April Fools' Day Pranks That Will Get the Entire Family Laughing

Photo: Con Poulos

Love a good laugh? These harmless, hilarious practical jokes will catch anyone off-guard.

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Quick, hide this article! If anyone else reads it, your jokes are ruined. Worse, someone might pull them on you! Armed with the tricks here, you can have fun with family and friends on April Fools' Day.

You might be surprised to learn that no one loves a prank more than Martha. Her cutting sense of humor and inventiveness has led to all sorts of funny moments on the T.V. show and in her offices. Before you follow her lead, take a moment to understand the holiday's foolish history: Some say the ancient Celts used April Fools' Day to pay tribute to Lud, their god of humor. A favorite trick was to ask an unwitting messenger to deliver a note that read "Send the fool further!" According to a more common explanation, the holiday originated in the sixteenth century when the Gregorian calendar was introduced in France, changing New Year's Day from April 1 to January 1. Traditionalists who didn't want a new New Year's—or happened to miss the news—continued to celebrate the holiday on April 1. Some up-to-date French citizens took this as an opportunity to play tricks on their backward brethren, whom they dubbed poisson d'avril, or "April fish." Why fish? Because it was believed that fish that hatched in April were easy to catch. Even now, a popular prank with French schoolchildren is to stick a paper fish on someone's back so other kids can yell, "Poisson d'avril! Poisson d'avril!" Stateside, probably owing to Americans mystified by French humor, the paper fish on one's back turned into a sign that said "Kick me." Funny, sort of.

But we prefer the ideas here; they hurt less but cause even more hilarity. April Fools' Day offers the chance to summon your inner prankster and catch friends, family, and even coworkers (albeit, cautiously) off guard. We offer enough gags here to put everyone in an uproar. So go ahead, turn the milk blue or slip a faux bug into someone's slipper. This silly holiday gives you every excuse.

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Milk Turned Blue

Con Poulos

Add a few drops of blue food coloring to your milk carton before serving a meal or snack, shake it up, and pour. Prepare to watch your children's eyes widen in surprise.

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A Surprise Shower

kitchen sink with gold faucet
Addie Juell

Wrap a rubber band around the kitchen sink sprayer so whoever turns on the faucet gets a big, wet surprise.

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Morning Mix-Up

salt varieties flaky gray kosher
Ren Fuller

Ready for that first cup of coffee? They're not ready for this: Salt in the sugar bowl is a classic switcheroo! Just don't forget to keep an extra dispenser of the real thing for when the laughter subsides.

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A Tricky Tint

deviled eggs with ham and peas topped with fresh pea shoots
Pippa Drummond

Green eggs and bacon is a twist on Dr. Seuss—and the makings of a prank-turned-pun. Just add frozen peas for a creamy, cool, all-natural tint of color.

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Who Will Bug Out?

black childrens slippers with iron-on applique patches
Addie Juell

Give them a case of the creepy-crawlies: Place a big ol' fake roach in the slipper of the family member who's likely to scream the loudest.

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Shrunken Breakfast


Surprise your family with miniature meals: a sunny-side-up quail egg atop a piece of cocktail bread. (If you want to get them twice, later in the day, serve up these tiny tuna melts for lunch.)

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Splash of Blue Water

blue water prank for April Fools'
Justin Bernhaut

The results of this prank aren't permanent (or toxic) but the memory of the look of shock on a family member's face when they turn on the faucet will live forever.

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Infested Ice Cubes


Pop some toy flies, fake ants, or gummy worms into your guests' drinks, and watch their expressions go from thirst to horror.

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What's That?

daily beauty products
Kent Rogowski

You'll need to be sneaky to pull of this prank: The night before April Fools' Day, insert a raisin into a tube of toothpaste. The unsuspecting person who squeezes it will be dismayed by what comes out onto his toothbrush.

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Alarming Alarm Clock


Set someone's alarm clock an hour early. Or set a bunch of clocks to go off at the same time, and hide them around the room for a noisy wake-up call.

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Uninviting Bed

Bryan Gardner

This old classic never gets old: Short-sheet a bed by tucking in both ends of the top sheet at the head of the bed. When the fool crawls in, her feet will stop short.

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Drawer Confusion

Bryan Gardner

Rearrange your spouse's drawers to make him wonder if he's still asleep. He'll find his sweaters with his socks or your scarves and sunglasses where his neckties should be. (Organizational drawer dividers make quick work of this.)

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Spill Thrill


Coffee on the comforter? Soda on the sofa? Water on Dad's iPhone? There's no cause for alarm if the mess isn't real. The "spill" is made from solidified glue.

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Puzzling Message

Burcu Avsar

Confuse callers by leaving the following outgoing message on your answering machine: "Hello? [pause] Hello? [pause] Is anyone there? [pause] April Fools'!"

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Mean Money


Tape a dollar or a quarter to the floor in a high-traffic area, and watch the parade of clowns bend down and unsuccessfully try to pick it up.

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A Savory Surprise

birthday meat loaf cake
Krause, Johansen

A sundae of mashed potatoes and gravy or a slice of meatloaf cake is a good gag for the afternoon, when everyone thinks the jokes are over.

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