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Okay, so maybe it isn't a major holiday or, for that matter, even a minor one. But April Fools' Day can be a fabulously fun occasion to celebrate with tweens and teens. Why not plan some playful pranks, goofy gags, or just a night of family fun? And there's no need to stop after just one day! Try these suggestions any time to help kids develop a sense of humor, to build bonds, and to create memories that will keep everyone smiling.Pull Some Pranks
Show your kids a few ways to "punk" their dad or siblings: You can try the classics, like switching salt for the pepper, rigging a "dancing" dollar bill with fishing line, or sneaking a plastic spider onto someone's dinner plate. Other good gags? Tint mayonnaise with green food coloring, switch your computer's screen saver to a slide show of embarrassing photos, or put a raisin "bug" in the toothpaste tube. Or get your sleepy teens with a breakfast prank: Pour a bowl of cereal with milk and freeze it overnight before serving, or try switching the cereal in the boxes (cornflakes for mini-wheats, for example). Encourage silliness but make sure to set boundaries so no one gets carried away.Hold a Stand-Up Shutdown
Turn your living room into an amateur stand-up night -- no hecklers allowed. Have your tweens borrow a kids' joke book from the local library or visit a site like kids.yahoo.com/jokes so they can pick out favorite laugh lines to recite for the family. Knock-knock jokes work well for younger kids. Teens can play host and emcee the evening, reenact a comic monologue, or tell a (clean!) joke from a famous comedian. Or if you're brave, put yourselves in the hot seat and let your children "roast" Mom and Dad. Make one kid your "roast master" and give each of your children the floor for 10 minutes to poke fun at your quirks.Put On a Funny Family Film Fest
Host your own comedy movie night. Introduce your children to oldies but goldies -- like Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, and the Little Rascals -- to a brand-new audience. Or gather to watch classic comedies from the '80s and '90s like The Princess Bride, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the Ace Ventura series, which are big on pratfalls and sight gags. Go the animated route with Ice Age, Shrek, and Monsters, Inc. for silly puns that teenagers will be old enough to appreciate. Or show a more current comedy like Astroboy or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Start a family improv night. Write down some silly scenarios (you're stuck in an elevator with a monkey, for instance) on slips of paper, break up into teams, and then draw your group's surprise situation out of a hat. Use props like kitchen utensils and sports gear to help play out the scene. Or have your kids act out moves like mowing the lawn or cutting down a tree while you supply the sound effects. Your players can talk through a script or a staged scene, then, on your cue, sing their lines instead. Or try some impromptu ad-libs (sans pens and paper), where the first speaker starts a sentence and each subsequent person adds a phrase. Be sure to tape the show so you can watch the funniest parts over and over again.Laugh at Yourself
Dig out old photos of you and your spouse sporting out-of-date haircuts and outfits (which are guaranteed to crack your kids up), or find their baby pictures and reminisce. You can also enlarge and print current photos of yourselves and have each person "decorate" them with mustaches and wild hairdos. Or make it a photo shoot and take pics of yourselves making funny faces. Computer programs like Mac's Photo Booth produce silly renderings of your images, with effects like funhouse mirrors that shrink and stretch.Challenge Your Funny Bone
Classic games like Twister and Simon Says will get everyone involved, and word games like Apples to Apples and Last Word (in which players shout out their answers) will give you a giggle when competition gets heated and players start spouting gibberish. Or head to a site like bigfishgames.com to find and play free online games together.Play Dress Up
Pull out old Halloween costumes (perhaps you have a few in storage that you used just once) and put them back to work again. Let your kids use dress-up accessories to turn Dad into a Power Ranger and Mom into Little Bo Peep, or find a "vintage" outfit from your glory days and dress one of your kids in it. You can also plan a mad clothing dash: Lay out shoes, pants, shirts, and hats in the backyard and race to see who can put them on the fastest and then run to the finish line.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, April 2010.