Do you guys do family night?
I read in one of my favorite parenting books that it was an important thing to establish early on. You know, promotes communication, sibling and parent/child bonding, will make your kiddos confide in you more when they’re older, yadda, yadda.
So, we established family game night… And it was awful.
There was SO MUCH whining and pouting, and lots of the general mayhem and misery that occurs when a preschooler looses an all-important game of Chutes & Ladders.
I was all ready to throw in the towel on family night when I had an epiphany – “Family Night” doesn’t have to be “Family Game Night”. Or, at the very least, it doesn’t have to be “Sibling Fight for Ultimate Supremacy Night”.
Since realizing that it was the pitting the kids against each other that was our specific undoing, things have been so much better! I talked to our contributor, Kristin, who’s kids are significantly older than mine about this and, wise parenting sage that she is, she totally got it.
She also had so many more genius tips for Family Night that I asked her to write them down for us – here and now. You’re welcome.
I was recently talking with a friend about families. She mentioned that she’s a lot like her dad. He was quiet and sometimes their interactions were a bit reserved.
He was raised in the same type of home, so it was what he was familiar with. We discussed the ways that our family environments set the tone for the types of relationships we have.
The foundation for our relationships are built on the work we put in day in and day out. Intentional conversations are certainly important, but the memories that kids have are often made from the fun times we spend as families. What better way to create the space for these than to have a consistent family night.
I’m a mom of two teenagers and a middle-schooler. Our family has had all kinds of family nights, from game nights to movie nights. Some more successful than others.
Here are a few tips to make the most out of your family night:
1. Consider your audience. While spending time reflecting and sharing what you’re thankful for with one another might seem like a very meaningful experience, your three year old would tend to disagree. Planning a family night for multi-aged children can be tricky for this reason. Try to get the older children on board with the idea and include them in the planning process so they can help you convince the littles of the plan’s utter brilliance.
2. Once you’ve got your concept nailed, think about the things that could go wrong. I know this sounds extremely negative, but think of it as trouble-shooting. If you’re planning a game night, think about the fact that someone might cry if they lose. Or maybe the game could go on forever and everyone will lose interest. When we play Monopoly as a family, we start by giving the kids properties. This fast-tracks the game and the kids feel like they are already winning. If you can steer away from problems before they even start, you’ll be in for a great time.
3. Get creative! Game nights and movie nights are an easy go-to, but try to venture out and try new things. Learning to cook something new as a family or taking a long hike will bond you through new experiences.
4. Remember the point of a family night. If you already have a very busy schedule, you may want to plan a monthly family night instead of weekly. If the family night feels like one more box to check and adds stress to your life, then you’re missing the point. The family night should bond you together and be something you look forward to.
5. Go for Collaboration over Competition. With young kids, especially, game night as family night can indeed be tricky. No one likes to lose after all. And while losing is an important life lesson, it may be one best reserved for a time when you’re not trying to promote a feeling of family connection. One of Steph’s favorite new tricks for family night with her 6, 4, and 1-year-old is to ditch the competitive games all together and work on a jigsaw puzzle together instead.
Now that we’ve some tips to make our family night successful, what should we do? Plan it out with your spouse or your older children. You may want the event to be consistent (always a game, always a sport or always a movie) or you may want to surprise the kids with something new every time!
Ideas for Family Nights
1. Game Night – Pit parents against the kids (a great strategy to take off some of the competitive edge) with a board game like our new favorite Beat the Parents (or just adapt any board game with kid vs. parent teams).
Or adapt a classic, like the earlier Monopoly example, to help level the playing field. Another non-competitive game that’s great for all ages is Twister.
2. Movie/TV Night – As my kids have gotten older, we’ve chosen shows to watch that all of us enjoy. Our current favorites are Master Chef Jr. and America’s Got Talent. Watching a weekly show doesn’t just zone them out to the TV, it actually creates a jumping off point for some lively conversations.
My kids like discussing who will win. If you’re into movies, you could try introducing your kids to some of your favorite movies from when you were a kid.
3. Sports Night – Younger kids might have fun kicking a soccer ball at the local park. Older kids could enjoy bringing tennis rackets to the local court or playing volleyball on the sand. Take advantage of what is available around you and have fun learning together.
4. Night of New Experiences – This might be a better option for those of you that are doing monthly family nights. Pick something totally unfamiliar to do together.
It might be a kids comedy club or taking a cooking class. You can laugh about the highs and lows of the experience long after it happens. Younger kids might enjoy going to a fun zone they’ve only recently gotten big enough for or simply making a new play dough recipe at home.
5. Seasonal Night – You’ve heard of adults talking about their Summer Bucket List. Make a bucket list for each season and check them off on family night. Our summer bucket list includes a drive-in movie, making popsicles and having a beach bonfire.
Looking for ideas on how to get together as a family that are specific to summer? Check out our Top Backyard Play Ideas for Families and Best Family Activities for Summer Days HERE!
And be sure to also check out our uber popular gift guide (IF your kids are ready for it!):
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