The Friday Five: simple ideas for family night


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.

If you’re looking for some art making inspiration, I highly suggest a visit over to Tinkerlab and, if you’re on Instagram, following Rachelle’s #CreativeTable hash tag.


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?

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. Kara! We are on the same wavelength: I wrote today about how we’re using our newly reclaimed weekends well, and how we’ve been casting about for fun family traditions for the weekends. I LOVE these ideas. Of course movie night and pizza night are on my short list, but art in the evening and a deliberate (not impromptu) family dance party? Brilliant and perfect for the stage my family’s in.

    Thanks, dear. Looking forward to more Friday Fives!
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy´s latest post: On Not Letting My (New and Novel) Weekends Slip Through My Fingers

  2. These are great ideas, Kara! We do vartiations of the same! Another thing we do is Family Sleepover Night. We pair off, kid with parent and have a little sleepover party together. My daughter and I watch nature documentaries, eat popcorn and cuddle in my bed and then drift off to sleep together. My son and hub do the same (star wars movie instead). We have a small family so this is straight forward, but I have a friend with 5 kids who does the same: girls with mom and boys with dad. I hope to carry this tradition into their teens, so we can have those important conversations that those years bring.
    Robin from Frugal Family Times´s latest post: A Super Bowl Party Game that’s fun for non-fans, too! (2013 edition)

  3. When we were kids, our favorite game to play was “Spotlight” which involved us begging our parents to give us all flashlights, turn on “fast” music, and then turn off all the lights. One kid got to dance in the middle while the rest of us wildly waved the flashlights around. Sort of like a dance club, I guess! 🙂 So that could add an extra fun dimension to family dance night!
    Laura´s latest post: I Still Haven’t Done Any Dishes

  4. We also do family pizza night on Fridays. Love the idea of incorporating mini ones so we all get exactly what we want. Our new treat for the kids is they get to have a sleep over together. They are still in separate rooms but we let me 4 year old create a little nest beneath her brother’s crib on Friday nights. It’s so much fun to listen to them talk to each other!
    Emily @Random Recycling´s latest post: Does This Look Like a Walking Billboard to You?

  5. These are all wonderful! I love the ideas in the comments too.

    Another family night idea we have been using is playing together. We put our box of Duplos or Citiblocks in the living room and just hang out and build.

    Sometimes we also play hide and seek with the children in the house. They love when the parents play.

    Thanks so much for these awesome ideas!

  6. These are great ideas! We try and do pizza and a movie or game on Friday nights.
    Heather´s latest post: what i am eating #14

  7. We don’t have a set night, but we do many of the things you mentioned spontaneously through the month. Another one of my favorite family activities is having a bonfire. It’s so nice sitting around a fire, roasting marshmallows, and enjoying each other’s conversation.
    Paula´s latest post: Finding Joy in God

  8. I love the idea of family art night! Thanks Kara! We regularly do family movie night & our boys think the popcorn on the couch is a big part of the fun (since we reserve as a special movie night treat). My oldest got a telescope for Christmas, so lately we’ve been going outside at night to look at the stars. We have of course been known to have a dance party or two, but most of those happen around here in the late afternoon : )
    Jennifer´s latest post: Valentine’s Family Love Playlist & Giveaway

  9. Love the ideas! We just started doing a once-a-month family fun night, planned by one of our kids (ages 8 and 11). We had such a blast in January with my daughter’s snow-themed family fun night (see link below) that I can’t wait for next month when my son and I will set up the living room like a restaurant for my husband and daughter to have a Daddy/daughter date night!
    Brenda´s latest post: Cheap, Snow-Themed Family Fun Night!

  10. We do Friday night family night as well…always have since we have had kids I guess! Our most common is pizza and a board game, but sometimes we do a short show or movie, and we’ve also done craft/art night every now and then! The only one we haven’t done is the dance party:)

    I think family night is so important! Great tips!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau´s latest post: The flip side of a simple life

  11. We just had family game night last night. We played Monopoly, which lasted until Molly tried to eat the dice and Matthew robbed the bank. Hopefully when they’re a little older…
    Annette´s latest post: St. Brigid’s Day and Candlemas Too

  12. Thank you for such a great list! So often, I feel like our little family gets wrapped up in what *needs* to get done that we forget to set aside time to just have fun.

    I love all these ideas. Now I just need to figure out a little reminder for myself to incorporate them. For those of you who do family nights every week, how do you decide what to do? Do the kids chime in?
    Kelly´s latest post: The 14 Best Love Songs You’ve Never Heard

    • Every Friday is Family Movie Night for our family. It is a totally set thing and we just do it. I’m not sure how we got going with it , but I think giving our movie night an official name made it pretty set in stone–there isn’t anything to decide or remember, we just do it! We have had issues a few times when one child doesn’t like the movie that the other one picks (they take turns), but overall it works out great. We also have popcorn and/or pizza pretty much every time. My kids are 9 and 11, so I don’t know if Family Movie Night will last forever, but it has been great for the last few years (yes, we have been doing it for a long time!).

  13. Love these ideas and the start of the new series! Our preschool used to host a monthly “flashlight night” for parents to have a date night, and my kids LOVED getting to run around in their PJs with flashlights. You’ve inspired me to do that as a family night activity. I also love the intentionality of having a regular “family night” – a way to make sure we are doing these things AND communicate to our kids that family time is important and valued.

  14. These are great ideas! Special family time is so important. I have 2 little ones and we love to sit and snuggle and read or prepare a yummy snack together and watch a movie. Another fun thing we do is surround ourselves in every stuffed animal in the house. The toddler LOVES this!
    Mel@ThDizzyMom´s latest post: Let Them See You

  15. OH I love this! What a great list. We usually do a movie and popcorn Friday nights, but there are some other fab ideas in here! Cna’t wait to try them.
    Natalie´s latest post: Wooden Teething Necklace for Mom & Baby – Donut by Rewoodtoys

  16. Those are all great ideas….


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