Friday rarely comes and goes in our house without a family fun night. It’s one way we can unwind from the stress of the week and toss our cares out the window. It’s also a way to connect and bond as a family. Knowing that my children have many things competing for their attention, I long to help them cherish family time for years to come.
3 Keys to the Best Family Fun Night
- SIMPLICITY – I’ve found that the key to an awesome family fun night is simplicity. I don’t try to invent anything new. In fact, I usually draw from “old-fashioned” ideas. You know what I’m talking about, right–all those games you used to play as a kid that seemed really cool at the time? No one plays them anymore, but they are still just as cool.
- THEMES – I had the idea to take those old-fashioned games and re-invent their popularity through a theme. In the process, I discovered a secret. If you have a theme, you can do just about anything and it seems cool to the kids. In fact, I have even played the same exact game in many cases. I just name it something theme-related and my kids still tell me every time we have a new family fun night that it is the coolest one EVER! (Shh…don’t tell them my secrets.)
- COST – Another key element to a great family fun night is cost. It’s the old box theory. You know how you buy them all of those cool toys only to find that they spend hours playing with the box? Well, there aren’t many boxes in these games, but you get the idea. Keep the cost down! I try to reinvent some of the games or activities using items we already have available to us. Need a hockey stick? Why not use a kitchen spatula? My goal is to spend less than $5 for family fun night and I find it generally very easy to do!
Are you convinced, mama? Trust me when I say that I know you are busy and it is hard to put together fun things sometimes. That’s why I’ve come up with some family fun nights to get you going! The days are short and the moments are fleeting, so let’s go have some fun!
Family Fun Night Ideas
Fooled Ya Dinner
Open Mic Joke Time
Once dinner is over and you’ve enjoyed a nice round of laughs, it’s time for open mic night. We simply set up our living room so that all seating faces a central “stage” area. If you have an elevated box that can serve as a stage, even better. But it’s not necessary. Sometimes we even use something as simple as a couch cushion or a flattened box.
My kids like to be prepared for this and enjoy spending the week researching and digging around for the best jokes. But you could also make a list. Either way, your whole family will be rolling on the floor as each member has a chance to work the crowd with their hilarious jokes.
Silly Face Making Contest
We like to play this in rounds. First up, two family members go head-to-head displaying their silliest face on the count of 3. The other members vote on which was the silliest. The winner contends with another family member until he has lost his reign as silliest face maker.
If you prefer to eliminate the competition aspect, simply have everyone in the family make a silly face at the same time. Snap a few family selfies to preserve the memory! Another fun twist would be to download and print photo booth props and take funny pictures in your own family “photo booth.”
Super Sleuth Family Fun Night
The Missing Dinner
For this mysterious family fun night, prepare a typical or even a special dinner while the rest of the family is busy doing something. No worries if they see you working. Then sneak the family into a special room or send them on an errand just before it’s ready and hide your dinner all around the house. Leave a note on the table that says, “Oh dear, dinner seems to be missing. Can you find any clues that might tell us where it has gone?”
Then leave a really obvious clue like a trail of rice to the laundry room. Once they get to that room and find the bowl of rice, rush it to the already set table and look for the other items. You can leave obvious clues to the next item or you can leave a note under the bowl of rice. The sky is the limit here. Just have fun. The idea isn’t to make this too hard. The food will be cold and that wouldn’t be desirable. The goal is simply to mix it up and make dinner a little more interesting!
While You Were Sleeping
To play this game, all family members lie face down on the floor in the living room. One person will play the sheriff. He then turns off the lights and “steals” something from the room, perhaps a doll, toy, or even wallet if you can pull it off. Then the sheriff will hide this item from the others. Any room in the house is permissible. Once the item is hidden, the sheriff will announce that it’s morning and then tell a story something like this.
“It was a crazy night last night in the Sorgius house as mom’s purse was stolen by wild monkeys wearing pink tutus. The thieves have gone off to find more bananas. Can you help me find it?”
The first person to find the item gets to be the sheriff for the next round. Be sure you let the little ones win after a few rounds. Their stories are hilarious!
