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Last updated on August 8th, 2023

Happy and healthy families play together regularly. Yup! Adults and teens, too. Across the lifespan, the quality of your family life serves as an indicator of your overall health. Specifically, engaging in interactive activities with family members appears to boost your well-being. What’s more, children and parents learn how to effectively communicate with and understand one another, work as a team to solve problems, and build trust.

​Children perceive meaningful, interactive time spent with their parents as a form of affection that establishes confidence, strengthens resilience in the face of challenges, and shapes their personalities. Play also serves the particularly important purpose of reinforcing budding academic, motor, and social skills in children. Furthermore, spending time together prevents teenagers from resorting to drug use and other troublesome behaviors.

Investing in family playtime reaps benefits for parents as well by reducing stress and anxiety. You pack even more of a stress-relieving punch into your quality time if you squeeze in a laugh or two.

Although researchers saw a climb in the amount of time families spent together in recent years, they also noted a sharp decline in the amount of time family members interacted with one another. Experts believe that the increasingly common routine of rushing kids from music lessons to softball practice, grabbing take-out on the way home, and settling in on the couch with individual digital devices explains this phenomenon.


Family looking at their phones

Despite an increase in the amount of time families spend in proximity with one another in recent years, research show a decrease in interactions.


Bring Back Family Night

To move away from the trend of zoning out on devices separately yet simultaneously, a focus on creating moments spent in meaningful interaction must take priority. This type of connection may take the form of wildly entertaining storytelling at the dinner table (let your child take the lead on this one). Discuss a song on the radio or pick out a gift for another member of the family. Hunting for bugs or flowers or whatever your child currently collects stimulates bonding questions and conversation as well.

Planning a family night helps parents set aside a specific window of time and stay accountable for following through on providing something that the whole family needs to thrive. Nobody forgets, arranges competing obligations, or otherwise avoids it when everyone knows about it. In addition, anticipating something fun provides a buffer against stress in the days leading up to the event.

Drawing a blank on fun family night ideas that break from the pizza-and-a-movie routine? Music is one of the oldest family leisure activities observed in all cultures. Try out the five games and activities below to effortlessly strengthen your social support system while providing entertainment for the whole family. No instruments or musical training required!

1. Host a Dance Contest

Don’t shy away from this family night activity! Kids derive immense benefit from movement. Not only does it keep kids engaged in an activity, it helps them learn how to coordinate simultaneous upper and lower body movements. Plus it’s a great opportunity to explore your child’s music preferences, especially teenagers.

Implement a “no Facebook pictures rule” if needed for self-conscious adults to feel comfortable. Start the night with dancing unless the family ate less than 30 minutes prior. As the night goes on, ease into more relaxing activities, so you don’t wind up with wired kids at bedtime.

Set up the activity by downloading, printing, and assembling the score strip provided here for each family member. See the printout for detailed instructions. Let everyone contribute to a Spotify, iTunes, or other playlist with their favorite dance songs. Then, designate one family member to keep track of each person’s scores.

Mockup of dance contest scoring strip

Choose a prize awarded to the best dancer, allowing for individual preferences, since different family members find motivation in different rewards. Perhaps adding an extra hour to bedtime or curfew will get your kids ready to move.

Each family member shows off their best dance moves to a favorite song. After each performance, the rest of the family holds up their rating strips to give a score for the performance. The scorekeeper tallies the points, and the person with the most points at the end of the contest wins.

Break a tie with another round of dancing for the two contestants or a choreographed memory sequence. That means each dancer adds a move to a series of movements. The next dancer must repeat and add a movement, taking turns until a dancer slips up on recalling the moves in the correct order.

2. Make Bean Bag Monsters

Kids don’t need much encouragement to create the monsters that will catch bean bags in this activity. Toss-and-catch games also help young kids develop motor skills, from grasping and releasing bean bags to throwing bean bags at a target. Music makes it easier for adults to act silly, and kids feed off of their parents’ reactions in new experiences.

Gather an assortment of bean bags in various colors ahead of time. Then, immerse yourselves in the rest of the prep for this game as part of the fun.

First, you’ll need to create a monster to catch bean bags. Though I provided four ideas below to get you started, be creative when it comes to this step. A word of advice: if you draw a monster on your hands, use non-toxic, dry-erase markers to make removal fast and easy.

