Written by Kara Fleck, Simple Kids editor and Rockin’ Granola mama.
I‘m starting a new series here on Simple Kids: the Friday Five. Every Friday, I’ll take a topic related to kids and parenting and share five hints, tips, or my favorite things.
The first Friday Five of 2013 is dedicated to family night.
Our family has been having what we call a Friday Night Nest for years. This tradition started when I was pregnant with my son and my husband was working second shift. I was often exhausted at the end of the day, and with no husband coming home for “back up” I needed a way to keep my child occupied and put my swollen feet up at the same time. My oldest daughter, who was four at the time, and I used to make a “nest” of every pillow and blanket in the house and then we would crawl into the nest and read stories or do puzzles or watch movies in the evenings.
Eventually the routine that evolved into our weekly family Friday Night Nest. Today we don’t often “nest” but we do set aside Friday nights as our family together time and we hold it sacred on our calendar.
We usually combine an activity with some type of food, either a full meal or a snack. What activity we pick may vary depending on how busy the rest of the week has been and what the budget looks like.
It can be a challenge to find something to do on Friday nights that appeals to the toddler, preschoolers, and the tween, but I think I’ve rounded up a good mix of ideas that are enjoyable for all ages, moms and dads included.
Here are five ideas for simple family night activities that have been successful at our house:
1. Homemade pizza and a movie
There’s a reason dinner and a movie is such a classic date night combination: food + entertainment = fun. It works for families, too.
Friday nights are pizza nights at our house. Making homemade pizzas is a fun (and fairly frugal) way to spend some time in the kitchen together. Plus, pizza making is awesome because it can double as a meal and an activity.
We like to make mini personal pizzas that everyone tops with their individual favorites. Add a family friendly movie (we use our Netflix and our Amazon Prime memberships for this) and you’ve got fun evening of togetherness.
If pizza isn’t your family’s thing, or you’d prefer to make other dinner plans, why not popcorn and a movie? One of our family’s best purchases of 2012 was a simple $20 counter-top popcorn popper. We use it all the time and it makes watching a movie together an event.
2. Family art night
One of our favorite things to do as a family is to have family art sessions. We began having these family art nights last fall and it really is a good time. We grab an abundance of art supplies, gather around the kitchen table, play some music, and create.
Sometimes this happens the week we’ve gotten our Kiwi Crate in the mail, sometimes we all work on a planned art project together as a group, and sometimes we’re simply gathered around the kitchen table working on our own individual projects.
Either way, it is a messy, magical, and fun way to spend some time together.
3. Read aloud
Pop some popcorn, grab your favorite cozy blankets, and read out loud. Choose a long chapter book, and return to it week after week, or work your way through a whole stack of picture books.
Let your kids pick their favorite books, inviting those who are reading to take a turn reading to everyone, or pick an audio book and you can all listen together.
Helpful Hint: get the wiggles out first. If you’ve got younger kids who might have a hard time settling in to listen, (ahem. Note Lucy in the photo above) perhaps an activity that burns off some energy first might be a good idea. Taking a walk around the neighborhood, playing a backyard game of tag or touch football, encouraging a wild living room pillow fight, or something active beforehand might help your little one to settle down and listen quietly.
4. Living room dance party
It’s time to move the coffee table out of the way, push the sofa up against the wall, and turn up the volume!
Take turns being deejay and make sure that you play plenty of oldies (but goodies) from when mom and dad were young, too. Do you have some musical talent in your family? Break out the instruments and have a jam session!
One of the nice things about a living room dance party is that it is a great way to use up a lot of energy and then, as the night goes on and bedtime looms, change the tempo of the music to ease little ones into nighttime and the end of the day.
5. Board games and puzzles
If your kids are old enough to enjoy them, break out the board games and the puzzles. We usually pick two or three games or puzzles geared toward the younger kids in our family first and then end the evening with a more challenging game that our tween enjoys after the littler ones have gone to bed. This gives us a fun family night, but also gives my husband and I a chance to spend some quality time with our oldest, too.
And, remember, you don’t have to purchase a boxed game – you can always make up your own board game or simply grab a pencil and a piece of paper and play hangman, tic tac toe, or the dots game.
How does your family do Family Night?