Flash Light Hide and Seek
This game is exactly what it sounds like. All family members get a tiny flashlight. They hide in the dark until the person who is “it” can find them. The last person found is “it” for the next round.
LEGO Fun Night
The game is simple. See how many LEGOs you can get into a bucket. I gave each child 30 small pieces in a cup. Keeping with the spirit of frugality, we used kitchen bowls and a bead bucket for our targets. It was actually quite challenging to get them in the buckets!
Cram them In
In one minute, see how many LEGOs you can get into your hand. I laid the LEGOs in a pile on the table, removing the larger platforms. Next, I set the timer for one minute, and CRAM! The strategy was genius in this game. One of my kids got the smallest pieces and blew everyone else out of the water. On the second round, another kid actually connected them and built a tower to hold in her hand.
Each player chooses a color. When the timer starts, they have to make a tower using only that color. At the end of one minute, the player who used the most of their color wins. There is no height requirement on this game!
At the end of one minute, the player with the tallest tower wins. I added the rule that their tower had to stand without them touching it.
Knock ‘Em Down
For this game, we added a few extra materials. We made a tower out of plastic cups and placed LEGO people in various places. With a Nerf dart gun, the kids had to knock down as many people as possible. If you don’t have plastic cups, use building blocks of some kind.
Spoons Family Fun Night
The Game of Spoons
To play, you simply need a deck of cards and enough spoons for one less than the number of players. (So, if you have five players, you only need four spoons.) The deck is shuffled and four cards are dealt to each player.
The goal of the game is to collect four of a kind. You draw from the stack and discard any card you wish: either from your hand or the one you drew. You can never have more than four cards at a time in your hand. Your discard stack becomes the next person’s drawing stack and it goes on and on around the table.
The object of the game is to move very fast–the faster the better. When a player gets four of a kind, he picks up a spoon from the table. Other players may follow. The last player will be left without a spoon. He then gets a mark against him: the letter “s.”
You keep playing rounds, collecting letters for the one without a spoon, until someone spells the whole word “spoons.” That person is out. The game can continue without him and with one less spoon. (If you don’t feel like using a deck of cards and your kitchen spoons, you can buy a formal version of Spoons here.)
You could go all out and have a mandatory spoon night for dinner. All food must be eaten with a spoon. It’s sure to win lots of laughs. Especially if you serve spaghetti.
This time, we decided to make whipped cream spoons for our chocolate pudding. I simply got a can of whipped cream from the dairy case and sprayed it onto a spoon. Then I topped it with sprinkles and the kids ate it with pudding. You could do Jello as well!
Fun with Balloons
One of the least expensive family fun night ideas is balloon night. And who doesn’t love balloons?! I’ve created a list of about 10 games to play with balloons.
1. Balloon Keep-up: Don’t let the balloon touch the floor. See how long the family can keep it in the air (hint: station big people closer to little people).
2. Balloon Hockey: We used the paper plate “paddles” for this game, but you can also use kitchen utensils. Players had to try and hit the balloon into their team’s “goal.” I made goals out of laundry baskets and placed them across from each other in the living room.
3. Balloon Tennis: Using the “rackets,” bump the balloons back and forth to your partner. I really prefer open-ended games since my kids are still little, but you could keep score, giving points to the other team when their opponent’s balloon hits the floor.
4. Balloon Hula: Two players hold up the hula hoop for others. The object of this game is to use the paddle to hit the balloon through a hula hoop. For little guys, I just let them toss it in with their hands.
5. Balloon Waddle: Stand two kids side by side and place the ball between their hips. Now send them across the room and see if they can get there without dropping the balloon.
6. Balloon Catch: Give half of the players a large mixing bowl and half of the players a balloon. Have them toss the balloon to see if they can catch it in the bowl. You can also fold a piece of cardstock paper into a cone shape and catch the balloons in the cone.
7. Balloon Head Bump: Players must keep their balloon in the air and off the floor only using their heads. If the balloon falls to the floor they are out. Last one with their balloon in the air wins. You can play this multiple times; it will go quick.
8. Balloon Finger Balance: Players have to balance their balloon on their finger. Their finger must be in contact with the balloon at all times.
