Read an Excerpt
Family Fun Nights
140 Activities the Whole Family Will Enjoy
By Lisa Bany-Winters
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2006 Lisa Bany-Winters
All rights reserved.
Everybody has a talent for something. Why not spend an evening tapping into your family's talents? You may even discover a hidden talent in yourself or another family member.
Performing in front of each other will build self-confidence and make you more comfortable when doing a class presentation at school. Just pretend the folks watching you are members of your own family who love you — then you're sure to shine.
To set the mood for Talent Night, find a couple of objects you can use as microphones, such as a hairbrush or an empty toilet paper roll. Transform an area in your house into a stage and get ready to perform! Talent Night is sure to have you singing, acting, dancing, and laughing out loud together — a perfect family evening.
This is a favorite at my house. Family members take turns performing anything they want for each other. Here are some ideas:
* Turn on some classical music and do a ballet dance — real or funny. If you have a tutu, put it on!
* Sing your favorite song.
* Turn on a recording of your favorite song and lip-sync to it.
* Play an instrument. If you don't have one, you can put some tissue over a comb and hum through it like a kazoo.
* Turn on some fun dance music and make up a dance.
* Read or recite a poem. (See Poetry Slam Night for ideas on a poem to recite.)
* Tell a short story.
Here's an example of a short story you can tell for your part of the show. This is called "Mrs. Large Mouth Toad." Whenever Mrs. Large Mouth Toad talks, you open your mouth as wide as you can.
Once upon a time Mrs. Large Mouth Toad had a baby. It was her first baby, and she didn't know what to feed it. She decided to ask some other animals for advice. First, she went up to Mrs. Bear and said, "Mrs. Bear, I just had a baby. What do you feed your baby?"
Mrs. Bear grumbled and said, "I feed my baby nuts and berries, but that's not right for your baby. Why don't you go ask Mrs. Giraffe?"
So Mrs. Large Mouth Toad hopped over to Mrs. Giraffe and said, "Mrs. Giraffe, I just had a baby. What do you feed your baby?"
Mrs. Giraffe giggled and said, "I feed my baby leaves from the tallest trees, but that's not right for your baby. Why don't you go ask Mrs. Alligator?"
So Mrs. Large Mouth Toad hopped over to Mrs. Alligator and said, "Mrs. Alligator, I just had a baby. What do you feed your baby?"
Mrs. Alligator said, "Large Mouth Toads."
"Oh, really?" said Mrs. Large Mouth Toad (with her mouth as small as possible), and she hopped away.
It's fun to act out skits and short plays with your family. Here are some ideas to help you create original skits.
Choose a favorite story that everyone knows, decide who will play each part, and act it out. Some stories everyone knows include Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, and Little Red Riding Hood. You can make up your own funny version of these stories by changing some details. For example, you can have the three bears eat your family's favorite meal instead of porridge, or add to the "Grandmother, what big eyes you have" part by telling her things such as "What big hands you have," "What big feet you have," or "What big shoulders you have." Grandma can respond with silly answers like "The better to wave to you, my dear," "The better to dance with you, my dear," or "The better to give you a piggyback ride!"
Divide your family into two teams and have each team give the other team three words. You then have five minutes to create a skit that uses all three of the words given to you by the other team. Perform your skits for each other.
Everyone choose a favorite character to play from any book, cartoon, movie, or television show. Act out a skit about these characters meeting. What would they say to each other? Do they have things in common? Would they get along? For example, suppose one person chooses to play Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, one person chooses Bugs Bunny, one person chooses Harry Potter, and one person chooses Captain Hook. Would Dorothy, Harry Potter, and Captain Hook compare their fantasy worlds? Would Captain Hook recruit Bugs Bunny to make mischief with him? Would Dorothy and Harry Potter become friends?
You don't have to have a beautiful voice, just a willingness to have fun. Here are some ideas to make your sing-along harmonious!
1. Think of a word or subject, then try to sing as many songs as you can that include that word or that focus on that subject. Here are some words and subject suggestions:
* The sun
* Girl names
* Boy names
2. Take turns choosing the song. When it's your turn, try to pick a song everyone knows. It's most fun when everyone can sing along.
You can collect all these funny and fun songs and make a family songbook. Write down the lyrics to your version of a song and collect sheet music for the songs your family likes to sing. If someone in your family can read music and play an instrument, that's even better. Otherwise, use one of the Unusual Orchestra instruments you create in the next activity to keep time while you sing. Keep the lyrics and sheet music together in a binder or folder. Then whenever someone pulls out the family songbook, you know it's time for a sing-along!
