Without a doubt, a movie projector is at the top of my "best purchases of 2020" list. Although the projector started out as an impulse buy brought on by a need for at-home entertainment during the COVID summer, holding an outdoor movie night each weekend has quickly become one of my favorite family traditions .

After a few months of refining our techniques, here are my pro tips for everything you need for an outdoor movie night.

Get a portable screen

The beauty of a projector is that you can set it up most anywhere—whether you want to cast on a sheet hung from a wall or a portable screen. For our purposes, we found that a portable screen was best. That way, we could stream a movie in the backyard with the kids in cardboard "cars" for a drive-in experience. Or we could bring it onto the patio, so my husband and I could cozy up for an at-home date night with the baby monitor within reach.

Have access to movies for everyone

Scoob!

With my young kids, it can be hard for them to agree on the color of the sky—let alone a movie. Thankfully, we found the options on HBO Max gave us all (including my husband and me) something to enjoy during family movie time. So far, we've watched Monsters vs. Aliens , Scoob! and Free Willy , and it's honestly hard to say who from the family liked them the best.

Set up a snack table

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To minimize trips back into the kitchen, we like to bring a full spread of snacks outdoors. Favorite options include a big bowl of popcorn with bowls for divvying it up, a rotating candy option for the kids to sample and, as the weather has turned cooler, a thermos with hot chocolate to pour into individual cups.

Make sure everyone has a comfortable seat and a good view

​As comfortable as they are for dinners on the back patio, we quickly realized our outdoor dining chairs weren't going to cut it for family movie night. Now we bring out a bean bag chair for each of the kids while my husband and I scoot over an outdoor sofa. Without fail, one of the kids will request watching from cardboard cars we made and then the rest follow suit. I have to take a picture of the cuteness every time!

Find ways to extend the season

As summer came to a close, we agreed that we didn't want outdoor movie night to go on hiatus until spring. Instead, we adapted by breaking out the cozy sleeping bags, sipping on hot chocolate and setting up an outdoor heater for a little shot of warm air.

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