12/20/2012 05:44 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2013

Board-Free Family Fun: 3 Games to Play Over the Holidays

No matter what holiday you're celebrating, there comes a time when the family gathering runs out of steam. You've already finished gossiping about whoever isn't there and you've begun eating that third of the tin with the plain, stale popcorn. While you may be tempted to head out to a movie or -- if you're me -- continue to graze until there's no food left in the house, there's an alternative: Play!

You don't need to go the commercial route, either. Cranium, Taboo, Apples to Apples, Pictionary -- these are all fine games, but I find them to be a bit structured. Counting points, deciding who won, who needs it? Another bonus of making up your own games: You invented the rules, so no one can challenge you on them. In fact, feel free to change the rules as you go, Calvinball-style.

Here are a few of my favorite DIY games. Give them a try and let me know how it goes.

Family History Charades

Ideal for: Once people are a little tipsy

Directions: Divide into two teams, and brainstorm a list of classic moments from your family's past -- when your dad set the Thanksgiving turkey on fire, for instance, or when you smuggled your mother's beloved dog into the hospital for an unauthorized visit. Then take turn acting out these scenes while the other team guesses.

Tip: Use nametags to make it clear who is playing who.

Telephone Pictionary.

Ideal for: Those times when grandma forgot her hearing-aid.

Directions: Pass out sheets of paper and pens, and have everyone write a sentence at the top of the paper. Pass the papers to the left, fold down the top of the page so the sentence is hidden, and draw a picture that illustrates the sentence. Pass the paper to the left again, fold down the top so the drawing is hidden, and write a sentence that describes the drawing. Continue this process until you get your sentence back.

Then, take turns reading and describing how your sentence mutated. "I wrote, 'The cat peed on my bed,' but Aunt Jo drew a picture of what appears to be a ferret, so grandma wrote, 'The ferret tap-dances on the layer cake...'"

Tip: Use colored pencils so you can keep track of each person's contribution.

Newlywed Game, Cousin Edition

Ideal for: Post-dinner fun

Directions: Divide people up into couples, but not husband-wife -- try pairs like friend-friend, mother-son, brother-sister and cousins. Each pair writes a list of questions to ask the others: What's your favorite breakfast cereal? What would your ideal vacation entail? Would you rather be beautiful or rich? Each team asks the other couples the list of questions, and one member of each couple writes down what they think their partner would say. Then, go around the circle and compare answers, awarding points for matches.

Tip: Not sure if an answer is a match? Take a vote.

What are your favorite family games?

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