Planning an activity for the whole family can get pretty tough, especially when zillions of other things compete for your children's attention. Here are some great activities for family night that will win your little ones over, hands down.
For families with teens
Allow your teens to stretch their creative minds while you get to know a little more about them in the process. Have your teen draw a self-portrait. If she thinks the idea is lame, tell her that she can use any art form to create the portrait -- buttons, straws, spaghetti noodles, etc.
Alternatively, have your teens research an artist online. Once they pick an artist, choose a portrait by that artist and re-create it. Allow them to hang their creations in the living room, dining room or other public areas of your home.
All about me
Have your child create his own personal movie, soundtrack and movie poster. Who plays the starring role? Ask him about songs that remind him of great life events: When his little sister was born, the first time he drove a car, his first kiss, his first day of high school, etc.
Bust out the board games and enjoy a night of old-fashioned family fun. If teens think that board games are too outdated, grab the Wii or the XBOX and play something together.
Families who work out together stay together. Go for a run or a bike ride together, or just stretch the muscles. Jazz up the workouts by designating a different trainer every night. Teens will get to spend time with the family and stay healthy at the same time.
If you need to burn some of your children's energy and but don't have much time, create a playlist of upbeat songs, clear some room in the living room and let them dance away. Kids of all ages have fun dancing, including babies and toddlers. Make the activity cooperative by creating dances to teach to the rest of the family -- or do a follow-the-leader dance, in which everyone takes turn being the dance leader, and the rest of the family follows.
Another idea: Grab the camcorder and post the videos to Youtube to share with other family members.
All children love to play dress-up. Young kids can create their own superhero outfits with whatever is in their bedrooms, and name the heroes based on the colors in their outfits. They also can come up with crazy outfits in which you would never let them leave the house.
At the table, whisper an outrageous word, such as "outgrageous." When another member of the family repeats the word more loudly, you say it with an even louder voice. Every time the word is repeated, it should be said at a higher level, until finally, the word is being screamed.
Families with one child
Celebrity for a day
Allow your child to be the celebrity for the evening. She can pick out everything that you all do together, including dinner, dessert and activity. Tell the child that, if she is a celebrity, she has to put on a show for Mom and Dad in that celebrity's specialty. For example, an actress must put on a play at the end of the night.
Create an evening completely devoted to books. Whether the family reads one together or separately, share your thoughts on the book and provide a summary to other family members. Ask questions, such as whether the child would recommend the book to others, and why.
Another idea: Write your own family book. Create characters, scenery, plot, etc. Teach the child about the components of a well written story, and guide the child through the process.
Have the child take a parent out on a date. Provide some money, and let the child choose the location and the activity. Teach him the proper way to open a door, sit at the table, etc.
If you're short on cash, set up your home like a restaurant. The child can be the waiter, while Mom and Dad are out to dinner. Switch roles occasionally, and make a mini-math lesson by adding the cost of food and then subtracting by the amount of cash given.
Up next: More family-night activities >>