When I think back to my own magical upbringing, it wasn’t all about family night. Back then, our parents didn’t have Pinterest or Google to come up with a litany of family night ideas for spending time together. It’s just something we did without a ton of thought. At least, I don’t think they gave it much thought.
Sure, we occasionally would have a movie night or play card games. My dad and I pretty consistently would sit on the couch together with bowls of ice cream and watch Wheel of Fortune.
One thing that stands out most is that, of course, cell phones weren’t involved. It was probably much easier to connect with the people in the room at that time.
Another thing I remember is consistency and predictability in our quality time. There was a certain cadence to life that made everything feel safe. On Sunday mornings before church, our entire extended family would meet up at my grandparent’s house down the street. She would make the same big, delicious breakfast every Sunday morning.
Some of us would arrive at 8:30 in pajamas and other family units would roll in at 9:00, fully dressed for church. After about an hour of talking and eating the softest, butteriest biscuits you could ever taste, each family would trickle out just as we came in.
To create that same sort of family magic, you don’t need to get caught up in the details. Just be diligent and committed to carving out time for each other. Put it on the schedule, and protect it at all costs.
How to Get Started
You’ll have a lot more luck if you include your kids and spouse involved in the planning. Depending on their ages, kids can have a really important role to play!
Here are some things to discuss about family night as you prepare to put them on your calendar:
- Frequency: once a month or once a week?
- Time and day: Weekend morning? Weekend night?
- Rules/Guidelines: for ideas, see below
- Brainstorming a list of ideas together – to make this extra fun, set a timer and quietly race to see who can come up with the most unique ideas.
Family Night Rules
You’ll have more fun together if you set some guidelines before beginning. For busy families or those with teenagers, this part will be important.
What role will cell phones/screens play in the event? If you’re having a movie night, will folks also have phones out? How will we act if we’re not excited about this particular family night, but someone else wanted to do it? If someone gets invited to a party on family night, will we move family night to another day, or RSVP no to the party?
Who chooses the activity of the week or month?
Here are some possible rules/values/norms to consider:
- Take turns choosing the activity from the master list of family night ideas.
- No screens
- Open Minds – Remind all family members that there’s no way everyone will love every single night. But if you take turns choosing events, we can learn to support each other and be happy when it’s someone else’s favorite thing.
- Protected time
At Home Family Night Ideas to Shake Things Up
Nights at home together (or mornings, whatever) can be super special! There’s no need to go places and spend lots of money to really connect with each other again. Here are some of my favorite ideas.
Explore a Different Culture Dinner
- Choose a country to explore.
- Select an ethnic meal that’s different than you normally try. If you like the idea but hate cooking or have trouble finding the right ingredients, you can always carry out. Folks who live in big cities have tons of carry out options to try.
- Research table settings and etiquette for your country. For example, check out the etiquette for dining in Ethiopia, or choose a country that sits on the floor to eat to really mix things up! Here are the benefits of eating on a mat on the floor.
- Try to set the right mood with centerpieces (if applicable), pay attention to lighting, and choose a Spotify playlist to enhance the vibe you’re trying to create. For example, here is a Spotify playlist of traditional Japanese music.
- You can even create fun invitations on your computer to put in everyone’s room, if the kids are old enough to appreciate the invite.
Kindness rocks in the evening and delivery in the morning.
We had a blast with this activity. First, we made kindness rocks using pro tips from RockPaintingGuide.com. We let them dry overnight. Pair this with a pizza night and you’ve got a killer family night.
The next morning, we took our usual Saturday morning walk, with Turkey Burger on her bike, Chicken Patty on his scooter, and Mackie in her stroller. Turkey Burger put all the rocks in her bike’s basket.
We stopped at random houses and she got to put her rocks on people’s porches, next to their mailboxes, etc. We did tell her to put them somewhere prominent so that someone wouldn’t accidentally run over one with a mower.
Reverse Hike and Seek
This was such a fun game to play when I used to be a youth minister. It works great with little kids, too!
