Look, we all know how hard it can be to get kids to want to participate in family activities — especially when they hit that very special tween age. But the truth of the matter is, when they reach adulthood, family nights are the times they are going to remember fondly. So how do you get your kids to to not only take part in family nights, but actually look forward to them? By planning events that are actually worth doing.
And while we love Netflix (who doesn't, right?) plopping down for a binge with the fam doesn't exactly bring y'all closer. But the right activities can encourage your family to interact with one another more — instead of being attached to a screen.
Whether you need one good idea or 50, we've got dozens of creative activities to keep you and your kids entertained.
1. Crafts. Bet you didn't know there were at least 16 things your kids could make with a plain paper plate.
2. Family mailboxes. Paint and decorate the family mailbox.
3. Vacation jar. Decorate a Family Vacation Jar in which you save change.
4. Newsletter. Create a family newsletter to send out to family and friends. This can be a monthly project.
5. Movie night. Have family movie night and watch old family videos together.
6. Star watching. Family star-watching night. Lay outside on a blanket in the yard and look up at the stars together. Try to map out constellations together. Afterward, look up the stories behind each constellation on the Internet.
7. Cookout and camping. Enjoy a cookout and campout. Pitch a tent in your yard and cook food over an open fire (or on the barbecue). Sit in a circle and tell ghost stories.
8. Volunteering. Volunteer as a family. Help out at a school fundraiser or serve meals at the local soup kitchen.
9. Baking. Bake together. Take turns picking favorite recipes out of a cookbook and let the kids and dad join in on the fun.
10. Playground. Go to the local playground and swing together or climb the monkey bars. Kids love it when parents play like they do.
Next Up: Lock your kids in a room together
Originally published October 2011. Updated August 2017.
11. Lock your kids in a room together. Just kidding! (Kind of.) Instead, set aside time for older and younger siblings to play alone together to learn leadership, teamwork, sharing — and to give mom and dad a break.
12. Explore your city. Pretend you're a family of tourists in a new city and see sights you've never seen before: museums, aquariums, local parks and hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
13. Musical instrument. Learn a musical instrument together. Find an instrument that every member of the family would enjoy playing and take turns learning a song. If everyone already plays an instrument, try learning a song together.
14. Obstacle course. Set up an obstacle coursein your backyard. Using things like hula hoops and jump ropes, create an outdoor obstacle course in which you can compete with each other for best time. This is not only a fun activity but also a great way to provide exercise for the whole family.
15. Zoo. Visit the zoo. Have each person write down which animal he liked best and what he learned about that animal.
16. Family photos. Take family photos. Get out the camera and have some fun taking photos of each other. Be silly, be serious and have fun.
17. Sock puppets. Make sock puppets. Gather some old socks, decorate them and then use them to put on a show.
18. Photo album. Make a family photo album. Have the kids pick photos from a recent vacation, family gathering or other event. Together, place the photos in a scrapbook with each member adding a funny saying or description to the photo they like best.
19. Family game show. Have a game show night. Set up a stage and give each family member a part as the host, contestant, etc. Use trivia games, word games or whatever you enjoy playing as part of the game show. Play for points or fake money.
20. Make a board game. Create your own family board game. Draw up a board on a piece of cardboard, make up rules and find interesting things around the house to use for game pieces.
Next Up: Turn trash into treasure
21. Turn trash into treasure. And start by making a super-cute airplane out of an old cereal box.
22. Root for the home team. Check out a local amateur sporting event, after you make a few homemade crafts to gear up for the big game.
23. Puzzle. Carve out some time for family puzzling. Bonus points for making a cookie puzzle that is good enough to eat.
24. Play in a box. Little kids especially will love reinventing an everyday cardboard box as a fort, playhouse or full-on cardboard city.
25. Card game. Introduce your kids to new card games and make things interesting by offering up "no chores" as the big prize.
26. Build a birdhouse. Make a birdhouse the old-fashioned way out of wood and nails, or make a cute (and edible) cookie birdhouse instead.
27. Genealogy. Work on a family genealogy chart together. Talk about distant relatives and family history.
28. Dance DVD. Rent a dance DVD and learn a new dance together.
29. Formal dinner. Have a formal family dinner. Set the table with your best tableware, have everyone dress up and use your best manners. Give everyone a fancy name and title -- like prince or princess -- and behave as one would. This is a fun way to teach table manners.
30. Biking. Calm kids down before bed by making a family bike ride a nightly after-dinner event.
Next Up: Nature walk
31. Nature walk. Go on a nature walk at a local park or outdoor trail – point out different types of trees and plants.
32. Show and tell. Play show and tell. Have each family member choose an item that is important to them and tell all about it.
33. Game stations. Set up game stations. Mom and dad can each have a different game station, and each child takes turns playing a quick game like Tic-Tac-Toe or Hangman with each parent separately. After 10 minutes, everyone switches. Older siblings can have a station, too, if there are several kids in the house so everyone is playing something all the time.
34. Write a story. Write a story together. Decide on characters and theme, and then let each family member come up with a one-page chapter for the book. Put it together and read aloud to find out what adventures the characters encounter.
35. Bubbles. Make your own bubble solution out of dish soap and water. Add glycerin if you have it for firmer bubbles. Go outside, blow bubbles, and chase and pop them.
36. Color. Color together. Bring out the pile of coloring books and bucket of crayons and have everyone sit at the dining room table and color. This is a good way to let the conversation flow while everyone is creating.
37. Take a class. Take a class together like cooking, drawing, ceramics, ballroom dancing or music lessons.
38. Visit a piece of history. Visit a local historical site. Learn about it together, take pictures and add it to your family album or newsletter.
39. Play casual sports. Play a casual game of baseball, football or basketball.
40. Play a round of Survivor. Learning age-appropriate wilderness survival skills is not only entertaining, it can empower kids while teaching them how to stay safe. Pretend like it's a zombie apocalypse, and you'll have your work cut out for you.
Next Up: Learn a language
41. Learn a language. This is the perfect opportunity to teach young kids about their unique culture and family heritage.
42. Name that tune. Play the original version of Name That Tune using the radio, or use this free app to make things fun and easy.
43. Make a cookbook. Make a family cookbook. Have every family member choose several of their favorite recipes and type it up. Make copies to pass out as gifts at Christmas.
44. Teach your dog a trick. Teach your dog some tricks. Learn how to teach simple tricks and have the entire family work with the dog on a new trick each week.
45. Make posters. Make collage posters. Set out a batch of old magazines to cut up, and print out some favorite family photos that can be used to create a decorative collage. Give every family member their own posterboard and let them each create a collage poster.
46. Make a centerpiece. Collect seasonal items outside, like leaves, branches, flowers, rocks or pine cones. Bring them inside to create a table centerpiece in a bowl or jar.
47. Paint a mug. Paint your own mug. Buy inexpensive glass mugs and acrylic paint, and have each family member decorate a mug for their own use.
48. Read under a blanket. Read under a blanket tent. Set up a huge blanket tent in the living room and have the entire family sit under it while one family member reads a favorite book out loud.
49. Cook together. Cook a meal that everyone agrees on and let the whole family help in preparing it -- because making a full Italian family meal with all the courses is surprisingly easy.
50. Make a family movie. Write up a script together, put together some costumes and film it.