There are few things more satisfying than pulling a fast one on your own kid, but elaborate prep work is sure to sap the fun out of any good April Fools' Day joke. In the past, we've shared ideas for old-school gags and fun tricks to play on children, but more recently, we've found that the very best pranks are also the simplest.
Here, we run down 15 easy ways to show kids that we still have the upper hand—at least when it comes to April Fools' Day!
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1. Broccoli for Breakfast. Lay out a spread for the kids before they come into the kitchen in the morning—a folded napkin, silverware, a drink...the works. But instead of pancakes or French toast, carefully arrange some broccoli (or some other despised vegetable) on their plates. Hopefully, they'll still be sleepy enough to not register the date just yet; when they're confused or protest, play dumb, of course.
2. Savory Toothpaste. Swap their Crest or Colgate in the bathroom with a tube of tomato or garlic paste.
Fill their drawers with your drawers for morning confusion!
3. Whose Drawers are in My Drawer? – Switch out the underwear drawer for each of your kids or replace theirs with adult underwear. You could do this with any of their clothing drawers, but of course, underwear gags always get the biggest laugh.
4. Veggie Chips – Carefully open the bottom of a single-serving chips bag, dump out the chips, and replace them with baby carrots. Reseal the bottom of the bag with double-sided tape. Your child will be surprised to find carrots instead of chips in the bag at snack or lunchtime!
5. Funny Talk – Talk to your child all day (or for as long as you can keep it up) in rhyme, Pig Latin, Shakespearean English, or your best (or better, worst) foreign accent. If you want to take it a step further, dress the part, too.
6. Short Shoeing – Stuff the inside tips of your children's shoes with toilet paper, tissues or cotton balls. They will wonder why their shoes suddenly don’t fit.
7. The Cereal Bowl Shuffle – Move things around in the kitchen cabinets: Put the cereal where the bowls should be, cups in the silverware drawer, etc. You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you want.
8. Backward Day – Put your clothes on backward and act completely normal. You might even want to insist that your kids go put their clothes on “properly.”
A little Easter egg dye helps secure this trick. Blue water??
9. Rainbow Water. Got some dye pellets used for coloring Easter eggs around? (If not, they are inescapable right now in just about every supermarket in America.) Use a small, thin piece of duct or electrical tape to adhere one just inside or to the underside of the tap of your child's bathroom faucet. The morning or evening routine should be interesting.
10. Throwback Tunes. If your child is beyond kindergarten, tee up some preschool hits on your phone. When you turn on the car, and you get the inevitable request to put on the radio, play the Elmo's World theme song or Mr. Froggy Went a Courtin' instead. Sing along in earnest.
Birthday April Fools' Day to You – Act like it’s your child’s birthday. You could put up a banner and some balloons and give him a muffin with a candle in the middle for breakfast. Then sing, “Happy April Fools' Day to you…” This is only funny, of course, if your child’s birthday isn’t April 1.
12. Li'l Lunch – Pack or set out your school-age children's lunch with toddler food and sippy cups. Bonus points if you've hung onto the divided plates.
13. Soil Test – Make a dirt dessert (minus the gummy worms) and place it in a small, clean planter. Ask your kids to help you plant some sunflower seeds, and tell them the soil has to be tested to make sure the seeds will grow. Explain that the way to test the soil is by eating it, then grab some from the top and pop it in your mouth. Insist that they try at least a tiny taste. Once they know it is actually Oreos and pudding, serve up dirt dessert.
Swap in your number for his bestie's and then respond with some good ol' parental advice.
14. Text Me—No, Really. If your child has his own mobile device and you have access to the passcode, edit the primary contact info for his best buddy by deleting the friend's number and plugging in yours. If and when your child punches in his friend's name, reaches out, and you receive the message, respond as yourself; perhaps adding an admonishment about the fact that he's on his phone or iPad. Let the confusion ensue. Do this one only if you dare!
15. A Picture is Worth a Thousand "April Fools" – Change the background photo on your teen's or tween's computer, phone, iPad, or other device to something mortifying. The photo could be of you and your spouse smooching, your kid as a naked baby, a photo of them sleeping; you get the picture.
And for the other 364 days of the year, check out our bucket lists of 100 things to do with kids in LA, NYC, Boston, NJ, Philly, CT, Long Island, Westchester, Houston, Chicago, or Washington, DC!
A version of this article first published in 2017
Photos by the author except where noted