Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Families



While sewing emergency summer clothes for the kids, I am also collecting games and other playthings for the long plane ride to Singapore and the lulls in activity at Grandma's and Grandpa's. We've amassed a sizable collection of card games over Christmas, which are great because they are portable and all three girls love them. While looking on amazon to buy a few more, I was surprised to find that there are no modern versions of that old classic, Happy Families. I wonder if it's because modern society considers it un-PC - only the man seems to have an occupation, his wife's only identity is Mrs-whatever-her-husband's-name-is, and quite a few of the occupations are outdated. Maybe people thought it would be ruinous to the self-worth or career ambitions of young girls. Well, phooey. It's a classic, and if it reflected the societal norms way back when, then so be it. Will it have ill-effects on my daughters' decisions to (or not) become Senator or President or whomever? I'll take my chances.

But that's beside the point - PC or not, I still couldn't find Happy Families (except in vintage version on ebay at some exorbitant price). So I made our own set!

First, I bought blank cards. About 500 - enough for mistakes, I thought.

These are plain white on both sides, so I stamped the backs to make them less boring.

Then I cast about for a way to draw 44 distinct characters without losing my mind. I wanted them easy enough so that I could just freehand them with a marker without needing 44 pencil sketches first, which would then have to be erased after the ink lines were drawn over. Suddenly saw, on the living room floor, our motley crew of peg dolls where the kids had left them for me to trip over. And therein found my answer.

Peg dolls are squat, uniformly-shaped, have flat features and look cartoony. I can do cartoony. Plus, they are easy to color. I will let the kids color them on the plane (must remember to pack Sharpies) before we play. It should buy us an hour or two, during which I might be able to walk to the back of the plane and swing my arms about and pretend to do calisthenics. 

My sketches were now just on paper, like a master plan.

I included some of the usual traditional occupations, with a slight twist. The people I know and love were the inspiration for some of the ah... more interpretative versions - this family, for instance, was all about Jenna and her love of cookies and baking:

This little girl is Emily with a pseudonym:

This is Kate, circa 2010:

This is all my girls, playing post office:

And these are every tailor in Singapore and Malaysia, including Grandma/Mum/Auntie Laura:

These next two are both Dad, although I drew the first one after Bob the Builder:

There are also a few occupations that probably weren't around when the game was invented:
We have to change with the times, right? 
I drew Mr Bit after my husband.

I thought I'd scan the cards, in case you wanted to make your own set - and in case my girls want to use them as coloring sheets.

Be warned, all ye politically-correct folks: these little guys are heavy on the stereotypes. At some point, I expect the girls will ask me, "Why don't the moms work?" To which I plan to reply: "They do - it's a family business, see - but the daddies pay the taxes so they get to name the companies after themselves."

You couldn't print them directly onto blank playing cards, but I imagine you could use card stock and cut them out all the same size. I only ask that, as with all the other freebies on this blog, they be for personal use and for gifts. I'd appreciate an email first if you'd like to mass-print multiple sets for use in schools or daycares or libraries or clubs or camps and other such settings. 


If you've never played Happy Families before, you can read about it here and the rules here.

I have to say that these blank playing cards are fast becoming my new favorite craft supply item. They are incredibly versatile! Think of the possibilities - DIY memory games, card games, flash cards, coupons, trading cards, pretend credit cards and ID cards, and even dominoes:

If your kids are anything like mine, they're going to love coloring on them and making their own collections and sets of stuff. 

Odd idea: would anyone be interested in reading about how I draw what I draw? It suddenly occurred to me last week after some comments to a post in which I drew some cartoony thing - the board game, I think it was. Don't be expecting art school or anything authentic like that, I mean. It'll just be about me drawing shapes and things with my black markers. But since it'll be neither sewing nor cardboarding, it might be a fun new tutorial to share!


40 comments:

  1. I've never heard of the Happy Families game! But I do love your version! Such cute characters! And not PC is perfectly fine in my book.

    I would love to learn how you draw... great idea!

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  2. LOOOOOOOOVE this idea/game/implementation/collection of sketches! And I had to laugh because I JUST read an article in Businessweek about stay-at-home-husbands. Perhaps you could do one set as Mrs. Blodgett the Bare Escentuals CEO and Mr. Blodgett the CEO's husband. : )

    So, are those cards like cardstock? (Thick enough that Sharpies won't bleed through?) Or do they have a plastic-y finish? (And that's why you need to color with sharpies?)

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    1. K - these are playing cards. Like real playing cards. Thicker than card stock, and glidey smooth so they shuffle really nicely. They have a sort of semi-matte- semi-glossy-sheen and Sharpies go on nice and bright. And dry instantly. I wouldn't use washable Crayola markers - smudgey.

