When it's cold outside, nothing beats a low-key movie night at home. Create your own concession stand with popcorn, jars of candy, and a mix-your-own healthy soda bar (juices, sparkling water, and fruit for garnishing). Pick out a few of your favorite movies — make sure the kids choose first — and turn those cellphones off for a night that beats the theater, and will have the whole family clambering for a spot on the sofa.
Mom and Dad cook for their crew every night — so why not change places for once? Assuming your kids are old enough to navigate the kitchen on their own, put your feet up, order up a drink, then let the children cook dinner.
Request a simple menu like grilled cheese sandwiches or spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and ice cream to keep the cooking challenge at a minimum but the enjoyment level high. Young ones will love taking charge of the kitchen and showing off their culinary prowess over a family-style dinner.
Making your own pizza is easier than you think, especially if you opt for ready-made pizza dough. Give everyone a place to work (and a crust) and have each member of the family create their own top-secret pie. Then, up the ante by holding a pizza contest, judging each pie on creativity, unusual use of ingredients, and best flavor combination (it's safe to avoid naming a "best" pie of the night). Everyone loves pizza, and tucking into a spread of slices that you made yourself makes it taste that much better.
Everybody loves a good adventure, and a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood or backyard provides just that.
Load up the slow cooker that morning with ingredients for a hearty stew for dinner while someone else hides clues (and the treasure) in a predetermined order. Working in teams (perhaps mother-son and father-daughter), set out mid-afternoon, complete with a map and flashlight (and perhaps a thermos of hot cocoa to stay warm) for your adventure. By the time all have finished, it'll be time to return home and dig into that warm meal waiting for you.
If you've made photo albums for your kids over the years, then you know how much fun they have looking back over all the experiences you had hiking, going on trips to the beach, and throwing parties. Pick a night to spend going through your favorites from years past. Upload your favorites to a file and select a few to frame. Over dinner, screen a slideshow with a selection of memory-makers from childhood, up to those that are most recent — it's sure to be a new tradition that is here to stay.
A paddle tennis tournament is just the thing to bring out the competitive side of aunts, siblings, parents, and cousins. Set up a ladder of games to be played, along with snacks for refueling and beverages. Award a prize — perhaps a gift certificate to the movies or ice cream shop — and then head back home for a chili party, complete with two kinds of chilis, all sorts of toppings, chips, cornbread, and more. (Don't play paddle tennis? Any game works, be it Foosball, ping pong, bowling, or even card games.)
For young kids, sleepovers can be unsuccessful when mom and dad aren't there. Change that all by inviting mom and dad to come, too! Clear the couches out of the family room and set up sleeping bags in a row. Turn out the lights and play cards by flashlight, or show a movie. The next morning, prepare a campfire-worthy spread of pancakes, bacon, fruit, orange juice, and hot chocolate that won't have sleepyheads sleeping in too long.