Posts Tagged Games

Play Shamrock Bingo



Get in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit, and play some Shamrock Bingo! Many free printables, such as this one, can be found online. Try to avoid bingo cards with busy designs – they may be too confusing for the person with dementia. The example above is ideal because there are only a few squares, they do not contain words or numbers, and most of the images are recognizable. Be alert to confusion or frustration in the person, and help them through this if it occurs.

You might consider serving green jello or shepherd’s pie before or after the activity. Make a day of it, and get your Irish on!

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Play Shake Loose a Memory!

shake loose a memoryshake loose a memory 2

This game is the best conversation starter! It also provides a wonderful opportunity to reminisce with your person. Shake Loose a Memory contains a single die. Participants roll the die to see which card they should receive. Each card begins with a simple instruction, such as “Keep this card if you have driven a tractor.” If yes, the person will respond to the question posed at the bottom of the card, such as “Remember sitting in the driver’s seat?”. If no, the individual would roll again and draw a new card. Like with other games and activities, the focus should not be on ‘winning’ or providing the ‘best’ answer. It is about connecting meaningfully with the person and allowing them to share a piece of their history with you. Have fun with it! 🙂

To learn more or to purchase this product, follow this link.

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Play with a Nerf Football

We are currently in the midst of football season! I trust this is exciting news for many of us, as football has been the most popular sport in America 30 years running. Men in particular may be passionate about the sport, and it may even form part of their identify. However, as dementia progresses, the person’s attention span will decrease and watching a full 3-hour game may no longer be possible (You can pretty much rule out watching a full DAY of football on Sundays). Instead, you may wish to consider some of these fun, football-related activity ideas.

nerf football

Your person may enjoy playing with a Nerf Football, which is safer and softer than a traditional football. You can be completely creative in how the Nerf Football is played with. For instance, throwing the ball back and forth may be suitable to someone that becomes confused with complex rules.

You could invest in a ‘football rug’ (shown below, about $20.00 at most retailers) or create your own makeshift version. Your person might enjoy throwing a pass to you as you stand in the end zone or punting the ball to the opposite end of the field. You can cheer and congratulate the person as they secure the game-winning rushing touchdown!

football_field_rug touchdown football rug


Also, do not forget to reminisce about the person’s experiences related to football! Sharing favorite sport memories can be a fun and engaging activity in itself.

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Play the Ungame


While there is a version specifically for seniors, there also Christian versions, Catholic versions, family versions, etc. Whatever version you play, the Ungame is less about competition and more about learning more about yourself and your fellow players. The non-competitive atmosphere is nice for those with memory loss, as they don’t have to worry about answering correctly or forgetting some key rule that will be embarrassing when they violate it. Instead, players take turns rolling the dice and asking and answering questions based on the spaces they land on and the corresponding cards, if applicable. There are no right or wrong answers, and it’s a great way to get to know about the loved one with dementia by starting conversations that might not otherwise come up.

The Ungame can be purchased at its official website or on

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Play with an Invisible Ink Book

These “invisible ink” activity books used to be all the rage. I distinctly remember going to F&M or the drug store with my mom every Sunday and picking out two of these books: one for me, and one for my grandmother.  I liked the ones featuring pictures and mazes you on covered with the decoding pen, while Grandma usually requested the trivia or mystery version (as seen above).  The basic premises of the book is this: invisible ink is used to print parts of pictures or text in the book and you use the provided “decoder pen” to  uncover the invisible picture or text revealing answers to questions printed in regular ink or completing missing parts of pictures.

Why are these good for people with memory loss?

1. They are super fun.  I don’t know what it is, but there is something very satisfying and exciting about revealing the invisible words.

2.  They come in a variety of forms, from picture completion; trivia (where the answers are invisible); games such as connect-the-dots, hangman, tic-tac-toe, and battleship;  “coloring”; and mysteries.  This variety is great not only as a way to appeal to those with differing interests, but also to those of differing ability levels.  Those in the early stages might find the trivia or mysteries more fun with the “big reveal” provided by the decoder pen.  Those in the moderate stages might like that the mazes are “fail-proof” because as they trace their way through the maze, if they make a wrong turn, they’ll know it right away because the decoder pen will stop revealing the path out, cueing them to go back and try a different route.  They may also like the familiar, simple games.  Those in the late stages might enjoy “painting” pictures (all they have to do is scribble on the picture with the decoder pen to reveal.  The decoder pen will reveal the colors in the black and white outlines).

3.  They are designed to be used by one person, meaning the person with memory loss can play games (even usually two-player games like tic-tac-toe) by  themselves.

4. No mess!  The decoder pen is completely clear, so even if you color off the page, nothing is ruined!

5. They travel really well, making them great for waiting at doctor’s appointments, while traveling, etc.

6. They’re inexpensive.

7. They come in “manly” varieties, which not all crafty/activity kits do.

 “manly” options

They are admittedly harder to find now than they used to be (but then again, so is F&M.  I wonder what happened to that store….), but you can sometimes find them at bookstores, kid’s toy/book sections of big box stores, and, of course, online. For the latter, just type “invisible ink books” into your favorite search engine and you’ll get tons of results.

Good luck and happy de-coding/revealing!





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Sort Through a Jewelry Box

Sorting through a jewelry box is a fun way to spend the time for ladies in the moderate to severe stages of the disease.  You can reminisce about favorite pieces, including how you got it, where you wore it (or where you would wear it), why you like it, etc.  You can try things on and admire yourself in the mirror.  You can even de-tangle the items that weren’t stored neatly or match up earrings, or other matching “sets”. 

