Looking for an easy activity to do with the kids at home? This is our go-to set-up for a fun movie experience without leaving the house!
Thinking. Of. Stuff. To. do. Need I say more? Never mind that we live in a time filled with more entertainment than in the history of the world! Pressure’s still on from the kid crowd for new and fresh stuff.
When I was a kid, I spent a bunch of quality time playing in an old drainage ditch by our house. Which, if I allowed my kids to do that now, they would come for me in seconds. I can’t even imagine the fall out. And, if anyone is judging that as a go-to entertainment experience, imagine taking away everything but a real slim pickings live TV line-up and a Walkman CD player and tell me how would you fill your time? At least 90’s kids upgraded, my mom has fond memories of playing down by the railroad tracks and poking random stuff at an electric fence as a pastime.
So for the New Millenium Kids, the DIY drive-in movie has become one of our go-to summer experiences. And this is one where I honestly didn’t feel shorted by the pandemic because we love drive-ins and the one by us is actually open, but we rarely went because we are old and they start at like 9 o’clock.
Looking for something fun to do at home with your kids or a friend or two? Or just want the drive-in movie experience but one that you can start way earlier? Here are all my tips/tricks for our DIY drive-in theater.
The secret to the success here is the in-garage setup. We pull the truck all the way to the front of the garage and set the screen back just far enough inside that you still get good visibility but that it’s dark enough farther back that you can start pretty early in the evening. We typically start the movies at 6:30pm even in the height of summer and while it’s not pitch-black crisp, it definitely does the job!
We just leave the screen set up all summer. We use the garage in the winter, but just prioritize that for movie space in the summer months. Basically to just save some work.
You can go a couple of routes here.
As far as your screen — when we were just testing the idea out, we just did a white bed sheet from Walmart and it worked just fine. Since this is our go-to summer evening activity, this year we did invest in this screen as a bit of an upgrade, but if you’re looking for lower cost, don’t hesitate to go the bed sheet route.
We use these big movie mats in the truck bed that I made on a rare crafty kick, but add lawn chairs to your truck bed, use the back of a van, use pillows or skip the vehicle route all together and just make a lawn chair circle right outside the garage.
We’ve comfortably fit up to 6 kids with lawn chairs in the way back of the truck with movie mats up towards the front. I love it because it appeals to a mix of ages and our viewing audience has ranged from 3-10 and fun was still had by all.
The projector is the only heavy duty piece of equipment here. We have a home movie-style projector that my husband kindly brought to our marriage that’s attached to a computer, but there are definitely quality iPhone projectors out there. This one comes highly rated and is really portable!
Have you ever seen an idea on Pinterest and then saved it in your head for like 6 years until it was the perfect idea you needed? But then you can’t remember like where you put your keys? Hope this is not just me.
But I saw this easy movie night snack bin using a Dollar Tree basket forever ago and this is the easiest way we’ve found to organize snacks for each kid and make clean-up a little easier.
I grab these baskets at the Dollar Tree for just a buck. I’ve added more of the course of a few years and they always have this style in stock, they just change of the color assortment.
Pop in a juice bottle, a Capri Sun or a bottle of water. Add some popcorn in a brown bag (best way to contain it and still make it on the go.) Then I mix it up with a little bowl of treats for just a maximum sugar rush or sometimes splash out with those movie theater boxes of snacks.
Fun For the Adults Too
This is a great activity for having family friends over and easily entertaining everyone outside. The kids pile in for the movie and we typically have the adults hanging out a ways back enjoying some wine and adult snacks.
How far back you can be from the setup definitely depends on the age of your kids, but since my youngest is 3 1/2, we love enjoying some adult conversation while the kids watch the movie in another part of the yard, hehe.
Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!