Here’s how you play.
- Someone hides.
- Each person in the group goes looking for the hiding family member.
- When you find the hiding person, you have to join them in that spot.
- The last person to find the rest of the group has to hide next.
Board Game Night
There’s nothing wrong with adding a classic to your rotation of family nights! This will depend heavily on your kids’ ages. Right now, our six year old loves Ms. Bernard is a Wild Card, and our three year old enjoys Sneaky Snack Squirrel.
This one can be hard to pull off because of age differences, and our tendency to pull out other devices and watch multiple screen at once. Movie nights when I was a youth minister were always a challenge. See below for more tips and ideas!
Dance Party after Dinner
This one can probably be paired with another event, but it’s lots of fun. It’s likely to be more successful with little kids, unless your teenagers and preteens are unusually cool with embarrassing themselves. For best results, have older kids help choose the songs. Try not to roll your eyes at their music.
Repaint a bedroom together.
If your kids are older, you can absolutely teach them how to DIY paint a bedroom. Painting a bedroom is an especially cheap way to completely makeover a room! So why not work together to give one of your kids a beautiful new space to call home?
If you’re picky about colors, try this approach:
- Have your child look on Pinterest with you for decorated bedrooms. That will give you a direction – for example, she likes pale pink or deep teal.
- Do your own research separately and narrow it down to two or three colors you’d be comfortable trying out. Purchase paint samples.
- With your child, paint samples on the wall before family night. Together, observe the samples in morning, mid-day, and evening light. Choose a favorite together. If you’re not used to DIY paint, please don’t rush or skip this part. Paint samples often look nothing like you expect on your own walls and with your own light.
- Go buy supplies and the gallon of paint you need before family night. Also, before beginning, make sure you have trim paint that matches your current trim on hand. You absolutely will get wall paint on the trim and need touch ups.
- When family night rolls around, watch a couple of Youtube videos before you get started. Then stay up late until the job is done!
Backyard Flashlight Scavenger Hunt
This is a fun activity, especially with preteens and younger. Life is Sweeter By Design tells you how to play and has a free printable for this activity.
Minute to Win It Night
So many bloggers have written about Minute to Win It game nights for families and dedicated an entire post to it. There’s no need for me to say more.
If you’ve got a little Einstein at home, he or she will love Science Night. Just round up 4 or 5 really fun, kid friendly experiments, and add the supplies to your weekly grocery list. Here are some of our favorites.
Hooray! Sock fights are so fun.
Everybody just takes a few pairs of socks that are bundled together, and hides out in some corner of the house. When the buzzer sounds – or mom yells “go” – everybody runs out in search of family members.
If you get hit with a sock ball, you’re out. Last one to get hit is the winner.
You can also play with a safe zone – such as the couch – where you can chill out until the count of 10 and be safe.
Talent of the Week Showcase
This one can be a real confidence booster for shy kids. Each week, choose one family member to showcase their talent. If your family isn’t super competitive, you could also let everyone go on the same night.
Choose a place in the home that can serve as a stage, which would be in front of our fireplace. Pop some popcorn for audience members. Let everyone have their turn showing off their talent.
For best results, give everyone a week’s notice. Be sure to help younger kids throughout the week so they feel confident on the big show night.
Gathered Again has an entire post dedicated to hosting a family talent show.
Craft of the Month
If your family is generally pretty cool with having routine crafts nights, you could have a monthly crafting time together. I think this is the most fun when it’s seasonal. Here are some fun ideas.
- Paper snowflake crafting in January
- Valentine’s in February
- Shamrock Crafts for March
- Window Painting for Kids in April
- Dragonfly Craft for May
- Round Up Post of June Crafts
- July Sidewalk Paint
- August Summer Crafts
- September Sensory Stress Bottles for Back to School
- Pumpkin Decorating in October
- Turkey Construction Paper Crafts for November
- Waterless Snow Globes for December
Have a family goal setting night.