If you’re worried about expensive or sentimental pieces getting accidentally lost, you can always pick those items out and replace them with costume jewelry, which can easily be found at garage sales, thrift stores, or dollar stores. 



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Dance with a Kinect


Before we can really even start this post, I need you to go here.  Go ahead, I’ll wait. 

Okay.  Now that you’re back, if you don’t know what the Kinect game screen looks like, visit here for a peak.

Clearly this lady is having a ton of fun.  I have no idea what her cognitive status is, but that doesn’t really matter to me.  What matters is that the Kinect dance games are very intuitive. You simply listen to the music, watch the dancers on-screen, and mimic their movements.  Those in the later stages of the disease may find it easier to follow the moves or a real life person (which means you get to dance, too). A player with any amount of dementia may need help getting the right song playing, but the dancing should come pretty naturally.  Someone, please correct me if I’m wrong, but even if you’re moves don’t match the game at all, the song won’t end early, right?  So even if you make up your own dance, it doesn’t really matter, though it’s lots of fun to see if you can do it!

Two popular dancing-games using the connect are Just Dance and Dance Central.  Both have multiple version out there, and there are probably many other games with a similar concept as well.  Know of one?  Leave it in the comments!




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Play Bocce Ball

Photo courtesy of

Bocce is a fun outdoor game.  I’m not quite ready to call it “one of the most exciting and enjoyable sports” as one website I read while fact-checking the rules claimed it was (to be fair, it was a website that sold bocce sets, so they clearly have a skewed view), but it is fun.

Best of all (for our purposes at least), it’s a game many will have played before in the past, so the rules may still be stored in long term memory.  If not, don’t worry.  The rules are pretty simple (and flexible) so it shouldn’t be too stressful to keep a game going even if it’s new or “new” to the person with memory loss.

There are many ways to play Bocce, but a common version is called “Backyard Bocce”.  To play:

1. Divide the Bocce balls (the large balls) evenly between the two teams.

2. Have someone throw the pallina (the smaller ball) forward.  T(his is where you will be aiming your bocce balls, so make sure it’s a least a little ways away from the players.  You don’t want to get a bocce ball to the foot!).

3.  One team throws  a bocce ball toward the pallina

4.  The second teams throws a bocce ball towards the pallina.  If they  succeed, play reverts to the first team.  If not,  land closer to the pallina than the opposing team’s ball, they continue to throw their bocce balls  until one is. This is referred to as bettering the point.

5. Play continues with each team taking turns to try and better the point.

6. The round ends when both teams have thrown all their balls.  A team is given a point for each ball that’s closer to the pallina than its opponents’

7.  The team that wins the round throws the palina and the first bocce the next round.  The game ends when a team reaches a predetermined number of points  (typically 14 or 16) or after a predetermined number of rounds (typically 8).

Note:  You CAN use your bocce ball to try and knock the opponents’ balls out of the way, or to knock your own ball closer to the pallina.

Also Note: My family just took turns throwing our bocce balls, not caring about who was closest to the pallina to guide our turns and then scored the round using the system above.  Turn taking may be easier for someone with memory loss who is new to the game.  However, for someone with memory loss who has played before and remembers the rules, I would recommend playing and scoring as they recall it.

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Play Lawn Darts

photo courtesy of mastermind toys

Let me start this off by saying I do not think it is smart for anyone of any age or cognitive status to play with the old, pointy version of lawn darts.  I say this not only because I don’t want you to sue me, but also because I had the pleasure of watching one skewer my uncle’s foot in what was obviously a very memorable family reunion.

That lovely story out of the way, down to business.  Lawn darks is kind of mix of horseshoes and regular darts.  Individuals take turns throwing darts into the ring, with points awarded based on where the land.  Traditionally, points are scored when a dart lands in the target area. If both players get a dart in the ring , the scores cancel each other.  However, there are other versions, which are summed up nicely by this Wikipedia article, so I won’t bore you with my rambling summary.   It also informed me that the pointy, terrifying lawn darts of the past are no longer for sale in the US or Canada.  Now, lawn darts generally have weighted, rounded tips instead.

In any case, lawn darts is a game that can be enjoyed by anyone who can still throw underhand, which is stay just about anyone.  Even those in the severe stages of dementia should still be able to throw the dart, though they may need the target moved closer or someone to help guide their hand through the motion until a few times until their long-term “muscle memory” is triggered. 






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Play Ladder Golf

photo courtesy of

Ladder Golf, also known as Ladder Ball, is a fun, relaxing game for people of all ages and athletic-ability levels, making it perfect for people with memory loss.  The basic premise is to throw the bola (a fancy name for two golf balls held together by a piece of rope) onto the ladder.  Each level of the ladder, has a different number of points assigned to it: three for the top, two for the middle, and one for the bottom.

Traditionally, you have to get EXACTLY 21 points to win, but I generally play to whoever get 21 points or more.  You can also just play a certain number of rounds.  There are generally two teams, but you could certainly play with more.  Those in the early stages of the disease will likely catch on pretty quickly.  Those in the moderate stages of the disease might need more reminders of the rules and benefit from a teammate who can help them.   Those in the late stages of the disease may simply need to be instructed to throw the bola at the target, or even have some hand-over-hand assistance when throwing, but might still enjoy the fresh air and camaraderie.

Oh, and if you’re interested, you can purchase a game set online or in any local toy or big box store.  For the really ambitious, there are even instructions on how to build your own game set available online!





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