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    2. And where did you find blank playing cards? I wouldn't even know where to start to look.

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    3. Glenda, there's a link just above the photo showing the box of blank cards. Sorry the link text color is not that distinct from the other main text. I should remember to change it soon.

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  3. Love this idea, I used to love playing Happy Families when I was little. And it would be cool to see how you draw too-what an awesome skill to have :)

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  4. This is fantastic! I've never heard of it, but I love both the go fish/rummy design and the procedures that demonstrates manners, in a way. And I LOVE that it's not PC. ;)

    I would appreciate a tutorial on your drawings. I'm not a great artist, but I am a very good keep-the-child-quiet-in-church scrawler. "Draw a plane now, mom!" I bet it would help me doodle a bit better.

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  5. Hi!

    I have my sick girl on my lap and she is loving your cards! I have never played the game (we don't get it here in Spain), but we have similar cards, and the names and the drawings really made me smile.

    I would definitely love to know how you draw, as I am hopeless with the pencil. I could use some advice. My kids would be thrilled too if their mum could do more than just... well, actually if their mom could draw anything at all.

    Thanks, a great post as usual!
    As usual, you

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  6. I'd love to see how you draw! Maybe it will encourage me to practise & get better! Love the blank playing cards, what a great find!

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  7. I'd definitely love a drawing tutorial! (I don't know how the game works, but would it work if you put Mrs. Bun the baker and Mr. Bun, the baker's husband? You know, just for some of them?)

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  8. You have to be the coolest mom ever. I wish I had all the things your girls had when I was growing up. You inspire me to do some things like this for my daughter. Also, Im with everyone else, I would love to know how you draw.

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  9. These are adorable! I've never heard of this game, but I plan to read more about it online and maybe make a set for my kids.

    Do you think labels/stickers would adhere to the cards? If so, then one idea might be to print them on labels and stick them to the cards.

    Please do let us know where you ordered the blank cards, too. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. sewVery: there's a link just above the photo showing the box of blank cards. It was from amazon.com - $8 for 500 cards. A steal.

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  10. This is such a fun idea - both for the game and a craft. I love it. I think I might need to order some of those cards. Right now. I have 2 questions for you: Do you play like go fish where you just ask for someone in the baker's family? Or do you specifically have to ask for the baker's daughter? Also, I am a big fan of quality art supplies and kids being able to use them, but I am always nervous with sharpies. When do you start letting your kids use them, and do you have any tips for keeping them off clothing? Thanks!

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    1. Lucy: It is like Go Fish in that you have to make sets (pairs, for Go Fish) and you do it by asking for the missing cards from a set you already have part of in hand. And you must ask for a specific person. So I might say, "Jane, do you have Billy, the Baker's son?" rather than "Jane, do you have one of the Baker fellas?"

      About Sharpies - my rule of thumb is that kids can use them as soon as they stop their silly habit of sucking on marker nibs. Or maybe that was just what my little ones did with their markers. They practiced a long time with regular washable kid markers and when I saw that they knew how to handle markers in general (drew on paper not on themselves, replaced the caps, were aware of ink leaking through thinner paper etc), I let them use the permanent ones. They hardly get them on clothes, even 3-year-old Kate. And they are good at asking for cardboard to put underneath their paper when we use Sharpies and other fancy, stinky markers. We have to keep reminding them that the ink seeps through the paper and stains the carpet/table, and they've gotten good with taking precautions now.

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    2. Ick- one of my kids would BITE the nib off washable markers.

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  11. For your collection of card game: do you know about this game: http://www.amazon.com/Gamewright-230-Sleeping-Queens/dp/B0009XBY3A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326896356&sr=8-1? We bought 3 mont ago for our 5 years old daughter. She likes it ver-very much! She asks us to play with her every day about 5-6 rounds per day!

    Sorry for my English :)

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    1. I must go check that out! I ordered Gamewright's cookie game but I must check the SQ one, too. Thanks!

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  12. LOVE THESE, L!

    They (who's they?) sell Happy Families in Singapore, together with Snap, Donkey and Old Maid (in a set of these four sometimes) at those $2 stores at Bedok Interchange :)

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    1. Basket! I suspected, but daren't hope. I have Snap, but I want Donkey and Old Maid. Thank goodness I'll be there in a bit, so I can stock up.

