Get Your Family to Play Together

Vying for bragging rights in a series of friendly contests brings Donna Wellington and her family closer together.
Illustration by Orlando Hoetzel

Eight years ago, when we got a Nintendo Wii, each of our three kids -- Emma, then age 10, Libby, 8, and Halle, 6 -- fell in love with a virtual sport. Emma's favorite was tennis, Libby excelled at boxing, and Halle ... well, she enjoyed just about every game she played. Each girl tirelessly competed against the machine, trying to beat her previous score. My husband, Jeff, and I liked seeing them engaged and happy, but we agreed they were a bit too focused on the screen and not enough on each other.

For a while, we weren't quite sure what to do about it. Like every busy household with growing children, we found it difficult enough to schedule time together, much less find something new we could all enjoy together. Then Jeff and I spotted an official-looking cup-style trophy in a midtown Manhattan shop window. We realized we'd stumbled on a solution: the Wellington Cup Competition. It would harness our kids' competitive spirit and sneak more family time into our routines.

We brought the trophy home, along with some little metal tags, which we labeled with each family member's name and backed with Velcro. Then we explained to the kids that we'd hold competitions in sports such as tennis and golf -- the real, not virtual, kind. Rather than top their own Wii scores, they'd experience the thrill of beating Mom, Dad, or each other, as everyone else in the family watched. The winner's name would be displayed on the Wellington Cup until the next contest.

The games began. For a contest to be "cup-worthy," all of us had to take part. Depending on how hectic things were, we competed once a week, once a month, or whenever we could fit it in. But eventually we'd always convene to laugh, play, and try our best to best each other -- and nab that shiny trophy.

Years later, the WCC continues, though it has evolved. We've added games, such as backgammon. And we've invented some challenges, inspired by our family's quirks and passions. One time, before a dressy event, we tested our table manners, seeing who could eat ice cream without messing up their fancy clothes. And Halle once won the cup for riding a roller coaster the most times in a row.

Because we compete in such a wide range of events, all five of us have been able to admire our names on the Wellington Cup many times over, and it's been proudly exhibited in every bedroom in our house. The girls agree that the competition is most thrilling when you're defending your title.

Just as Jeff and I had hoped, our idea has fostered family time. Every so often, someone issues a cup challenge, and we all get excited by the prospect of tearing off that nameplate and replacing it with our own.

Thanks to the cup, we've been able to add some very happy moments to our packed family schedule. And in those moments, we celebrate the fact that we have each other, which is, of course, the biggest win of all.

The Wellingtons of Pound Ridge, NY. Dad Jeff is the publisher of FamilyFun.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Family Fun

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