9. Balloon Volleyball: We used our couch as a net and hit the balloon across to each other. Each team will hit the balloon and score points when they are able to get the balloon to hit the ground on the opposite side. If a balloon is popped, the team who popped it loses a point. You can set a point value to reach for which team will be the winner.
10. Balloon Pop: At the end of the night, I let the kids race to see who could find the secret messages that I hid in the balloons before blowing them up. After they pop one balloon, they have to run a lap around the couch before popping another one.
Progressive Dinner Family Fun
We start off with appetizers. Is there a restaurant that has an appetizer your family loves? If so, that should be your first stop. We like to go to Carrabas for their zucchini fries. One simple appetizer and water to drink is sufficient for this stop.
For the dinner portion of the meal, I like to find a place that does “kids eat free” options. Do you know which restaurants offer free kids’ meals in your area? A quick online search can tell you!
Of course, no progressive dinner would be complete without dessert. You could go all out and sit down at a nice restaurant or you could stop into McDonalds for $1 ice cream cones. Chances are, your kids are like mine and think that both are the best thing ever.
Restaurant Scavenger Hunt
These next two ideas use some of my free printables (download below)! The rules are simple. Find as many of the items as possible. I intentionally made this difficult. The biggest reason is that it’s supposed to be family fun night, so I intended to work together as a family. You could work in pairs or teams, too. Instead of putting checkmarks in the boxes, try putting the initials of the person who spotted it.
ABC Restaurant Hunt
Much like the scavenger hunt above, we are looking around the restaurant for clues, but this one is much more open. The goal is to find things that start with each letter of the alphabet.
Fun with Glowsticks
Glowstick River Jump
This game is simple, but a river of fun! Simply connect your glowsticks together in a straight line. Place two rows parallel about 4-6 inches apart and have the kids jump across the “river.” With each jump, scoot the lines a little farther apart. If their feet take a dip in the river, they are out. The last child standing is the winner!
Glowstick Frisbee Throw
This is probably my kids’ favorite Glowstick Mania game. Simply connect the glow sticks into circles. Different sizes make it fun, so don’t be shy. We use a short hallway across our house and attempt the throw the “frisbees” into the alcove. You can keep score if your family is the competitive type. If not, just take turns seeing how many you can get in the alcove or any other target area you choose.
Glowstick Ring Toss
I’m all about simple and easy when it comes to Family Fun Nights. This ring toss is made out of the paper towel holder from the kitchen. Talk about multi-functional! I bet you didn’t know that your paper towel holder could be so useful, did you?
Don’t be boring with your ring toss either. Think of all the different ways you could try tossing: while hopping on one foot, behind your back, jumping in the air, toss it from your head, or do a spinning toss.
Glowstick Drink Cups
Usually it’s at this point when we are dying of thirst. So stop and throw those glowsticks around your drink cups for a fluorescent treat. For a secret surprise, put the glowsticks on the cups before your fun starts and stick them in the fridge. Pull them out when you need them for a GLOWing surprise!
Glowstick Hide and Seek
This game was the one we first started with years ago. It’s simple. One person hides all of the glowsticks in the room and the rest of the family finds them. Make it harder by expanding the game to the whole house. Or change up the game and make glowstick necklaces to wear and play traditional hide and seek (in the dark). It’s super fun!
Glowstick Dance Party
Glowsticks are great fun when they are twirling through the air. So, crank up your favorite tunes and dance. I’m sure you’ll come up with all kinds of moves to try. Here are some of our favorites:
- Connect the glowsticks and make a jumprope
- Make a short rope and spin it through the air
- Put circles on your arms and twirl them like a hula hoop
- Conduct the music with a glowstick
- Put them in your hair (if wearing a pony tail)
Frozen Family Fun Night
Whether your family loves the Frozen movies or not, this family fun night promises loads of laughter!
My kids think that a “snack” dinner is the best kind, so it was easy to find fun food for my theme. Here are some ideas to get you started on a fun FROZEN dinner!
- Snowcapped mountains: boiled eggs
- Icicles: cheese sticks.