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  13. You are so clever. I am constantly amazed by the things you create. Btw, I'm Singaporean too. So proud of you! heh heh
    Have a good flight home and happy Chinese new year!~
    Judy

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  14. I've read about Happy Families in older books (e.g. the Shoes books by Noel Streatfeild), but I thought it was a game of pretend (like playing "House")! I didn't realize it was an actual card game! I am going to go follow those links to see how it's played. We're a gaming family here, and I'm always on the lookout for new family games (even though my daughter isn't even 2 months old yet :))

    I just love your characters. They are so cute! And if you post a drawing tutorial, I'll definitely enjoy reading it! :)

    ~Natalie

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  15. Yes! That would be terrific! I am currently frustrated by trying to draw a getting ready sign for the door.(Hat, coat, boots, shoes, backpack, homework, lunch, etc...) I am planning on color copying the pictures from Froggy Gets Dressed, but would rather draw my own pictures.

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  16. Love the card game. I would love to learn to see how you draw. I love your illustrations.

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  17. This was a staple game at school and with neighbourhood friends during school holidays - along with Old Maid, Donkey and Snap, of course :)
    Any chance of drawing up sets for those (please, please, please ...)?
    Oh, and I really love your drawing of Toby Tint above all else!

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  18. I've never even heard of this game before, but yeah -- if you're making your own custom version, why on earth wouldn't you create women with occupations other than "some guy's wife"? I understand that everyone in the same family probably has to have the same name and "theme" for game-play purposes, but what's wrong with Ms. Bun the Baker and Mr. Bun the Baker's Husband? For that matter, if I were doing this some of the families would have same-sex parents. :)

    And please, if it's a family business then it's not only the husband paying the taxes. For that matter, most husbands I know (including my own) would have a hard time filing their own tax returns. It's almost always the wife who's in charge of that.

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  19. Ooh I would love a post on drawing!!! I feel like I've already learned something by seeing your drawings on your blog and in patterns! I always wanted to take an art class as a kid, and never got the chance. Still hope to someday, but will learn where and when I can!

    I never heard of this game, but will have to read about the rules. Thanks for sharing your cards!

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  20. Thanks for sharing your drawing cards. Here, in France, we call this game "les 7 familles" (the seven families). I didn't know you name it "Happy Families".
    In our game, there are also the grandma and the grandpa, even if nowadays the grandparents rarely live with the rest of the family.
    Cinna

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  21. They are EXCELLENT!!! :) Even though this game (together with Snap, Old Maid and Donkey) are easily available here in Malaysia, yours is SO MUCH better, LiEr!! Thank you, thank you!

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    1. Hi Jolene, where can actually I get this old maid card game in malaysia..? is there any specific shop name..? Thanks..!

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  22. Love the idea of buying blank cards to make your own game! Genius! So many fun possibilities to personalize! Thanks for the inspiration!

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  23. When you said you were making your own game, I was ready to cheer! Because I was looking forward to admiring a more balanced gender:identity cast of characters.
    It is really disappointing that you would CHOOSE to put creative effort into perpetuating long-outdated models that define every other character by a relationship to the "Mr." Not trying to be mean; it just makes me sad.

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  24. What a fun project! I love it and yes please to the simple illustrating tutorials!

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  25. I have never heard of Happy Families card game. You have done a fantastic job with creating the deck! I would LOVE tutorials on how you draw. I don't have any desire to be a professional artist or even a really good amateur but I would like to be able to draw my ideas and creations well enough so that they look like I want them to. I want to be just like you when I grow up (even though I am probably your mother's age!) :) Actually, I am waiting to get grandchildren to do all these wonderful things with.

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  26. Thank you for sharing the pdf of your wonderful drawings. Those blank cards are awesome...I just had to go buy a set for myself. My 5 children and I have been using index cards and making trading cards with markers. It's been ongoing for about 6 months now, and we have quite a collection. I love the designs that my children come up with, from my 19 year old down to the 6 year old.

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  27. Please do share a few illustrating tips - I am horrible at drawing and would love to improve for myself and the kiddos! Thanks ever so much for sharing with us and good luck with all the sewing yet to do!

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  28. You. Are. Amazing.

    The cards are awesome, but the fact that you thought about letting the girls color them as a completely separate activity is the icing on the cake. Can't wait to print these and play with my girl.

    And yes, do share your drawing inspiration!

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  29. Your families are super adorable! And I always love to see artist's process when they draw. I've put the set of blank cards in my shopping cart, I think my girls will really like to play with them. Right now we are on a book making streak, but games might follow.

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  30. A very late comment, but I'd like to know which stencil you used for this work. How does it lates in time ?

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  31. Thank you so much! I had been searching the shops today for a traditional happy families game, but couldn't find one! Now the kids can colour in the pics and make their own.

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