By Tracey Black, REDBOOK.
Now that my kids are back in school, I feel a bit wistful of our carefree summer days. We went to the beach, chased butterflies in the backyard, and visited to every park in a 5-mile radius to our house.
My kids, on the other hand, love the fall. They like the shorter days and earlier sunsets (I, of course, beg to differ) because they love the idea of being up at night. It doesn't matter how much I explain that 7 p.m. is the same time whether it's full daylight or pitch black outside. They just think they're up past their bedtime.
So while the days get darker earlier and colder (I know I shouldn't complain, but I am from Hawaii), we like to find new ways to have fun indoors.
Related: Top 5 Worst Lunch Foods for Kids
Here are a few of our family-fun night activities:
1. Kid/Parent Date Night
My kids love one-on-one time with mom and dad, and changing it up to a "date night" out just makes it even more special. We've done everything from miniature golf to laser tag to watching the latest movie at a theater. We try to keep it focused on spending quality time together rather than shopping or buying goods - and I'm often using coupons or discounts I find online to keep costs down.
I admit we're not big on outdoor camping, but my kids love camping indoors - especially in my room. They've grown so big that they can't fit in my bed anymore. So we set up a tent with sleeping bags in my room so they can camp in. We'll stay up late eating treats, make shadow puppets, and tell ghost stories like a real camping trip, but I still get to sleep in my bed at the end of the night.
Related: 20 Things Every Mom Should Know
3. Nature Night Walk
This is a kid-favorite. Once the stars come out, we take the kids on a night walk around the neighborhood. They really enjoy the feeling of being outside when everyone else is indoors (again, the forbidden stay-up-too-late thing). We'll look at constellations, observe phases of the moon, watch cars go by with their lights on, and listen to the cacophony of crickets, frogs, and other creatures. When it gets cooler, sometimes we'll opt for a night drive instead.
This is great especially during the winter when holiday lights go up around our neighborhood. We tell our kids we're going "exploring" and try to find new areas to explore to instill a love for adventure.
4. Indoor Scavenger Hunt
My kids really got into scavenger hunts this summer. I'd compile a list of things for them to find in our yard, and they'd compete over who would find it first. I'd tell them what they were searching for rather than writing it down since my youngest can't read yet. We tried this at night with flashlights, and my kids went nuts. They felt like little detectives searching for odd-ball items I'd come up with that they could find throughout our home, like a blue crayon, a striped washcloth, a stuffed animal with whiskers, or a Hawaiian-print dress shirt (which they both own). My youngest can get fierce and a bit cranky with competition, so we'd encourage my boys to work together by offering a prize or a small snack to them if they helped each other.
Related: 10 Tips for Getting the Best Photos of Your Kids
5. Lego-Building Party
Legos are the "it" toy in my house. The idea here is to come up with a theme with the kids - like a medieval dungeon or ninjas in battle - and then the whole family works on Lego creations to fit the theme. Someone could even be elected as the storyteller to weave all the Lego creations together. Or take turns telling a story and reward the silliest or most creative. The kids enjoy when we work with them on building Legos, and coming up with a story boosts their imagination.
Got any family-fun night ideas to share? We'd love to hear them.
Tracey Black is the author of Don't Mess with Mama, a blog about parenting, work-life balance, healthy eating, and life as a far from perfect mom. She has three boys under the age of eight, and lives in San Diego, California.
More from REDBOOK:
- 25 Lazy Ways to Stay Skinny
- 50 Totally Shoppable Fall Finds
School Ideas: 10 Time-Saving Habits
- 10 After-School Conversation Strategies That'll Get Your Kids Sharing
- Get A Great Workout in Less Time
Become of a fan of REDBOOK on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!