*This is a paid post in partnership with Arla Goodness.*
Fancy a few family night in ideas? Look no further. This post is full to the brim with activities you can do at home as a family. They take little or no planning and cost nothing or very little. It’s all about enjoying being together and making time to stop, relax and make memories. Most of the suggestions in this night in guide also work as rainy day activities, boredom busters or playdate ideas.
Life is so packed with stuff these days it sometimes feels like all we do is run from one place or event to another. Work, school, book club, swimming pool, gym, medical appointment, supermarket, etc. When we all get home at the end of our busy day, it’s all about the routine: homework, reading, dinner, bath, packing bags for the next day, tidying, a bit of a read, sleep.
Our schedules are just getting busier and busier, aren’t they? We live in a world that never stops and it’s important to make the time to actually be together and enjoy each other’s company. Too often, we are in the same room as other people, we care about them yet we’re isolated because we’re glued to our phones, tablets, computers or games’ consoles. First world problem I know, but as a society, we need to reconnect with other human beings rather than always looking for a WiFi connection.
It’s not unreasonable to put our phones away for a few hours and have a bit of uninterrupted family time, free from notifications or beeping. Let’s make these precious moments a priority rather than an occasional treat! It doesn’t matter that much what you’re doing as long as you spend time together and you’re fully present. Time when you truly relax as a family and enjoy downtime together is as vital as eating well and exercising. It’s important to stop as a family and have at least an evening a week when we just enjoy being together. It’s not about spending money on over-the-top activities.
Nights in are a bit of a family tradition for us, especially our cinema parties, complete with treat bar and popcorn. We all decide together what we fancy doing and generally have a good, relaxing evening.
As soon the lovely people at Arla asked us if we fancied a family night in to celebrate the launch of their new milk, Arla Goodness, we could picture ourselves on the sofa drinking hot chocolate topped with marshmallows. We love Arla and a couple of months ago, we got a bit creative and upcycled some of their milk bottles. Check out our little projects here. I also believe in the philosophy behind Arla, which is a dairy cooperative with 2,400 farmer owners in the UK and I was lucky enough to be invited to one of their Free Range Organic farms a couple of years ago.
I also believe in the philosophy behind Arla, which is a dairy cooperative with 2,400 farmer owners in the UK and I was lucky enough to be invited to one of their Free Range Organic farms a couple of years ago.
Arla Goodness contains 100% fresh milk with lower fat than semi-skimmed milk, but a splash more of milk’s natural benefits to give you 50% of your recommended daily calcium intake in each 250ml glass and 30% more protein.
Some of our nights in are just about sitting on the sofa under a blanket watching a film together with a mug of hot chocolate. Other times, we enjoy arty activities or try to learn a new skill together, like drawing or juggling. It’s all about making memories and I hope that evenings like these are what my children will remember about their childhood.
Check out our favourite family night in ideas, listed in no particular order. Some of them use technology and / or screens, but not in an isolating way as they’re all about doing things together. Having a list of simple activities you can do when you’re having a night in, on a rainy day or for a playdate at home is the perfect cure if you don’t know what to do when you’re bored at home.
– Cook a meal together
What better way to bond than by the kitchen sink? Fussy children are also a lot more likely to try something new if they’ve taken part in the cooking process or meal prep.
Making sure my children get a decent diet can sometimes be a challenge especially with my tween who’s becoming more independent by the day. I want to make sure that when my four leave the nest, they can cook a few healthy and balanced meals.
– Cinema party
Watching a film all together and snuggling under a fluffy blanket is always top of our list. Sometimes we choose 80s classics like The Goonies or The Never-ending Story, other times we go for all-time favourites like the Harry Potter movies or we pick a new film on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
We also love making popcorn together and setting up a treat bar on the dining room table for each one of us to pick exactly which treats we fancy.
– Reverse dinner
Have you ever had dessert before your main course? We do that sometimes, and why not, hey?
Grab that 1000 pieces puzzle auntie Margaret got the kids for Christmas and have a go at making it in record time together.
– Hot chocolate and pancakes for dinner
We used to do that once a week when I was growing up. There’s nothing like hot chocolate and pancakes for dinner! Did you know that dairy provides the highest source of calcium, which is vital for growing children to support the maintenance of their bones and teeth? Arla Goodness actually provides 50% of an adult’s calcium requirement in one 250ml glass.
Check all our pancake recipes here and our 50+ topping suggestions too. Why not make your hot chocolate on the stove, using good quality melted dark chocolate. Top with mini marshmallows and cacao powder or even freshly whipped cream with a pinch of cinnamon for that extra moreish touch.