In this activity you make music with objects found around your house. You'll be surprised how many you'll be able to find. Find an object and decide how to play it. Here are some ideas:
* Upside-down pots become drums.
* Pot lids become cymbals.
* A cheese grater makes a cool sound when scraped with a spoon.
* Two spoons together can be used to make all sorts of fun rhythms.
* Cardboard boxes make good drums.
* Blow into a bottle with liquid inside to make a whistle sound. Try different kinds of bottles with different amounts of liquid to discover all the different tones you can make.
* Fill glasses with different amounts of water and tap them with a spoon. Be careful not to tap too hard!
Once everyone has found a household instrument to play, have a jam session. Start making sounds with your instrument by banging it, shaking it, or tapping it using a pattern such as this: shake it, then stop and count to one, then shake it again. Or try another pattern: tap the instrument, stop and count to three, then tap it again, repeating the same pattern. These are called rhythmic patterns. See how long you can keep your rhythmic pattern going. Try playing alone and then with other members of your household band.
When you all play together you'll find new sound patterns that might inspire you to change your rhythmic pattern, so do it. Let each family member take a solo where they get to play their instrument alone while everyone else silently counts to 32.
After practicing and playing around for a while, try playing a song together. You can use the glasses or bottles to try to play something simple such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb," or you can sing along and play something such as "I've Been Working on the Railroad." See if you can make some of the instruments imitate the sounds of a train.
For variation, play call and respond. Take turns being the leader. The leader plays a rhythm with her instrument, and then the others respond by repeating the same rhythm back.
Paper Bag Maracas
If there are no instruments in your house, you can make your own!
What You Need
* Paper bags
* Markers or stickers to decorate
* Dry rice or beans
1. Use the markers or stickers to decorate
2. Place a handful of rice or beans in each bag.
3. Tie yarn around each bag about halfway down. Be sure to tie it tight so the rice or beans won't fall out.
4. Gently hold (don't squeeze) the bags under the yarn and shake.
If you're not sure what music to shake your maracas to, try Mexican or Spanish music. The Mexican Hat Dance is fun. You can place a hat in the middle of the room and dance around it as you shake your maracas.
Do you know any songs that have someone's name in the lyrics? Try putting your family members' names in it instead! You'd be surprised how well you can make it work. Sing a song like "Mary Had a Little Lamb," but put your name in it and put something else in place of the lamb. Here's an example:
Tony had a little phone, little phone, little phone,
Tony had a little phone, and he was very proud.
But everywhere that Tony went, Tony went, Tony went,
Everywhere that Tony went, his phone would ring too loud!
You also can create your own song that includes the names of all your family members, including your pets. Pick a theme, such as love, and make the song about the ways you love your family and show them that you love them, too.
See who can sing their song the loudest or the softest, or hold the longest note.CHAPTER 2
Tonight, run away with the circus (and your family) without ever leaving your home. A circus has many different acts performed by people of all ages, plus animals.
Many circus acts are family acts. Children learn the tricks and talents of the trade from their parents, and they often perform together. Even if you're not a gymnast, you can have fun clowning around with your family on Circus Night.
There are tricks to do and treats to eat. You can fly, walk across a tightrope, train animals, or even pretend to be an animal. So put on your clown face, have a parade, and enjoy Circus Night. To set the mood, play circus music if you have it. If not, any upbeat music will do.
Take turns having each family member choose a circus trick to perform. Here are some ideas:
Juggle. If you can't juggle balls, try juggling scarves. Take three small, lightweight scarves and toss them one at a time into the air. As you toss one, catch another. The light weight of the scarves makes them easy to juggle, and the trick looks great, too.
Balance. Try balancing different things in the palm of your hand. Things that are long work best, such as a broomstick or an umbrella, but be careful and make sure you have a lot of room. Also try balancing things on your head. See how many light books you can put on your head and how many steps you can take without the books falling.
Do gymnastics. If you have room and weather permits, go outside to do cartwheels, somersaults, and more. You can also make a human pyramid. Just make sure an adult is present to supervise. To make a pyramid with six people, the three largest people go on the ground on their hands and knees, then two people go on top of them, then the smallest person goes on the very top. To make a pyramid with three people, have two larger people stand next to each other with their knees bent a little toward each other. Then have the smaller person balance standing on their knees. Be sure to end your trick with "Ta-da!"
