Amy’s Free Ideas

Family Fun Night

Game Night

This is one of the easiest ways to spend time together. Give board games as gifts at Christmas and birthdays, and you will have a whole closet to choose from. (Games aren’t just fun--they also build thinking skills! Just don’t tell the kids, or they might decide to not like games on principle! They also teach all kinds of life skills, like good sportsman ship, how to win and lose with grace. ) If you already have a closet full of games, and nobody every plays them, it may be because you don’t play the games with them.  They love to be with you as long as you will spend time with them. If you are tired of the games you have, here are a few ideas to make them interesting again:

  1. 1.Make up new rules

  2. 2.Give a prize for the winners (no chores the next day, a candy bar, etc.)

  3. 3.Invite another family to play with you

  4. 4.Borrow or swap games with another family to try out new games

  5. 5.Play with a partner for a set amount of time, then swap partners who are playing another game.

  6. 6.Make up your own games

view ideas for making game boards

Skit Night

This is a lot of fun, so don’t let the preparation put you off. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work. It can be mostly impromptu and improvisation. Here are some ideas to get you going

  1. 1.Borrow a book of scripts from the library, and gather necessary props. Divide into groups, practice, then put on the plays. This could be drawn out over several family nights. If you don’t have enough actors, invite friends or relatives to join in.

  2. 2.Put on a puppet show--make a stage by putting a tension rod in a doorway and throw a sheet over it. If you don’t have puppets, use stuffed animals, or make sock puppets.

view how to make sock puppets

  1. 3.Put random objects in bags to use as props, and hand a bag to each group to put on a spur of the moment skit. T.V. commercials are familiar, so they could be imitated or spoofed.

  2. 4.Check out a book on how to do mime or clowning, and let everyone take a shot at it. Face paint makes it more fun, but is not necessary.

  3. 5.Play charades--acting turned into a game.

Home Movies

Our kids loved watching themselves on home movies--your kids probably will, too. You just don’t think about dragging them out to watch very often, so a family fun night is a good setting. So pop a batch of popcorn, turn down the lights, and relive some of those fun memories. This is a great way to help your kids remember all the fun things you have done for them in the past. We think we won’t forget, but we do! If you don’t take photos and digital movies, many, many events will be completely forgotten.  Also, the older your kids get, the harder it is to catch them on “film.” So make up an excuse to take some footage, and you will be glad in years to come that you did--otherwise your home movies may have gaps of years with little or no footage. So, there is another idea for a movie night: make some new home movies. if your kids are old enough, the family could spend a family night to edit home movies (like highlights from a basketball season) or make a power point presentation.

Sports Night

This is easier to do if you or your husband is a sports fan. If not, recruit a relative or friend who is, to help you make the plan. If you ARE a sports fanatic, you may do this kind of thing all the time, so you should do something else for a family night--help your kids be well rounded instead of one dimensional (doing nothing but sports!). There are three ways to have a sports night--1) do a sport, 2) learn about a sport, or 3) watch a sport. Watching a sport should only count as a family night if it is a special event, like the Super Bowl, World Cup, or Olympics. Make it extra special with decorations and food, like cookies shaped like a football or soccer ball.

For ideas for indoor sports, check out my ideas on my Silly Summer Olympics page. For ideas for outdoor sports, check out my page, Use Olympics to get kids to Exercise.

For ideas on learning a sport, you can check out books or videos from the library that teach how to do the sport. Watch it with your family on family night, then go try it out on Saturday.

Plan a Vacation

This is a great way to find out the kinds of things your kids would think is fun to do on vacation. It is an even better way to help them learn how to do all that is involved in planning a vacation--making hotel reservations, booking tickets, planning the route, estimating how long to allow for each activity, staying within a budget, etc., etc. So, next time you are at a visitor’s center, grab a bunch of pamphlets, or go on line to find out details. If you really are going to use this plan for a vacation, it will be the best learning fool, but it can be just for fun--the ultimate-no-one-can-afford-vacation. Perhaps they will be more grateful, the next time you go on a vacation, since they will better understand how much money and time goes into a vacation. Be sure to make this planning session into a fun time--if you are planning a beach trip, but it is still the dead of winter, play some beach music, put a blanket on the floor, ask everyone to wear hawaiian shirts or T-shirts, and drink smoothies with the little umbrellas garnishing the top.

Thank You Letter Marathon

This is especially helpful after Christmas to make sure your kids get all their thank-you letters written. Various details can make it feel like a party (and so, less likely for your kids to fight against it) Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Play some spunky background music, or let each child pick the music for 30 minutes each.

  1. 2.Serve their favorite food

  2. 3.Give small awards for the best letter, the longest letter, the funniest letter, the most creative letter, or for every person with all their letters written, addressed, stamped, and in the mailbox

  3. 4.You can invent a family victory dance to do when it is all completed or let each person come up with his own.

  4. 5. Have a bell and noise makers handy so that everyone can cheer each time a letter has been written.

  5. 6.Have lots of card making supplies on hand, to pique their interest.

  6. 7.Take photos of each child with the gifts, and print them out and glue them to the front of the card.

Family History Night

Buy a binder, and once or twice a year, get everyone to help remember what happened during that year. You can write it by hand, but it looks a lot better if you type it on the computer, print it out, and put it in the notebook. It is easier to organize and make corrections on the computer, too. This family history becomes an amazing record of when the kids got sick (every time I am asked to fill in what year my kids got chickenpox, I wish I had included that!) When appliances broke or were purchased (important for warranty) as well as when relatives visited, when your kids learned to ride a bike, or when you traveled to Thailand. At the time it seems inconceivable that you would ever forget any of that, but believe me, you do, and it is almost impossible to reconstruct without it. I also thought it was fun to photocopy comic strips that we thought were funny at that stage in life--it makes reading back over the history fun, too. Recording this history is a great  activity for New Year’s Day, Mother’s day, end of the school year, or during summer vacation--any event that comes up annually that will jog your memory to update your Family History.

