This is one of our most requested blogs.  It was published five years ago but it has been “stolen” by websites that deal with HOWTO questions.

We have had our third Fun and Games Night at The Special Gathering of Indian River.  They have all been a roaring success.  In addition, Special Gathering of Brevard had a similar party about two weekends before our event.

These are a few of my observations regarding the planning of such an event.

  1. Serving refreshments is essential.  Serving a meal is optional.
  2. Be sure that you have the evening well-planned.
  3. Over planning is always better than under planning.
  4. Games may be fun but you must be sure that they aren’t too complicated for your members.
  5. With large groups, you will have many people who can’t do the planned activity.
  6. Give them different options.  Plan more than one game going on simultaneously.
  7. Play your games at the beginning of the evening.  Then if the games are a bust, your members won’t leave confused or perplexed.
  8. Gifts are optional.  We gave gifts at our first two events.  At the third one, I had them but forgot to give them out in time.  However, everyone has told me that the third event was by far the best.
  9. Plan to involve all your volunteers and your program leader in all the activities.
  10. I’m convinced that the reason things have gone so well at our Fun and Games is because all of our program leadership were in the mix playing with the everyone.
  11. Find a CD of silly songs.
  12. Learn the movements that correspond to the music.
  13. “YMCA” is the national anthem for persons with disabilities.  Be sure to include it.  If your group hasn’t been introduced, do it today.  They will love it.
  14. “Hokie Pokie,”  “Achy-Breaky Heart,” “Do the Limbo,” songs from the movie Grease and Rocky, “The Twist,” “Electric Slide” are all essentials for any successful party where you intend to use movement songs.
  15. Use movement songs.  They are fun and you can participate.
  16. Ask your members can teach you the ones you don’t know,  They will love being the expert who is teaching you.
  17. Try to find someone who can teach line dancing.  It is relatively easy.  There is almost no human contact and it is great fun.
  18. Have a Christian chose your music selections.  Some of the music out there can wilt your eye lashes, if you aren’t careful.
  19. If you have the equipment, show a short (three minutes or less) DVD of your camp or an important event you desire to promote.
  20. Have some calmer games (Dominos or Spoons) set out for those who may want to sit and play games.
  21. Hoola Hoops are great fun.  If you can’t do them, that makes it even better.  We did them in two of our events. We weren’t able to find anyone who could do the hoola hoop but everyone tried.  More important, everyone laughed at ourselves and each other.
  22. Try to have more than one hoola hoop.  We had five at our last event.  Then our volunteers/leaders were asked to help people learn to do it.  The game went quickly and the members were all involved.
  23. Blowing soap bubbles is an activity that almost everyone can do. If you initiate the action, they will love it and not find it to be childish.

Mostly, have fun, get out there yourself and play, and keep it simple, simple, simple.

Last evening at First United Methodist Church of Melbourne, Special Gathering of Indian River had our first Fun and Games Night.  It was a whopping success.  While Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community that does evangelism and discipleship, we firmly believe that part of discipleship is fellowship and fun.  We had over 50 people who attended. 

All of this began because the Brevard County Recreation Department has its summer camp in July and August.  The rec employees are tied up doing a day camp for children with disabilities.  Therefore, they aren’t able to do the Friday night socials.  Special Gathering of Brevard and Indian River decided to pick up some of the slack and have a party.

Of course, parties are the best thing I do.  And this one was great fun.  We began with pizza and salad.  Then one of our wonderful SpG volunteers, Barbara Kenney, led us in more than a hour of line dancing.  Everyone got into the action and we learned or refreshed our skills in step/toe/heel. 

After more than an hour of this aerobic exercise, we played games.  While they were fun, it ended up being a bit confusing because we hadn’t allowed enough time to organize them properly. 

Lessons learned from this event:

  • There were more than 15 members/parents/volunteers who helped with set-up, tearing down, serving and clean up.  Without a good number of helpers, the night would have been impossible. 
  • Serving food was great.  Pizza is the easiest thing.  With church special discounts given by Domino’s Pizza, the cost was only $2 a head.  Everyone can eat for that amount of money.
  • Serving food was a big pain.  Many more volunteers are required to make food service advisable.  Praise God, people were willing and able to help serve.  We had seven people who were dishing out the food and pouring drinks.  However, there was an additional five or six who were helping people who are physically disabled to get their food.  Most of these helpers were SpG members. 
  • The line dancing was perfect.  Even our parents loved the music and our members loved the fun.  I, being extremely straight-laced, loved the movements.  It was heel, toe, step forward, step backward, spin.  There are no touching or holding.  Perfect for a church event.
  • To do the games, we needed to allot much more time to organize properly.   I would say that at least 5 to 10 minutes was needed to organize the members into groups. 
  • There should be about three or four people to each group with a helper person in each group.  The helper could be a member/leader or a volunteer.  (Unfortunately, because of time restrains, we only had three large groups and no leader of the group.)
  • We had three games going at the same time.  Each game had its own table and one person stationed at the table who helped the members to play the game.
  • The games were the simple standards.  First, eat three crackers and the first person to whistle won.  Second, blow soap bubbles.  The person who blew the most bubbles on the first blow, won.  Third, everyone got a piece of bubble gum and the first person to blow a bubble, won.  Each winner was given a colored card.  Each game had different colored cards.  In this way, we knew who won which games.  We were to then have the winners of the individual games have a tournament.  (We ran out of time and we weren’t able to do the tournament either.  However, we had enough game prizes to give each person with a card a prize.)
  • Our members in Melbourne are pretty high functioning but they weren’t able to whistle or to blow bubbles with bubble gum.  They were all able to blow the soap bubbles. Your members will all be different.  We played the same games in DeLand where the members are much lower functioning and they were able to whistle and blow bubbles with bubble gum but they weren’t able to blow soap bubble. 

    Blowing soap bubbles was the best game we played

    Blowing soap bubbles was the best game we played

  • Soap bubbles are such fun for our members that I plan on incorporating them into more of activities in the future. 
  • We also had two games of Dominos going for those people who didn’t want to play the other games. 

Have you been able to find games that your members especially enjoy?  What are some of them?