– Pizzas from scratch
Make pizzas all together, dough and all. If you can’t wait for the dough to rise, use tortilla wraps or pitta bread as the base for your pizzas and just make the tomato sauce together (simply blend a tin of chopped tomatoes with a couple of garlic cloves and a bit of salt, pepper and herbs). Get a range of toppings out so everyone can top their own pizza: diced or grated mozzarella, finely sliced red onion, ham, pineapple, sliced chorizo, sliced mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts, rocket salad (throw in a handful once the pizza is cooked), goat’s cheese, caramelised onions, asparagus, cooked chicken pieces, spicy sausage, etc.
Dust off those family board games and enjoy playing together for a few hours. Blokus* is our #1 game because everyone can play it. My nan can play it, my 4-year-old nephew can play it too and rather than having to use language, all you have to focus on is trying to get the others stuck. It also reminds me of Tetris so I feel about 12 when I play it! Check it out on Amazon*.
– Board games
We have a fair few favourites at home, but Monopoly is always a winner. I have the Horrible Histories* edition on my radar for one of the children’s birthdays.
What am I?* is another one of our most played games, because it we’re not time-bound and I find it brilliant to sustain younger children’s attention. They can also dip in and out of the game, which makes it a winner in my eyes.
When we play with my whole family in France, we all love Cranium*. It’s competitive and no particular skill is required. It always ends up with us roaring with laughter at how bad we are at singing, drawing, miming or general knowledge!
20-second showdown* is another brilliant game. It’s fun, fast-paced and it’s definitely one for the whole family. You’ll have 20 seconds to complete each task and it goes from things like “Count to 10 like a caveman” to “Pretend your shoe is a phone and order a pizza.” I just wish there was a French version so I could play it with my brothers.
Who doesn’t like playing charades? It’s a brilliant game because it’s suitable for any age, so for multigenerational gatherings, I find it the best game to play. Nan can play, pre-schoolers can take part too and even teenagers might join in. Just in case you haven’t played it before, all you have to do is acting out words or phrases written on a slip of paper. When acting out the word or phrase, you aren’t allowed to talk!
– Who’s the baby?
Dig out your old family photos, and let the children guess who the babies are in the photos. If you have them, include photos of grandparents, cousins, friends and your children of course! Afterwards, you can have a go at trying to find similarities in the babies in the family.
– Science experiment
Why not attempt a bit of Science at home? You don’t necessarily need an expensive kit or unobtainable ingredients. Why don’t you start with a simple lava lamp activity?
– Look up!
Why not download an app for stargazing? SkyView® Lite is free and available for iPhone and Android. The Augmented Reality app shows you stars and constellations in the sky.
Use Pinterest to find a quick and easy crafty idea and get creative as a family. Check out our 10-minute crafts for ideas.
– Do something nice for your neighbours
In this day and age, everything seems to be online and we tend to forget we have older members of our community who are probably not connected. Have you ever thought of offering to do sone shopping for your elderly neighbours as a family? Cleaning their bins maybe? Walking their dog? I know it sounds a tad grim to suggest that, but it’s our responsibility to help our children develop a community conscience.
– Old family videos
Dig out your old family videos and watch them all together. First steps, family holidays, family gatherings. That one is guaranteed to bring out all the emotions and the giggles.
“Remember auntie Cé’s wedding. Awww, you were so cute and diddy!”
– Talent show!
Why not take it in turns to show off one of the things you can do. Do your children know you can juggle? Who can roll their tongue? Can do a handstand? Show them! A talent show at home is a great way to push aside the inhibitions. Events like talent shows can be daunting, so if they’ve had an opportunity to have a go in the safety of their home environment, they’re more likely to have the confidence to attempt it in from of their classmates.
– Make plans for a day out
Spend a couple of hours planning a day out in the near future. It could be a trip to the free local paddling pool, a day at the park with picnic, a pub breakfast… the sky is your limit! Put a date in the calendar, spend an hour or so planning it (food, who will be there, book whatever needs booking) and stick to it! It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. It’s all about creating some anticipation about family time.
– Magicians for the night
Do you know any magic tricks? Share them with your children and try to learn a few new ones all together.
– Play a card game
Check this article, which includes a list of 12 classic card games to teach the kids.
– Play with the kids
Have you ever just spent an hour playing with the kids? Let them direct you and play whatever they fancy playing, whether it be a teddy bears’ picnic in front of the TV, making a den in your bedroom and reading a book in it or even playing with dolls. Just let them decide and play along.
– Practise mindfulness
OK, this one is not going to last all night, but 5-10 minutes of mindfulness practice is incredibly uplifting. We’ve been using printable kits from The Big Life Journal for a couple of years now and I love them. They’re also really cheap. They’ve got a kindness and community kit, a challenges kit, a self-esteem and confidence kit, a famous failures kit and many many more. If you’re looking to develop a growth mindset alongside your children, these resources are for you!
– Create a piece of art as a family
Why don’t you make a simple thumbprint art Christmas card all together?
You could attempt to draw a nature scene in chalk on your drive or in your courtyard.