There’s something really special about talking as a family about how you can be better to each other and create a life you all love. Check out Sammy Approve’s ideas for a family goal setting sesh. It may not sound super fun, but it does seem really meaningful, and everything is better with a pizza!
Host a surprise dinner that will drive kids crazy!
This is an idea we used for our youth group Christmas party one year, and it was a BLAST. They were so surprised! It takes some planning and organization, but this is one of my favorite ideas on the list.
The whole thing is explained really well by Let’s Explore, so check it out! You can adapt the concept to any age, so don’t get discouraged if the fairy tale theme seems too young.
Put together care bags for homeless people in your area.
You can waste a lot of time and money on kits that won’t be much help. Here’s a post by All Gifts Considered that outlines the best items to put in care packages for homeless people in your city. This is a good activity for kids to learn more about serving others and can create an opportunity for meaningful conversations.
Facetime Relatives Far Away
Make a whole night of it! If you’ve got several friends and family groups who live far away, why not plan back-to-back phone calls to catch up with everyone? If there are little kids in the group, plan a show and tell for part of the conversation, too! This gives little kids a fun way to participate and not feel left out.
Art for Kids Hub Night
Art for Kids Hub is the best way to quickly get in some family art time! Our six year old absolutely loves Art for Kids Hub. This videos are usually around 6 or 7 minutes, so each family member can choose a drawing to reproduce together. Throw some snacks on the table, get out some card stock, pencils, markers and colored pencils, and have a blast together!
When you’re done with Art for Kids Hub, pop on over to my post about displaying and storing kids art!
Bob Ross Night
After dinner, set up a family table with a disposable tablecloth, put paint out for everyone, and change into junk clothes. Turn on the Joy of Painting, keep a pause button nearby, and have a relaxing, fun evening of trying to duplicate a Bob Ross painting. Here’s our family’s attempt!
Play Doh Competition
Host a backyard cookout and overnight camping!
If the weather is nice, have a cookout together as a family. Then, get the tent set up and ready to go for overnight backyard camping under the stars.
I wrote about our six year old’s back yard campout in my post called 9 Special Halloween Family Activities.
This one is really fun and works best over a two-week period.
On the first weekend, make a meal together that’s simple enough for pre-teens and older kids to do independently. This is the teaching opportunity for Mom or Dad!
To add an extra layer of fun, show them how to set the table and put up a centerpiece.
The following weekend, let the kids try to make the same meal all by themselves. Try not to hover!
Doing a brand new jigsaw puzzle is a fun way to spend the evening. The key is to get the appropriate size of pieces and number of pieces. You’ll have better luck getting kids involved if they get to choose the puzzle!
Jello Wars is a super fun youth group activity, but it can absolutely be adapted for families, too. Have every kid make as many bowls of jello that you can store in your refrigerators. You can always ask a neighbor to store some, too.
It’s also good to pick up some bonus disgusting things at the store, like shaving cream and silly string.
It’s most fun if everyone wears a plain white tee shirt, so you can get a picture of yourselves wearing all the crazy colors.
Get the water hose ready, set up a slip and slide if you want, and start chucking jello at each other! Whoever has the most colorful shirt at the end LOSES.
Picasso Tile Marble Run Collaboration
We absolutely adore our Picasso Tile Marble Run. You can build one of these as a family and have a blast together! It works for little bitty kids who are really only able to roll the marbles, but even adults will enjoy putting together a really cool run.
Looking for more of our favorite toys? Check out this post about my favorite educational toys and games.
Ideas for a Family Night Out
Go to your local museum.
Isn’t it funny how we forget to make use of the stuff our own town has to offer? And yet, if we were visiting, it’s the first place we would stop!
We live in a mid-sized city, and it can be hard to see the stars brightly at night. The trick to making this fun is to wait for a clear night, and load up lots of pillows and blankets in to a truck bed.
I have some really sweet memories of lying in the back of a truck with my family, staring up at the stars. We drove out into the country where there was zero light pollution to make it extra special.
