly item, an ornament, or a book. 

5. Name That Carol

Play a holiday rendition of Name That Tune. Play the first few notes of favorite (or obscure) holiday songs. The first team to guess scores a point, and the team with the most points wins.

6. Holiday Emoji Pictionary 

How well do you know your holiday phrases? Can you guess them from just a set of emojis? This game gives you winter- and holiday-related emoji combinations and lets you guess what it means.

7. Ornament Relay Race

You know that game where you run around with an egg on a spoon? This is even higher-stakes (unless you buy shatterproof ornaments!). Create a relay race course where you balance an ornament on a spoon and pass it off to your teammate, each completing either a leg of the race or an entire loop of the course. First team to finish wins.

8. Elf Trivia

Who hasn’t seen Elf way too many times over the holidays? But have you been paying attention? Only this game will tell. Depending on how competitive you are, make a night out of it by playing the movie either before or after playing the trivia game.

9. Wrapping Paper Race

How fast are your wrapping skills? Give each person a similarly sized set of boxes, a roll of paper, and tape. On your marks, get set, wrap! Race to the fastest wrapping — but don’t cut corners. You can disqualify contestants for tape that doesn’t stick and missing pieces of paper.

10. Mitten Hands Challenge

After you’ve wrapped the presents, there’s another fun game you can play! Everyone wears mittens and races to unwrap the presents without the use of all their fingers. First to finish their stack wins. Tip: Make the teams swap presents before the unwrapping portion so no one gives themselves an advantage with loose tape!

11. Marshmallow Toss

Warning: Don’t attempt this with full mugs of hot chocolate! Instead, play it before you start sipping on cozy cocoa. Choose mini marshmallows or full size, and see who can make the most into a mug.

12. Gingerbread House Competition

This is one where everyone can be a winner! Host a gingerbread house decorating competition and give out awards for different categories. “Best House for a Snowman,” “Sweetest Decor,” “Most Likely to Make it Into Christmas Living Magazine,” and more give everyone a chance to shine.

13. Christmas Character Charades

Everyone from the Grinch to Mrs. Claus is fair game in Christmas character charades. Split into two teams and act out your favorite festive characters from movies and literature. Give one point each time your team gets a correct guess. The first to 20 is the North Pole champion!

14. Tree of Cups Challenge

Think of this like the ultimate building blocks challenge. Buy green plastic cups and attempt to stack 100 to form a Christmas tree. Keep working upwards in a pyramid, and, to make it extra festive, add a few pom-pom ornaments with glue as you go.

15. Holiday Superlatives

Make a Christmas tree of Polaroid photos of all of your family members and vote on superlatives for each. Maybe your sister is “Best Cookie Decorator,” your mom is “Most Likely to Spill What She Got You,” and your nephew is “Most Likely to Surprise You with a Snowball.” 

16. Guess the Holiday Decor

Do you know your tinsel from your curling ribbon? Fill Santa’s hats with different holiday textures, from everything you use to wrap presents, to anything that goes on the tree, to sprinkles you use to decorate cookies. Everyone tries to guess the items — without looking in the hats.

17. Pin the Nose on Rudolph

Bring back this elementary school favorite! Put on a blindfold and take turns trying to give Rudolph his signature ruby nose.

18. Make a DIY Tic Tac Toe Board

Using the real thing — ornaments and candy canes — or crafting your own out of felt, make a DIY Tic Tac Toe board that’s easy to pick up and play whenever. Leave it out on the coffee table to encourage everyone to take a spin. 

19. Santa Cookie Elf Candy Snowman

If you have a high-energy group, this card game is a must-have! Each player takes an equal amount of cards, then takes turns flipping a card. They say one of the five words in the title and, if it matches the flipped card, every player slaps the pile. The last person to slap takes the cards. First person to zero cards wins! 

20. Heads Up, Holiday Edition 

Write your favorite holiday characters on sticky notes, then each person sticks one to their forehead (no peeking!). Everyone tries to explain to that person who is on their head but, the catch is, they can’t say the name.

21. A to Z Holidays

It’s a race to the finish! Fill out 26 lines of holiday words, starting with A and making your way all the way to Z. First one to complete the entire alphabet wins. And, yes, there’s something for every letter (thinkL reindeer zooming through the sky, a Christmas quilt, or a child playing the brand new xylophone they found under the tree).

22. 12 Games of Christmas

Get the most bang for your buck with this set of 12 games that combines all the fun in one box. There are games from Reindeer Antler Ring Toss to Merry Quizmas to Clutch the Kazoos (we’re intrigued!), and you can even play some of the games without a group.

23. Santa Claus Charades

Even the littlest of elves can join in on the fun with this charades game that has 90 different Christmas-themed prompts to choose from. Images on the cards illustrate each acting choice, meaning there’s no need to read when it’s your turn. This is the perfect game to play after dinner, gathered around the fire, with upbeat carols playing in the background.

24. Grinch Cone Toss Game

If you have a big Dr. Seuss fan in your life, then this Grinch-themed holiday game is exactly what they’ll want to find under the tree. This small ring toss set is great to set up at holiday parties, office parties, or anytime you want to give people a fun distraction.