Make Photo Albums

Digital cameras make it so easy to take photos, so we take tons. But how many photos do we actually print out and put into albums so our children can relive happy memories, and so, better remember their childhood? My kids spent hours looking at our photo albums, and still enjoy looking at them as young adults. They enable us to revisit our childhood virtually.? I always made double prints, and divided them between our kids, so they could take their albums with them when they left home. Although memory albums are all the rage, and look amazing, they take a lot of work. So even though I did make a few, most of our albums are the pocket kind--I just wanted to get the photos into albums instead of sitting in a box in a closet where no one can look at them. The beauty of pocket albums is that they are so simple that any school aged child can put their own photos in. Make sure they write about the pictures on the lines provided next to each photo’s pocket. If you do, you learn all kinds of things you didn’t know. Don’t Delay! Make those photo albums NOW! They will never remember the events later as well as they will soon after the photos were taken. If you write it instead of the kids, the album will miss out on the child’s view of what happened. Their quotes are priceless!

Cook Together Night

Cooking together can be a lot of fun, and just think about all the skills your children will learn by being involved in food preparation. If you start with simple foods when they are young, they can keep progressing until they are accomplished cooks by the time they are in middle school. Keep it fun. Laugh when they spill something or start a food fight. Then make them clean it up. It’s all part of the process, but if you yell at them for making a mistake, that may be the last time they cook with you!

Even kindergarten aged children can do these:

  1. 1.Pizza: roll out the dough and put on the toppings

  2. 2.Make your own Sundaes

  3. 3.Decorate your own Cupcakes

  4. 4.Cut out and decorate sugar cookies

  5. 5.Mix instant pudding and fill frozen filo tart shells, top with fruit, etc.

  6. 6.Roast marshmallows or hotdogs over a fire on a stick

Once the school year gets started, things really get hectic around the home. You probably can’t imagine trying to squeeze in one more activity. However, the tyranny of the urgent from all these good things, and even necessary things, can cause your family to drift apart--family members becomes strangers who happen to live together. If you want your family to remain close, you have to work at it, that is, make it a priority, and battle against the demands for your time. That’s where the hard part ends, and the fun begins, because it is a lot of fun to hang out together--just make sure to choose activities that your kids think are fun, and then keep adapting as they get older. I assure you that if you keep it up, your children will always enjoy being together, even after they become adults and move out of your home. I am not saying you won’t occasionally have a family fun night that turns into a family catastrophe night. But that, too, can be an occasion to laugh about down through the years...”Remember the time we...” People comment on how close our family is. Well, there is a reason for that--I made sure we spent time together! The benefits VASTLY outweigh the trouble you go to to make it happen, whether you plan a family fun night once a week, once a month, or once a year!

Movie Night

This is probably easier than any other family fun night, so it is perfect for when you are too tired or busy to get another activity planned. However, I beg you not to make every family night a movie night. Unless you really work at it, there is no interaction taking place, so everyone remains as isolated as if you had each gone your separate ways for the evening. There are things you can do to counteract this problem, and encourage family interaction. If the movie is based on a book, you can read the book, then watch the movie and discuss the differences afterwards. You can compare and contrast two movies. You can discuss what it would feel like to be various characters, and what they should have done better in certain situations. This is a really great way to teach all kind of values such as bullying--what it looks like, what to do if you get bullied, how to help others who get bullied, and the kinds of actions and words to avoid so you don’t become a bully yourself.

Read Aloud Night

You may think this idea went out with the dark ages, and that it certainly won’t work past second or third grade. Nothing could be farther from the truth! If you choose your books well, reading aloud works right on up through college!! Other than choosing the books, this takes no effort at all! It’s a great way for dads to be involved with the family with very little effort. Since my husband was a pastor, he came home really tired on Sundays--too tired to interact with small noisy children!  He did have enough energy to read out loud though, and the kids loved it!! I don’t think a week passed that the kids didn’t beg him to keep reading, and often he obliged them. Christmas was a special time, too. I tried to find new Christmas books each year, but good ones were not so easy to come by. The one book he read every year, was “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” It has become a family tradition, so even as adults, they insist that he reads it aloud before Christmas.

Let the Kids Plan Family Night

After you have been planning family night for a few years, your kids know what to expect. Why not mix it up and give them a chance to plan it. That way you are sure to find out the kinds of things they enjoy now that they are getting older. It also gives them some experience in planning and in leading. Ask them how you can help, then step back and let them do it. The more responsibility you give your kids, the more self confident they become, as well they should, since they are becoming competent in so many new skills.

Scavenger hunt

There are lots of different ways to have a scavenger hunt. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  1. 1.Make a list of things to collect from your yard or neighborhood. This is especially good for natural objects, such as pinecones, feathers, sticks, etc. You could have a secondary project to make a craft with the found objects--like a shadow box or mobile.

  2. 2.Make a few plates of cookies and take them around to the neighbors to see what they would be willing to trade for a plate of cookies. You can keep trading what you got, or just be done with one trade. (see photo of booty above.)

  3. 3.Go to a dollar store and give each team $5 to buy the list of things. The list could include things like silliest hat, best costume, most interesting toy, dumbest gadget, etc. These could even be used for props for your next skit night! Have an impartial judge determine which team won.

  4. 4.Use phones to take photos instead of getting actual objects.

Family Fun > Family Fun Night

Family Fun > Family Fun Night