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Ideas for Fun Family Gatherings

Connect with your family using these fun and creative table settings.
table setting

Elevate family get-togethers from mediocre to memorable with special touches for the dining table. Carol Field Dahlstrom, author and founder of Brave Ink Press, has written several books for the craft-impaired, including "Cool Crafts to Make: Even If You Don't Have a Creative Bone in Your Body!" Many of her ideas are kid-friendly and encourage the whole family to get involved in making guests feel welcome. "Even small children can help make napkin rings using the beautiful scrapbook papers they have out today," she says.

Here are some of Field Dahlstrom's ideas for easy and crafty table themes.

Say It without Words
Great for family reunions, anniversaries, or birthdays, "a photo-themed table is easy to set with a quick trip to a craft or scrapbook store," says Field Dahlstrom. Photo stickers of your favorite pictures are inexpensive and can be easily ordered online. Just print a few sets and adhere to small pieces of decorative scrapbook paper to adorn everything from place cards to napkin holders. Small photo frames with your guests' names inside make great place holders -- and gifts.

Make a Game of It
Make your table into a board game. Using butcher paper or a white paper tablecloth, have the kids color big blocks or glue squares of construction paper to simulate a game board. Place cards can feature fun (and funny) trivia questions about family history, the season, or the holiday being celebrated. "Or, make a guessing game out of baby photos of relatives in attendance," says Field Dahlstrom.

Play It Again
Draft a sports theme and use pennants as place mats around the table. Place pompons on either side of a hat or helmet for a centerpiece (or turn the helmet upside-down and fill with colorful ribbons -- or put the pompons inside), and serve typical sports-time snacks like hot dogs, peanuts, and ice cream.

Seasonal Shifts
Look to see which flowers are in season -- they're usually on sale. From tulips in spring to mums in autumn to poinsettias in winter, flowers are easy to display and make a great statement. Plucking tall ornamental grasses (bundle together with bits of leftover ribbon or raffia and place in glass vases or mason jars) or scattering autumn leaves along a table runner also adds festive flair (and is a fun way to get your kids to gather up a few leaves).

Christmas
The ubiquitous and affordable candy cane is one of Field Dahlstrom's favorite holiday decorating accessories. "Stand them up in a tall fluted glass for a centerpiece or tie them onto napkins," she says. If you have white dishes, buy some inexpensive red napkins and you've got your theme with very little time or money spent. Use holiday-themed scrapbook paper to make simple paper chains to decorate the table, a craft even the youngest kids can make.

Hanukkah
A simple blue, silver, and white table theme will make a bold statement. Make Stars of David using found sticks, crisscrossing them and securing with glue. Spray paint the star silver and place on top of blue napkins.

New Year's
Bring the New Year's bling without blowing your budget. Tie noisemakers to napkins with silver or gold ribbon, write guests' names on desk calendars that become place markers, and make a centerpiece out of a group of glitter-filled champagne glasses.


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