This is my family's favorite trick.
What You Need
* An adult
* A child
1. The adult lies down with his back on the floor.
2. The adult needs to bend his knees and lift his feet.
3. The child stands in front of the adult with her stomach close to the bottoms of the adult's feet.
4. The child holds the adult's hands, so her arms are stretched out horizontally.
5. On the count of three the adult lifts the child up with his feet, using his clasped hands to help balance the child.
6. While the child is balanced in the air the adult sings this circus song:
She floats through the air with the greatest of ease.
My little (child's name) on the flying trapeze.
Her movements are graceful, all the crowd she does please.
My heart she has stolen away.
On the last word of the song, the adult sets the child back on her feet.
The circus is even more fun with special treats. Here are some treats the family can make together.
Animal Cracker Cars
When the circus comes to town, the animals ride in fun train cars. These train cars look fun and taste delicious!
What You Need
* Graham crackers
* Animal crackers
* Tube of icing
* Round gummy candies (the kind with a hole in the center)
1. Place a graham cracker on a table top and place one or two animal crackers on top of the graham cracker, in the center.
2. Use the tube of icing to decorate the top of the graham cracker like a circus car. Then draw vertical lines down the graham cracker and on top of the animal cracker, to make it look like the animal cracker is behind bars on the circus car.
3. Place a little bit of icing on the bottom left and bottom right of each graham cracker. Then place a candy on each bit of icing for the wheels of the car.
Here's a delicious way to clown around with cupcakes.
What You Need
* Cupcake mix, your favorite flavor (plus the ingredients called for on the package)
* White frosting
* Ice cream cones with pointy tips
* Brightly colored candies
* Tube of icing, any bright color
* A grown-up to assist
1. Make and bake the cupcakes according to the package directions.
2. After the cupcakes have cooled, frost them with the white frosting.
3. Place an ice cream cone upside down on the side of the cupcake and only covering two-thirds of it so you have room to make a candy face. The cone is the clown's hat.
4. Use the candies to make the clown's eyes, nose, and mouth. Press these firmly into the white frosting to get them to stick.
5. Make a clown costume collar around the edges of the cupcake using the tube of icing.
Tightrope Acts and Other Pantomimes
Pantomime is acting without talking and with pretend objects. Circus clowns often use pantomime in their comedy routines. Try pantomiming your very own tightrope act.
Start at one end of the room and imagine that you are walking across a tightrope. Create an imaginary rope in your mind and never step off it. Pretend that you lose your balance at one point, then recover, then lose your balance again. You will add more drama to your routine if you prolong these recovery attempts. Try doing some tricks on the tightrope such as jumping, walking backward, and turning around. When you reach the other end of the room, jump off the imaginary tightrope and say "Ta-da!"
Here are some other circus pantomimes you can act out:
* Pretend that you are holding a big helium balloon that is lifting you off the ground.
* Pretend that you have to pull and push a large box onto a pretend stage.
* Pretend that you are on slippery ice and it is very hard to walk.
* Pretend that you are a windup toy.
A circus sideshow often features weird and amazing creatures, some real and some not so real. In this activity you can make all kinds of crazy characters for your own circus sideshow.
What You Need
* Paper to mount your creatures on (any size)
* Long sticks such as straight tree branches, broom handles, or yardsticks
* A grown-up to assist
1. Cut out pictures of people and animals from magazines using the scissors.
2. Cut these pictures into body parts such as head, body, and feet.
3. Mix and match the pictures of body parts to create unusual creatures, and glue them together on your paper.
4. Make up a name for your creature and write it on the paper.
5. Glue the paper onto the top of the stick. (You'll use this later in your parade.)
Here are some freaky examples you can try.
* Name: Ed/Edna, The Incredible Half Man/Half Woman!
* Find a picture of a man and one of a woman and cut each in half, right down the center of the picture. Glue the left side of the man to the right side of the woman. (Of course, you'll need pictures about the same size for this to work really well.)
* Name: Babyony, The Amazing Half Baby/Half Pony!
* Cut out the top half of a baby and the bottom half of a horse, and glue them together.
* Name: Rackelebot!
* Cut out the head of a raccoon, the body of an elephant, and the legs of a robot. Glue them together to make Rackelebot.
Excerpted from Family Fun Nights by Lisa Bany-Winters. Copyright © 2006 Lisa Bany-Winters. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
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