Three Tips for Playing (Nice) Jokes on Your Family

Our family took a vacation from California to New Mexico last summer, and we decided to drive the old “Route 66.”

We sang “Life is a Highway” and “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” at least 50 times over the three-day journey, and we stopped for ice cream as often as we could.

There were certainly squabbles and complaints along the way, but this experience was destined to be unforgettable.

One of our main stops on day one was the Barringer Meteorite Crater–a 50,000-year-old, mile-wide hole in the ground created by a 150-foot-wide meteorite that weighed 300,000 tons and traveled from New York to Arizona in just a few seconds. Pretty impressive.

We’d told the children all about it, got them on the edge of their seats, and then showed up at the crater’s edge 20 minutes after the visitor’s center had closed for the day.

We were tired.  And the excitement was crushed.

Trying to look on the bright side, we said, “Hey guys! This picture of the crater is even better!”

And then we took our little family to the Wigwam Motel for the night (this photo was taken the following morning):

But there was still some unfinished business.  We’d looked forward to seeing the crater, and my husband and I wanted to add a little magic to our vacation.

So while the children were sleeping,

we snuck out into the parking lot and moved our van around the corner–completely out of sight.  Then, while I cleaned out our cooler, Eric created a crater of our own–right where our van had been parked.  He drew a circle in the dirt, smoothed out the center, and created a rise of rocks and dirt around the circumference. I giggled through the whole thing.

Can you see the crater?  Just below, on the left of that cute green bug?

The next morning, the children wondered what on earth had happened to our van. Together, we studied the “crater” and I explained that a meteor must have come and completely obliterated our vehicle.

The older children picked up on the joke immediately, but we made a hilarious video of our four-year-old explaining the whole scenario to the camera (here’s a screenshot of him describing the “big circle”):

Eventually, we showed him where we’d moved the van, but we are all still laughing about this . . . months later.

You might never drive near the Barringer Crater, and a meteorite might never obliterate your car, but wherever you are, you can have a great time joking around with your family.

Here are my top tips for doing so:

(1) Make sure the jokes are harmless–not meant to embarrass anyone, hurt anyone, or make anyone feel less loved.

I’ve had my share of practical jokes gone bad.  Those are the ones that leave someone in tears or cause someone to run to the bedroom in shame.  Let’s steer clear of those.

(2) Get creative with your delivery.  My husband was the mastermind behind the crater, but I think of my friend Amy all the time, who posted her “Elf on a Shelf” photos each day for us during the Christmas season.

You can see their elf, Bob, zip-lining, drawing mustaches on the photo frames, making a “sugar angel,” and taking a bubble bath in marshmallows.

We don’t have an “Elf on the Shelf” yet, but wow, things like this just make family life more fun.

(3) Let “the child in you” enjoy the moment. 

This is the main reason why I’m a champion for family fun.  The world can be such a serious place.  There are real problems we need to solve. There are stressful political perspectives to navigate. We need to pay the mortgage and vacuum the carpet and take the trash out before 7 a.m. every Friday.

Sometimes we get too caught up in the “doing,” and we forget that there’s a child inside each of us who desperately needs to laugh and enjoy time with family. Our children need time with that child-like side of us, as well.

We can’t ignore what needs to be done, and we can’t spend all of our time playing, but we can be deliberate in creating some funny, memorable, relationship-building moments for the ones we love most.

Someday our grandchildren will hear these stories.  They might talk about them around the dinner table or while they’re driving down Route 66 themselves. They might even find themselves running around a wigwam motel, searching for the remnants of the family van.  That, to me, will be success.

QUESTION: What are some examples of successful jokes you’ve played on your family? What would you recommend to a mom who wants to bring more fun into her family?

CHALLENGE: In the midst of all the things you “have” to do, make some time to do something fun and creative.  And then enjoy the moment.


Images provided by the author.


  1. Emily Allen says

    You are so funny! Also, congrats on emptying the dishwasher every day (I read your bio). I agree, it is so easy to be busy and not stop to play. Thank goodness we have kids around to remind us.

    • April Perry says

      It’s totally the kids who empty the dishwasher now . . . but I get to load it! Thanks for being a part of The Power of Moms, Emily!

  2. Jen says

    I’m just 30 min. away from there! You could have stayed with us! But then you would have missed out on the wigwam… :)

    • April Perry says

      Are you serious? We loved that trip! We were just watching videos last night of our trip there. So fun! xo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *