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While your children will tell you without any compunction that you are definitely not Smarter than a Fifth Grader, and that you are more likely The Weakest Link, there are plenty of popular game shows that you can play at home with contestants of all ages. All you need are a few household items, a competitive spirit and plenty of enthusiasm.


We were all enthralled by MasterChef Australia, and then Durbanite Deena Naidoo walked off with the grand prize in South Africa’s first MasterChef. I’m sure you watched as the contestants struggled to chop those onions, or identify different spices, in their bid for the title. Now there’s Junior MasterChef, where aspirant young cooks battle it out for gastronomic glory. Why not test your family’s culinary skills with your own version of the show? Include various challenges, such as a blind tasting, or place several herbs on a tray and ask your family to identify them. Cook a pot of curry or a stew, and get your family to list the ingredients. Or, better yet, prepare a dish that is missing a vital ingredient and challenge your family to guess what it is. You could also have cook-offs. Set a timed challenge: let the older children compete against each other to see who can make the tastiest pasta or most decadent dessert. The winner gets excused from kitchen chores for the week or gets to eat at a restaurant of their choice.

Minute to win it

This is your chance to test your family’s skill and patience, using ordinary household items. Many of the challenges look easy; but don’t be deceived. They often require intense concentration and talent. Put 10 or so challenges, of varying difficulty, into a jar. Each person takes a turn to choose one, which has to be completed in just 60 seconds. Possible games include “junk in the trunk”: fill an empty tissue box with eight ping-pong balls and attach it to the contestant’s belt. They may only use the movement of their body, not their hands, to throw the balls onto the floor before the 60-seconds buzzer sounds. In “egg roll”, the contestant must roll an egg around a tray to collect several stickers. They may not touch the egg, but the game can continue if the egg drops and does not break. In “Christmas ball”, the game starts with the contestant standing behind a Christmas ornament, holding a gift box. They have 60 seconds to fan the ball, using only the gift box, to a designated end zone. Make sure there is much cheering and excitement as contestants pit their skills to “win it” in only one minute.

Come dine with me

Everyone gets a turn to cook a meal for the rest of the family. At the end of the evening, the meal is scored out of 10, and the host with the most points at the end of the week wins. This is a great way to take the monotony out of weekday meals. Perhaps try this one during the holiday, when the children will have time to find interesting recipes, come up with a menu and send you off to buy the ingredients. Laying the table and making the meal look presentable is also part of the challenge, so remember to score each other on the whole experience.


In the television version, contestants tackle a seemingly impossible obstacle course littered with moving targets, balls that show no mercy, and foam and water sprays. Your garden version may not be on quite the same scale, but it can still test your family’s agility and wile. In summer, use your pool as part of the course. Just make sure children are supervised at all times and that only confident swimmers tackle the more difficult challenges. You can use a Lilo, a pool noodle and other items to create interesting challenges. On terra firma, use garden furniture as obstacles – make them run through, jump over and slide under various objects.


All the world’s a stage; even if that stage is in your lounge or your garden. Children of all ages will love the opportunity to perform for family and friends. Create an audition area and assign each child a song or musical genre. You can record the performance so that they can listen to or watch themselves sing. Give each child a turn to be a “judge”, where they can make a few comments. Hopefully there won’t be any budding Randalls in your Idols audition. Everyone can then vote for their favourite performance. Remember to keep it fun and encouraging, so that everyone has the confidence to grab the microphone.

Fear factor

Okay, so eating cockroaches or grasshoppers is probably not going to fly with the family as a fun holiday activity. But why not give the reality show a new, slightly more palatable twist by playing Fear Factor with different foods? Blindfold each contestant and get them to sample an array of dishes of different textures and tastes. Throw avocado, olive oil and chilli into the mix, to make for an interesting gastronomic challenge. The person who can stomach the most taste tests wins.

Noot vir noot 

This game, based on the popular Afrikaans show Noot vir Noot, or note for note, can be adapted for children of all ages. Record a selection of music and get your contestants to name the songs. Play the first couple of notes of a song and the first person to shout out the song’s title wins. You can also test your family’s lyrical knowledge. Type out a few lines of a song, omitting key words, and get your children to fill in the blanks. You can also find pictures of popular artists and get them to match the singer to the song.

Anél Lewis