Bean bag monster craft examples

Play or learn the “Bean Bag Monster” song. Take turns throwing bean bags and catching them in the monster’s mouth. The song lyrics provide cues for additional actions such as throwing bean bags of a specific color, “eating” the bean bags, making silly faces, and picking your favorite color.

3. Write Mad-Lib Songs

Creating music brings people together in a very unique and touching way. Each person contributes to the bigger picture, a sensory work of art that everyone experiences simultaneously.

Don’t worry, this activity is accessible to all ages and musical skills with the use of prompts and a special tool that automatically generates the lyrics for you. ⬇

Singing makes you feel good and young kids love to hear their parent’s voice, no matter what it sounds like. Don’t let a teenager, whose reluctance to participate most likely stems from lack of confidence, make you feel judged!

Singing together presents an opportunity to build your children’s confidence by trying new things. YOU lead the way by example. Own your voice and enjoy the satisfaction of wrong notes with flare, goofy lyrics, and phrases interrupted by giggles.

Use these backing tracks to accompany the songs you write from the lyric generator and borrowed melodies:

4. Play a Trivia Game

Play a game of JeoPARODY. You read that correctly. As a musical version of the popular gameshow, this activity parodies Jeopardy®.

Got a teenager who resists participating during family night? Make your teen the host of the game! The host role requires a family member to interact with the online app that accompanies this activity to create sound effects and keep gameplay moving forward.

Games like this give teenagers the chance to explore constructive, positive leadership roles as the host or scorekeeper. Speaking of the scorekeeper, this person gets to practice addition and subtraction.

Young children also gain experience in turn-taking, a skill related to sharing but with regard to time and attention instead of tangible items. The act of problem-solving as a team requires consideration of everyone’s input and collectively deciding on a single course of action.

Start off by gathering noisemakers either for each team or each family member, depending on how you play. The sound will alert the host when a player wants to respond during the game. Download and print the scorecard and rules to familiarize yourself with the game beforehand.

Gameplay takes place in the dedicated online app below. For the best viewing experience, display the game on your TV screen. Hook up a computer to your TV with an HDMI cable, cast a tablet or smartphone to a Smart TV, or type the game page link into the web browser on a gaming console.

Woman holding tablet displaying Musical Jeoparody game

If you’re unfamiliar with the original game show (or don’t want to read through the rules), here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Designate a host and scorekeeper. Whether the same or separate individuals, they may still participate in the game.
  • Take turns picking trivia categories and amounts (AKA difficulty levels). Respond to the trivia clues in the form of a question. Correct responses earn imaginary money.
  • In a final round, you’ll wager whatever sum of money you choose from your bank, which affords you the chance to catch up to other players/teams.
  • The family member or team who ends the game with the most money wins an award set at the start of the game.

5. Put On a Finger Puppet Musical

This activity eases parents into imaginative play, a skill often discarded in adulthood, by using a storytelling song as a script. Feel free to invent additional story lines and dialogue with your children from there.

What a great way to work through real-life situations with children, exploring different outcomes associated with specific actions in a safe, fun environment. Role-playing also allows children to practice problem-solving, communication, and empathy. Play like this fosters creativity in children, giving them a tool to defuse intense emotional experiences and relax on their own. Pretty deep, huh?

First, download and print the finger puppet pattern. Then gather double-sided tape and crayons, colored pencils, or markers to color and assemble the finger puppets. See detailed instructions on the printout.

Finger puppet activity worksheet

Play the recording below of “The Hungry Wolf” as each family member acts out the story with a finger puppet. From there, continue the tale together. Add more animals (and puppets) to the story, create a new adventure for one of the animals, devise a scenario in which all of the characters enjoy a happy ending, etc.

The Secret to a Family Night Full of Fun for Everyone

To create an engaging list of activities for future family nights, consider your child(ren)’s interests. If you insist on watching a game on TV but your child doesn’t share this interest, for example, neither of you will enjoy the experience. Needless to say, you won’t interact very much either. Younger children are often quick to voice creative suggestions if you ask for input.

Adults benefit from playtime as much as children and for many of the same reasons. Embrace the spontaneity, expressiveness, creativity, and fun that musical play offers you, too. 

Meet Brenna

I’m a music therapist, dog mom, nature enthusiast, business owner, introvert, sleep and stress management coach, and research lover. My mission is to help you remove stress as a barrier to better health, greater happiness, and more meaningful connections with the people and passions that make life exciting.

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