A family night could mean a different thing for different people.
Do you want it to be bonding, educational, fun, or relaxing? Or a bit of all of these. I am sure we can all agree that it is important to do things with your child. Sometimes board games or quizzes are great, but if it is likely to cause a meltdown as everyone is tired, maybe a jigsaw? If it is to physically bond, perhaps a film and popcorn. Things to think about are your aims, what mood the children are in, and what mood you want them in at the end! See our post about why it is essential to be PRESENT in whatever you do. Watching a film where you are on the other side of the room on your phone is not a bonding experience in your child’s eyes.
So, in summary, the critical aspect of a family night is that everyone is fully involved in it, and everyone present feels that their company at that moment is the most important thing.
Below are some of the options that you can do.
Family Nights in That Are Purely for Fun and Bonding
For most of us, a family night is often a movie night. However, this can be fraught with what to watch. With a range of ages and having seen Frozen lots of times already, this is a minefield. The easy solution is to alternate choices. If there is a movie session every week or so, so that the next choice is in the foreseeable future, it can often be easy. Also, don’t be afraid to put a classic film like ToyStory from our era. It will give you something to talk about later. The best site to recommend movies and what ages they are appropriate for is commonsensemedia.org. They are a non-profit organization where parents, children, and experts discuss the age appropriateness of films and other forms of media like computer games. My family and I find it more useful and specific, and my son, in particular, finds their more specific age guidelines far more helpful. It also had a search facility that helps you find films that might be related to something going on in your lives at the moment, like friendship and moving house.
We do films after bath and dinner. Onesies and popcorn under blankets. We sit on the same settee, phones in another room. For me, the movie needs to start and finish with enough time to discuss it and calm down before bed. It means that sometimes we would start a family night at 5 pm or even in the afternoon. After an exhausting and cold day out and about, a warm bath. As our children have got older, so we have moved this time back, but in my opinion, a film is not worth a disruption in sleep and the fallout that that can often cause. Of course, it doesn’t need to be a film, but a favorite TV show. With so much TV on demand, this can be a free option, and with programs often being less than an hour long, it makes it far more appropriate for bedtimes.
Does everyone have to do the same thing?
My wife and daughter love Strictly Come Dancing. On Saturday they watch that together. My son has no interest in it. So he and I do something different, like play Minecraft together or a game. Although it is great to do everything together to stop resentment and a negative outcome. It sometimes makes sense to do separate things.
Of course, it does not have to be based around a screen. We will sometimes have a karaoke night. My daughter loves this and is the star of the show. My son, who is far shyer, will join in with us in the end as long as we all partake and show it is the norm. They have a wide choice of songs that they sing. We also sometimes play music together. In particular, I am rubbish, so it is excellent for my children to take the lead. There could be other things in your household that are special to you. Before, I said that sometimes we make sure that we all sit in the same room and read. In all of these things, and whatever you might decide to do, the central theme is that you are present in the moment.
Family nights in can be Educational
This will depend on the age of your child. For toddlers, it could be a game with counting involved. However, don’t be scared to let them lead or win! At this age, any outcome has to have found around fun with learning some maths. If they struggle and find it demoralizing, they won’t want to do it again.
As the children get older, they can move to more competitive. Some great board games have two sets of questions, some for adults and some for children. For example Trivial Pursuits. Also, there are quicker versions of most versions of traditional board games such as Risk and Monopoly. These board games also come in themes meaning everyone in the family can enjoy the time. As they get older, so the games can get longer, a game of Risk can last several evenings. Here we review family board games.
Although it doesn’t necessarily count as a ‘night in.’ My children and I love playing card games in 10 minutes slots while the other is in the bath. There are many quick games, such as spoons, palace, and gin. They all involve some strategy which helps forward-thinking and, but is quick and if they lose they can have another chance to win soon.
Final Thoughts on How to Have a Great Family Night In
There is not such a thing as a model family night. It might be a combination of the things above. It is just an excellent opportunity to be present in each other’s company. Laugh together and maybe even cry together. Just put the phone away and let the children have a say.