Check what you’ve got in your recycling bin and get upcycling!
– Pamper night
Pamper nights are not just for girls having a night in! The whole family can take part. You can scrub each other’s hands, let the kids brush your hair, paint your toes and everyone can have a face mask, going for something natural and gentle for the children, like yoghurt and honey. Simply add one tablespoon of raw honey to a couple of tablespoons of plain yoghurt (full fat) or Greek yoghurt. The yoghurt will moisturise and help heal the skin. As for honey, it has anti-microbial properties and is also rich in antioxidants. Simply apply to your face with clean fingers straight after mixing and leave on for 15 minutes before rinsing with warm water.
– Make a night in box
Before you get on with your activities for the evening, why not put a box together with all your essentials for the next home date night with your family? You could put away a board game you next want to play, a pack of biscuits or two, the kids’ favourite story book and pick a date for that special night in?
– Let’s create a recipe!
Create your own family recipe using a couple of recipes as a starting point. Remember that baking is like chemistry, so you’ve got to get proportions right. If you’re not too confident in the kitchen, don’t search for a recipe with obscure ingredients or techniques you’ve never tried before. Simply use a recipe you’ve made before and make a straight swap, e.g. Dark Chocolate and Raisin Cereal Bars using my Cranberry and White Chocolate Bar cereal recipe. If you’re a seasoned cook, why not go for something a bit ‘out there,’ like Chocolate & avocado ice cream or allergy-friendly banana and oat pancakes?
– Make someone happy with a sweet treat
Have you got a few jars you want to upcycle? Just wash them thoroughly, sterilise them and make vanilla sugar, some truffles or fudge for friends or neighbours. There’s nothing like the gift of a homemade treat.
– ‘Just Dance’ kids vs grown-ups competition!
Just Dance is a brilliant game, not only to get some exercise, but also for bonding as a family, and it’s available on consoles (is that even what they’re called still?), YouTube and pretty much available to anyone. For New Years’ Eve, all my brothers and I stayed at my mum’s with our families. We’re rock and roll like that! Instead of partying with other people, we did our own thing, and the kids vs the parents dance competition was fierce. Now don’t you go picturing some dance stars competing against each other. My brothers and I are everything but coordinated and the kids won by a mile, but gosh we had the best time!
– Watch your parents’ childhood programmes
Now that’s one my children absolutely love! We cast YouTube on the TV and put TV programmes form our childhood, from Manimal to Little Princess Sarah to Wonder Woman to the Magic Roundabout the A-Team to She-Ra. The kids might think we used to watch weird stuff, but going 80s or 90s on them will without the shadow of a doubt provide hours of fun, fond memories and laughter.
– Learn how to play that video game
You know, THAT video game. The one the kids are immersed in all the time. Instead of immediately letting your eyes glaze over at the mention of the game / obsession, why not embrace your ignorance and make an effort to try and learn how to play it? Don’t you love teaching your kids new things? Now imagine your roles reversed. How is teaching you something new going to make your children feel?
– Campfire treats
My older two went to cubs last year and discovered the joys of building a fire. That’s definitely one of my children’s favourite summer night ideas. Does anything bring more joy to children than toasted marshmallows?
For a fool proof treat, just slice bananas in the middle (keeping skin on), stuff them with a few squares of dark chocolate, wrap them in foil and place them in the embers for 10 minutes. You will end up with heaven in a spoon: chocolate bananas. They remind me of my teenage years spending hours by the campfire with friends and their acoustic guitars and it’s one of our favourite desserts.
– Let’s learn something new!
There’s always something you can learn, no matter how old of knowledgeable you get. How about making the process a family activity? You could learn how to propagate a string of hearts plant, how to churn butter, how to play tennis, cook spring rolls from scratch, bake a loaf of bread or even learn how to do a shoulder stand. The sky is your limit!
– Night in ideas in a jar
If you regularly have a night in with your family, why not create a ‘Night in Jar?’ All you’ll need is a jar, strips of paper and pens. Everyone in the family can write all the ideas they have for nights in (a strip of paper per idea). Once all strips of paper are folded, they can go in the jar. At the end of each night in, one of the family members can pick a random piece of paper from the jar to find out what the next night in is going to be about. It’s a nice way to involve everyone in the decision-making process, and also to keep an element of surprise for all. Just roll with it, even if your youngest write something along the lines of: “Let’s all sleep in mum’s bed!” They’re probably going to be asleep before you anyway or retreat to their beds when they find themselves too uncomfortable anyway. Otherwise, you can just sleep in their bed for a night.
What other budget-friendly activities do you and your family enjoy doing together at home?
Disclosure: This blog post is an advert for Arla Goodness but all photos, ideas and opinions are my own. Arla Goodness is available in selected Tesco and Sainsbury stores now.
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*This blog post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!
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