All about our Virtual Family Game Nights

By Cameron Sandlin,

Join President Lincoln’s Cottage and Game Genius for our virtual family game nights on Tuesdays at 7 pm EDT for creative and imaginative fun!   

President Lincoln’s Cottage’s closure to the public due to the global COVID-19 crisis meant that on-site spring programs planned for school, youth, and adult audiences were necessarily canceled, postponed, or modified. In a matter of days, President Lincoln’s Cottage responded in new ways to reach and support the community. Two days after closing, we hosted our inaugural Virtual Family Game Night that furthers our mission and promotes fun and family time — and a little education as well! 

As Director of Programming, Callie Hawkins, noted: “It was important to us to listen to our audiences and respond with programs that would meet the needs of their new circumstances. As I watched how my own family was connecting early on, it struck me that they just needed to laugh. One of the ways they did that was by playing games. We know that games were something that the Lincoln family enjoyed at the Cottage, so we knew it was something we could offer to help people connect, that was also in perfect alignment with our mission. And, because we have worked with Game Genius on numerous projects before, we knew they’d be the perfect partner!” 

When the Lincoln family spent their summers at the Cottage, they did so under circumstances similar to our own. While it might be easy to think of the Cottage as a retreat, the Lincoln family never found distance from the crisis. Yet, they enjoyed spending time together as a family at the Cottage, which may have provided moments of relief and relaxation for the First Family. Playing games together was an important part of this; at least one primary source suggests that President Lincoln and his son Tad liked to play checkers!  

President Lincoln’s Cottage is pleased to partner with Game Genius to offer these virtual game nights. Game Genius founder Peter Williamson, professional golfer turned creative philanthropist, facilitates the game nights over Zoom. The games are custom created with everyday household objects specifically chosen to ensure everyone can participate. President Lincoln’s Cottage connects these objects to Lincoln and provides obscure educational facts about the President and his time at the Cottage. Every week, participants engage further by suggesting objects for the next game. With the decided-upon objects, Peter Williamson comes up with a game to challenge participants’ creativity and teamwork, with various levels of difficulty to suit all audiences.  

“My family is filled with people who love to play, so it’s probably not a surprise that games were an essential part of my childhood,” writes Peter Williamson. “Now, my goal is to share the power of play with others […] Collaborating with President Lincoln’s Cottage is a dream project. I get to reach back to my roots while playing with young families of today. I get to work with genuine people who care for the community. I get to create Lincoln-related puns each week. And I get to demonstrate how, even in times like these, everyone at home has the potential to make a difference. Whether caring for yourself, family members, colleagues, or an entire community, games can help us identify and execute our brave ideas.” 

Playing games is important for creativity, imagination, and social and emotional intelligence. Playing together as a family is even more significant, for both children and the family as a whole. It allows families to bond, building communication and engagement with one another. Children also learn how to work as a group and to cooperate with others while self-advocating. At the end of the day, it’s simply fun and entertaining, too!  

Given our current circumstances, virtual game nights combine all these benefits with the ability to relax and remain connected.  

“During these times, we are learning to be creative, to think outside of the box, and to just try to relax,” writes Maureen Martz Buell, who participates in the program with her daughter Lily. “Between trying to keep up with school work while at home, and learning with new distractions, and the true realization that she knows that something “not good” is happening, she needs to know that her community is still here and still letting her be a kid. Finding new ways to connect and to create a new community is beyond imperative right now.” 

While President Lincoln’s Cottage is closed, we’re working to transition our programming to fit what our community needs. Museums must adapt to answer the current needs of the public and experimentation and establishing new patterns are part of a healthy transition. Our virtual family game nights expand upon our on-site Social Studies program, offering those stuck at home a way to play creatively while still engaging socially. 

We hope you join us at our next Virtual Family Game Night!  

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