Family Fun Night

Gather the clan for fun and bonding -- any time of the year.
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Family nights are a great way for families to pass down values and beliefs in the context of spending time together. It's times like this where memories are created. Here are some great ideas to spur your family fun.

Schedule a movie night. Rent a video the whole family wants to see, and settle in with a big bowl of popcorn. Take time to talk about the movie afterwards.

After the holidays, have a thank-you writing night. Let children decorate cards and stamp the envelopes, while you write the notes and address the envelopes.

Make "sweet talk." On Valentine's Day -- or any day you want to make family members feel special -- pass around a handmade crown and let everyone tell the person wearing it why she's special. Give out paper hearts noting each quality.

Have an old-fashioned picnic in your backyard or at a local park. Squeeze your own lemonade and bake your own cookies before you go. (No store-bought junk food allowed!) Then play games lost to the modern video generation like kick the can, hopscotch and hula-hoop.

Everyone wins on cooperative game night. Choose games -- or create your own -- where playing is a group effort. For example: everyone gives verbal coaching to help the blindfolded player pin the tail on the donkey; in musical chairs the players who don't get a seat have to pile on those who do.

Take a family hike or bike ride. Explore a new scenic spot or an unfamiliar neighborhood. Talk about what you see and how things are different from where you usually go.

Look for the Big Dipper. Let children stay up after dark and stargaze. Take a blanket and lie outside looking up at the stars. Everyone gets to make a wish on a star.

Plan the upcoming holidays. Talk about what's going to happen and who's coming to visit. Examine photos from previous holidays so kids can prepare for what can be a happy, though often stressful, time.

Initiate a family band night. Let young and old pick their favorite songs. Even toddlers can blow a horn or bang a drum.

Celebrate United Nations night. Choose a foreign country and make a special meal using foods from that nation. It can be as simple as having Italian pasta or Spanish rice and beans. Point out the country on a map.

Create a non-holiday holiday that's all your own. Have children participate in the planning of these occasions: the anniversary of the day you moved into your new house; a back-to-school party; an "I lost my first tooth" party; or even Thanksgiving in July, with all the trimmings.

Practice patriotism. Find something more in American holidays that are often celebrated as merely a day off. Visit for ideas for Veteran's Day, President's Day, Flag Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Teach your children about the significance in our nation's history and use the holidays to visit national monuments or historic places.



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