- Snowman nose: carrots
- Snowman arms: pretzels
- Tiny snowballs: mini marshmallows
- Giant snowballs: white donuts (this is the only item I bought just for the event)
- Frozen grapes
North Mountain Snowball Toss
Materials: scrap paper, plastic/paper cups
To play this game, simply crumple up the scrap paper to make snowballs. Set up your North Mountain by stacking the cups. Then toss the snowballs and try to knock over “North Mountain.” Easy peasy!
Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
Materials: roll of toilet paper, black and orange construction paper, tape
Cut out two eyes and a nose for your snowman. To play, one child is the snowman and the other “creates” him by wrapping his body with toilet paper and then affixing the eyes and nose. You can race, but with little ones this causes frustration as the toilet paper might break. We didn’t race in my family. I just told them to make the snowman and the kids still thought it was the best game ever!
Hot Chocolate for Anna
Materials: mini marshmallows, mugs, chopsticks (or teeth)
To play the game simply use the chopsticks (or your teeth) to drop as many marshmallows in the mug as possible. The timer is set for one minute and the player with the most marshmallows in her mug when the timer goes off, wins!
Fun Family Dinner Ideas
A meaningful and fun family dinner doesn’t have to be something elaborate and time consuming all the time. Perhaps sometimes, but most of the time, it can be very simple and FRUGAL! Here are some of the best ideas that I could find from my friends around the web.
Do Something Different
- Eat by candlelight.
- Have dinner on the ground or under the table.
- Get out the china and cloth napkins and have a “fancy” dinner.
- Play restaurant– create menus, take orders, etc. Make it a game with Order Up cards and menus.
- Play a game like Family Time Fun Dinner Games and Activities.
- Have a scavenger hunt for your food.
- Have a fun conversation using Conversation Starters.
Create a Dinner Theme
Historical themes: Create a dinner theme around a period of time in history. Have a Medieval Times Night or Viking Night. Come to dinner with helmets, shields, and swords. And of course, eat with your hands. Or study geography through your meal.
Ethnic themes: Base the night around a particular type of ethnic food. Try Italian night, Mexican night, or grab some chopsticks and have a Chinese night.
Kids’ book themes: I love the idea of reading a book together and creating a dinner theme around that book. Here are just a few ideas: Stone Soup, Green Eggs and Ham, Dragons Love Tacos, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Very Hungry Caterpillar. Have a pasta night for Strega Nona or just have a children’s book night and throw many different books in like they did for this baby shower.
Make the Food Fun
- Make Your Own Pizza Buffet: We always use English muffins, then add sauce and toppings as desired. Bake in toaster oven or regular oven at 350 for about 10 minutes.
- Banana Split Buffet
- Have a Fondue party
- Serve up dinner in muffin tins. I do mine a little bit differently and serve it family style. Most people use a 6 Cup Muffin Pan as an individual serving tray. You can also get reusable cupcake liners and set them on plates. My kids love that. Although I really think that just about anything fits in a muffin tin, you can find lots of savory recipes for Muffin Tin Dinners here.
- Make some Foodimals (ya know, food that looks like animals)
Family Fun Night iPad Style
It all started with Bloop Tabletop Finger Frenzy. Let me tell you, this game is so much fun that no one will want to stop. Even my three-year-old could easily play this finger-tapping game. The goal is simple: tap the most squares of your color. Trust me, fingers will be flying!
Next, we moved on to Mad Libs. You probably remember Mad Libs from when we were kids. The object of the game is to create a silly/crazy story by putting in random nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Shh…don’t tell the kids that this is a GREAT grammar lesson! With a little help, my three-year-old was loving this game, too. I was so impressed at the great words that everyone came up with, and, of course, we laughed ourselves silly!
Just when I thought that there was no way this family fun night could get any better, we opened up Ticket to Ride. This award-winning board game has turned digital and it’s amazing. Up to five players can play on one iPad as you pass the fun back and forth. This game is full of strategy, so the little guys might not be as interested, but my other children loved it. I know this will be a new family favorite.
Do you have some other family fun night ideas? Tell us in the comments!