Now that school is cranking up again and busy schedules are sending family members in different directions, it's easy to go days without spending much quality time together. One way to keep your family connections strong is to institute a Family Night where everyone can have fun together once a week.
What works for your family will depend on your children's ages and your family members' interests. Here are some tried and true ideas from Circle of Moms members to get you started.
Toddlers: Scavenger Hunts and Homemade Forts
Even though Family Night at her home looks a lot like other nights of the week, Jody K. deems one night special for playing games with her husband and 22-month-old. It doesn't matter if the game is store-bought or homemade, she simply wants to introduce her daughter to the concept.
Candi H.'s version of Family Night takes the form of scavenger hunts with her two toddlers, which she says worked very well even before they were able to read. She would set up the game when her kids were at day care, and they would be thrilled to jump in when they got home.
At this age, simple games are often the best. Classics like Ring Around the Rosie and hide and seek are perennial favorites, as are building with blocks and playing matching games. Changing up the lyrics to familiar songs like Hokey Pokey by subbing in nonsense words will keep many toddlere in stitches.
Susan M. has two clever suggestions. Her 21-month-old loves to play with Cheerios and measuring cups, transferring them to different-size bowls. And he also loves to hide out in homemade forts. My 29-month-old prefers to build "airplanes" out of pillows and blankets and fill them with "luggage" in the form of blocks. The he flies his plan to Italy!
Ages 4-10: Games, Movies, and Dinner Out
Moms of kids in this age group wonder if Family Night should be a reward or privilege, or if it should be a standing date, regardless of the children's behavior. While most prefer family night to be non-negotiable event, as the purpose is family togetherness, many still use aspects of their Family Nights to motivate good behavior. For instance, Amy shares that if her kids complete their homework or eat all of their dinner, they are allowed to choose a Family Night activity as a reward.
Danielle S. and her family have a Family Dinner Night in addition to game night. Though her crew has dinner together every night, her son really enjoys going out to restaurants, and this is what they do once a week as a fun outing. If he keeps up with his chores all week and does his homework, he gets to choose the restaurant.
Carla S. and her family use Family Night to get away from technology. No TV, no computers, just games of various kinds. Sharon G., on the other hand, instituted Family Night so her brood could see a movie together each week.
Ages 10+: Wii, Pizza, Cookie Baking...and Family Makeovers
When your kids reach the tween and teen years, moms say Family Night often becomes an opportunity for them to teach you a new skill! Charlene A.'s son is teaching her the Pokemon card game and also likes to reads aloud to her.
Chalene M. has a boy and a girl. Her son likes the family to cook together, and her daughter likes to do do makeovers for family members, including her husband. Not surprisingly, part of the fun is watching these transformations.
More traditonal choices are video games, pizza and movie nights, and homemade cookies.
Some, like Jessy B., indulge their teens' craving for Wii but play as a family. Laura S. even gets her kids to exercise with her!
Whatever you decide to do on Family Night, involve your kids in choosing the activity or event. It's never too late to start, and if what you do is fun for everyone, it's more likely to become a tradition!
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