Hiking Scavenger Hunt
I love this free printable from Doing Good Together, because it includes extra spaces for “something surprising,” and encourages kids to notice three different types of trees.
Most nature scavenger hunts include things like “pinecones” and “mushrooms.” We live in a desert climate, so lots of nature printables don’t work for us!
Dating Divas Walmart Bingo
Here’s a super fun activity to do at your local Wally World.
$10 Gifts Night
Save this one for late November and let the kids knock out their Christmas shopping! Give each kid a $10 allowance and have them buy a gift for one family member. You can draw names from a cup before you begin.
Alternatively, do it in the lead up to one kid’s birthday. The birthday boy or girl can hang out at the Target cafe with one parent while the other helps other family members do their birthday shopping.
Go to a Ball Game
You can do this spendy or budget-friendly!
To save money, try a minor league game or local high school team to support. Be sure to set aside some concession stand money, because visiting the snack stand is all part of the fun!
Serve together at a soup kitchen.
Especially if you’ve got teenagers, serving together can be really powerful and a neat way to hit the “reset” button on your kids’ behavior
Go see a play together.
Many families are great about going to ball games or concerts. If you don’t normally go to the theater, it can be really cool to try something new!
Try your local community theater. Tickets will probably be reasonable, and the actors will be thrilled to see each and every face in the audience.
Anytime you compete against each other, or collaborate on the same team, it can really build up a relationship. Laser tag is so fun!
Where Does It Go? Target Teenager Shenanigans
This game only works if you’ve got a couple of teenagers, but it made for a super fun youth group game! Feel free to have each kid invite a friend to make it more fun.
- Leave the teenagers at the Target cafe. Get two shopping carts.
- Begin putting random items in each of the carts. To make it a fair competition, the items should match.
- Fill each cart with about 15 matching items from all over the store.
- Each team gets a cart. If you’ve just got your two teenagers, they are each their own team. They also need a chaperone/supervisor. One adult should be with each teenager.
- Their job is to race to put back every item and meet back at the cafe with an empty cart. No running allowed!
- The supervisor is required to make sure that no one cheats by running or putting stuff back in the wrong spot. Plus, if your kids put things back where they don’t belong, Target will hate you.
- Award the winner with a Target gift card in whatever dollar amount you like!
Don’t forget to put up the bumpers for little kids!
Park Hopping by the Dating Divas
Check out this fabulous idea by the Dating Divas!
Everybody on Wheels Outing
Find a gorgeous neighborhood in your city and choose a nice, cool night. Let every family member choose their preferred wheels for exercise: we have roller blades, scooters, and bikes in our home!
Here are our favorite wheels, plus some other fun stuff your little kids will love.
Feel like a little kid again! Taking your kids to the arcade will bring out the fun side of any parent.
Visit the driving range, and share clubs if needed.
Your local municipal golf course will likely have clubs available to rent, if you don’t already have golf clubs in your family. You can easily share amongst people who are a similar size. Rather than playing a full round of golf, buy a large bucket of balls, and go out to the range just before the sun starts to go down for some practice. Finish off at the practice putting green and stage a little putting competition.
Play frisbee golf.
I’ve never personally played frisbee golf, but it’s pretty popular in some areas. Here is how you play!
Geocaching is the perfect outdoorsy activity for kids of all ages! Here is everything you need to know.
Family Movie Night Ideas
Family movie night can be a flop or a huge success! The keys are as follows:
- Choose the perfect movie for your family. Here are some great ideas.
- Commit as a family to one screen at a time – the one you’re all watching. This only works if the adults participate in the rules, too.
- Don’t vote on a movie. I learned in youth ministry that some kids would check out as soon as their chosen movie didn’t win. It’s almost better to not give anyone a choice at all. They’re more likely to have an open mind.
- Consider themed snacks or a meal to go with your movie. For example, if watching Lion King, have lion pancakes for dinner. If you’re watching Ratatouille, consider making a french dessert like crepes!