“Here’s a radical concept: In order for your family to have fun together, they must spend time together. So get out of your comfort zone and breathe life, joy, and camaraderie into your family.”
–Dave Stone, Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter
Whether you work away from home and your kids go to school or you’re a homemaker who homeschools, it’s really important to set aside time for family fun nights to establish family bonds and create lasting memories. If you spend a lot of time apart, the reason for family fun nights is obvious, right? To connect, to talk, to love, to laugh. To just be. If you spend your days and nights with your kids, you might not think family fun nights are necessary. But during the day, your family is working – cleaning, cooking, learning, reading, or typing. Are you taking time to really connect? Are both mom and dad involved? You might play and laugh together throughout the day, in small doses, but I suspect the answer is no (and I suspect that because it’s the case at my own homeschooling house if I’m not very intentional about playing with my kids). I like what Dave Stone writes about the importance of family fun time in his book, Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter:
Most folks would claim that family is their number one priority. Why, then, don’t more children feel important to their parents? Why don’t families spend time together? Why is everybody going in different directions? What happened to the fun? Think about it. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Life to the full—or, as another translation puts it, “life abundantly.” If that’s God’s priority, shouldn’t it be ours as well?
Family fun nights on the weekend are wonderful because you can let the kids stay up a little later than normal, and it can be that event everyone looks forward to all week. Host your Family Fun Nights on Friday and you can kick off your weekend in the best possible way. Are you wondering what to do together? There are ideas beyond watching movies! A movie is not the best choice for a family fun night activity. Remember the point – to be together, to connect, to talk to each other. Sitting next to one another and staring at the screen doesn’t really achieve those goals!
“Believe it or not, you can have fun without a TV, computer, iPad, or other electronic device. You can teach your children how to communicate with adults and how to be comfortable in their own skin.” –Dave Stone, Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter
Allow me to inspire you with a few Family Fun Night ideas, and in return, I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments. First, some ground rules:
5 Keys to a Family Fun Night
- Everyone has to have a good attitude. If you’ve had a bad day, talk about it, and then let it go. If you’re grumpy or you’re going to pout because you lost the game or looked foolish, you’ll ruin it for everyone.
- Take turns. Let anyone who wants to choose to get a turn choosing the Family Fun Night activities.
- Make it a priority. Don’t allow anyone to duck out to see a movie with their friends or go out to dinner with coworkers.
- Set aside your expectations. If you’re just getting started with this tradition, your younger children might have a very short attention span. Their idea of a fun family night might be 30 minutes, and then they’ll need to move on to other things. As you have more Family Fun Nights you’ll know what to expect works well for your children at various ages and stages.
- Be flexible. If you had planned on playing outside and it rains, don’t forgo your Fun Night plans. Do something else. If someone is not feeling well, go with the rented video over nothing at all. If your kids are excited about board games even though you planned to cook a fancy dinner together, see if you can do both or follow their lead. Make it less about who gets their way and more about simply enjoying each others’ company.
9 Family Fun Night Ideas
- Put together a family carnival. We did this once, 3 years ago (I know because my younger daughter was a wee infant in the pictures), and my older daughter has never stopped talking about it. Here’s how to do it:
- A few days in advance, assign each of your family members 1 or 2 stations. (Give littles a partner to help.) Either assign each person a carnival-style game or let them come up with their own (things like a poster board with a bunch of little targets that you shoot with a Nerf gun or a ring toss or a stuffed animal in the shallow basket thing).
- Find or make some prizes – little trinkets from your gift closet or leftover candy from the last holiday (we keep leftover Halloween and Easter candy for exactly this occasion).
- If you have a little extra money, buy an inexpensive cotton candy machine. We have a small plastic one that costs around $25.
- Plan on corn dogs and popcorn for dinner.
- Go outside and play. Get dressed for whatever the temperature is, get a football, a kickball, or a beanbag, and head to the great outdoors. Play catch. Play football. Play tag or kickball or just go for a walk. Race from one mailbox to the next. Jump rope. Whatever you do, do it together and try not to get too competitive.
- Go ice skating or roller skating or miniature golfing, but only if the destination is not a big hotspot for your kids’ friends. (The idea is for them to spend time with you not to hook up with their buddies.) Ice skating is difficult if you haven’t done it much. As long as you all keep a good attitude you can fall down and get up and laugh together. Come home, make some hot cocoa, and then maybe watch your movie.
- Have a family Bible study. A devotional like Grace for the Moment: 365 Devotionals for Kids makes it easy to bring Bible stories and concepts to your kids’ understanding, and the conversations you’ll have afterward might surprise you! Follow the Bible study with a family cookie-baking session or craft time.
- Get out some board games. If your kids are younger like mine, you might pick something simple like the headband game or checkers or a basic card game. With older children, you can go for more complicated games. Let everybody choose one and play through them all or have a contest.
- When the weather is warmer, go for a picnic. Plan a meal that will travel, put it in some baskets or bags, and let your kids pick a dry spot where you can all eat and play.
- Make dinner together (and don’t forget a special dessert). My kids are little, and they love cooking with me. Yes, they make a mess. Yes, I have to clean it all up (though they’ll help). They are making memories and learning skills that will stay with them forever. You might even let them choose the menu.
- Have an art night. Get out all the art supplies you can pile onto your table. If you need inspiration, get out some art books from the library or look through some websites with great works. Recreate one of your favorites or – better yet – set up a still life scene that everyone can work on at the same time. You could do the same thing with craft supplies.
- Put on a play. You could choose a story from Five-Minute Fairy Tales or Five-Minute Bedtime Stories or write one together. Search your closets for costumes, and then act out your play in the living room. No audience? Set up some stuffed animals or action figures to take in your performance. Alternately, put on a puppet show instead.
As you can see, family fun nights are less about what you do, but more about who you get to do it with!
Whether it’s an annual activity or a spur-of-the-moment surprise, be intentional about it. Use it as a chance to connect with your family and help them connect with God. –Dave Stone, Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter