Family movie nights are practically an American tradition–everyone piled into the living room with big bowls of popcorn. Many of us enjoyed a lot of movie nights last spring when schools were closed, and our kids came home from college. Now, with an extended fall break coming up, we can look forward to many more cozy nights together with our families.
That said, if I’m being honest, sometimes night after night of couch time can start to feel a little a bit like being in a rut–a little sluggish. So to get ready for the long, cold nights ahead, I am thinking outside the box (or screen). Here are a few alternatives to family movie night.
Fun activities to do with your teens
1. A new twist on family game night
Board games and card games are fun, but in some families people get a little too competitive (I’m looking at you, Uncle Mike). That’s one reason escape room games are great. They involve teamwork–instead of pitting family members against each other like a pack of rabid animals. They’re also challenging and a great workout for the brain.
And if you feel like you need to wean your family away from nightly screen time gently, there are many virtual escape room games available.
2. Listen to an audiobook or podcast.
Admittedly this might sound a bit old fashioned–like a 1930’s family gathering around the radio to listen to Abbott and Costello. But listening to something engaging while also working a puzzle, knitting, scrapbooking, or other hands-on activity is actually a relaxing and entertaining way to pass an evening. It doesn’t matter if your family is into true crime, history, fiction, or pop culture there’s a podcast for you.
If books are more your thing, there are a number of audiobook subscriptions services available like Audible and Scribd as well as sites that offer free access to audio books such as Librivox or your public library.
3. Take a night hike.
Whether it’s a walk around your neighborhood or hike on a trail through the woods, night hikes are just cool. There’s something almost magical about being out under the stars when most of the rest of the world is already tucked in for the evening. Granted, night hiking is one of those things you have to psych yourself up for–especially if it’s cold or snowy.
It can be hard to bundle up and go out once you’re already in and warm. But night hiking is fun and exhilarating and absolutely worth it–especially when it’s a family event.
4. Take a walk down memory lane.
If actual walking about at night isn’t your family’s thing, maybe a stroll through your photo albums is. Or, if you’re like me, you have boxes and boxes of old photos just waiting to be put into albums and more still on your phone to print.
Cold winter nights are a great time to look through old pictures. So print the pictures on your phone and drag out those dusty boxes. Hand everybody a stack of photos, a pair of scissors, and a sharpie, and you’ll have all your pictures cropped and dated in no time. If you’re lucky, by the time the kids go back to school, you’ll have a well-organized photo album and even more family memories.
5. Take a drive.
Again, this might sound a bit old fashioned, but we have something today that families taking their Sunday drive in the 50’s didn’t have–a vast variety of takeout and drive-through options. Before making the rounds to check out the local Christmas lights, pick up coffee or ice-cream.
Better yet, since you’re driving around anyway, why not make multiple stops and let everyone get their favorite treat–a sort of drive-through buffet. This sort of mild extravagance makes for a festive night and a fun new family tradition.
6. Learn something new.
From astronomy to origami to Spanish, there’s an online class or app to teach you and your family something new and fun. While it might be hard to find one topic the entire family agrees on, half the fun could be exploring a variety of options. And with so many free classes available there’s no reason not to try several.
7. Just sit.
Sadly, passing a quiet evening just hanging out together is a pastime almost lost to American families. But spending time together doesn’t have to be a planned event. It doesn’t even have to involve doing anything in particular. It can simply be an evening working puzzles, knitting, even thumbing through a magazine–all activities conducive to casual (or meaningful) conversation– or just quietly being together with the people we love.
The idea of not spending the evening in front of the TV is hardly radical. But the idea of trying new things as a family–especially a family of big kids can be. But trying something new can also be a way to get to know each other better, make new memories, and grow closer as a family. And that never gets old.
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