For those of you that receive the monthly newsletter you know that this year I have decided to be more intentional in some areas of my life for 2017. One of those areas is spending more one-on-one time with each of my kids.
I know, I know. I homeschool so I am with them ALL.THE.TIME. but they rarely get that one-on-one quality time where they can have my attention all to themselves.
I love the idea of having date nights with my kids, but trying to think up inexpensive, yet fun ideas has me stumped. Especially with the weather we've been having, brrrr!!
A friend of mine has been doing weekly date nights taking turns with each of her 4 children for awhile now. I figure she's the expert and would have some great suggestions. Was I ever right!
I asked her if she'd be willing to share her 50 date night ideas with all of you.
She graciously said yes.
A few months ago, I started a new "thing" in my family.
I started dating my kids one on one.
I had no idea it would garner the attention that it has, but other parents are loving the idea!
Here's why I think it's awesome, and why you may want to consider dating your kids too.
I have four kids and life is busy (the constant run-around-like-a-blind-chicken-pulling-all-my-hair-out-and-trying-not-to-throw-a-tantrum-myself BUSY).
We're bouncing from one thing to another without seeming to take a breath in between…and I know I am far from being alone in feeling overwhelmed by the constant chaos.
To cap it off, this has been a particularly tumultuous year for our family. Stress is sky-high and screen-time seems to be climbing right along with it. My kids were getting lost in the shuffle and I knew it, so I knew I needed to take a step in a different direction.
In a marvelous stroke of parenting genius, Date Nights were born.
Once a week (in our house it's every Wednesday evening), I take one child out for some solo time and its absolutely wonderful!
Why we love it:
I get to know my kids in a hundred new ways.
I get to develop our relationships individually, and not just as a big group of kids! Away from the sibling rivalry, the homework, the screens, the pressures, the craziness... I just get to go spend some quiet time with one of my absolute favorite people and truly enjoy them. It's almost luxurious! I am relieved to get the chance to really get to know each of them as they grow and change, and to have the opportunity to bond with them and hear all about their lives and struggles, removed from the competition for attention that seems ever-present in my home.
They love every second of it too
Each week they all know whose date night it is and that lucky one gets to be the celebrity for the week, the talk of the house. All the siblings can't wait to talk about where they're going to go and what they're going to do on their upcoming date.
I actually get to observe my children work as a team to build each other up and make suggestions of activities they think the star of the week would enjoy. In the midst of the ups and downs of life, these kids latch on to date nights like it tethers them to something. It gives them a soft place to land when they are looking for a good time to talk to me about something hard and they are craving my undivided attention. It's solid and dependable and worth some excitement and joy, right in the middle of the week!
I am a single mom of four children - there is just no possible way that I can afford to take them all out to movies or arcades at the same time. Our family outings are pretty much limited to Costco or the park if I'm feeling particularly adventurous.
Date nights enable me to give my kids a richer experience of the possibilities around them.
Our rule is that each child has to pick something new every time I take them on a date. That way we don't get stuck doing the same thing with that child every time.
I like to leave the choosing up the them, with a little guidance from me on occasion (I would personally rather not entertain the idea of parasailing when it's -20 outside thankyouverymuch). It turned out to be an excellent strategy because it forces them out of their comfort zones and in to new experiences (I think it's safe to say that my own comfort zone gets a little broader as well).
They get to explore the world around them, and I get to enjoy watching them see it all for the first time.
Whether it's visiting the library with my avid reader,
running around playing laser tag with my rough-and-tumble son,
building frozen yogurt sundaes with my little foodie,
or watching Toopy and Binoo at the theater with my youngest.
I really get to play with them at each of their own levels, explore their passions with them and see the world through their little eyes.
I know my kids know I love them - but gosh, I want them to remember me for more than cleaning rampages and what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-cook-NOW meltdowns.
I think date nights also let them experience me in a whole new way - a total break from the norm.
They get to see me laughing and playing and trying new things with them.
We have also started our own little tradition of making date-night-diaries, and it's become really special to look back through them. During each date night we take some pictures, and at the end of the night we make a photo-collage and write out a little page about our date.
The little kids usually just say what they liked best and I always write a paragraph about what we did and what they were like.
One day I will be gone, but they will have these special memory books of their special times with me... watching as they go through the books and seeing themselves get older (along with me I guess... ew), and being able to read my descriptions of who they are as they grow. These are memories that will impact how they remember their childhood and how they remember their mother.
Since starting date nights, I have heard a lot from other kids that wished their parents would do the same, and I have been approached for coaching from other parents that see the benefit in bonding with their kids one-on-one like this.
The biggest stumbling block parents face is figuring out what on earth to do with their kids on date nights.
Fear not - I'm here to help! Whether you want to keep it zero-budget or go totally extravagant, there are endless options to explore!
Love the idea of bonding with your kids but just don't have the budget for date-night outings? Been there. Here's some really fun ideas that give you great memories together without the price tag:
· Visit the library, discover new stories to bond over and even catch a reading for younger kids!
· Have a movie night at home with some fun snacks
· Build a fort together and plan an activity inside (a game, movie, story book etc.)
· Play together at the park and keep the cell phone in your pocket - REALLY PLAY!
· Cook or bake a favourite recipe together
· Go on an unusual hike or walk and take along a picnic
· Play with the season! If it's Winter go tobogganing, in the Summer head to the beach or the splash park.
These are one of my favorite kinds of date night. I still feel like we get to go out together and get special one-on-one bonding time, but it doesn't come with a bill that makes me gulp a little:
· Grab a hot chocolate together at Starbucks
· Let your little one pick their own treat from Tim Hortons
· Make your own frozen yogurt sundaes at your favourite self-serve fro-yo spot
· Try bubble tea! There are so many flavours! It's kind of weird and kids love it.
· Go fruit-picking together in season
· Head to an artisan doughnut shop and pick out a special treat (here in Kelowna, my kids and I love Dolicious!)
· Go on a thrift-store treasure hunt and pick something together to keep as a special memory
· Visit your favourite ice-cream spot, or try a new one (if you guys are normally DQ regulars then visit a scoop-store, or vice versa)
· Go to the movies and share a fun snack (even better if there is a drive-in theater near you!)
· Go for milkshakes together
· Check out a new bakery! We LOVE Sandrine French Pastry and Chocolate!
· Go to your local build-a-bear spot and create a teddy bear together
I LOVE going out to eat. I'm pretty lucky that all of my children are foodies, so we really enjoy experiencing different kinds of food... and as their Mom, I feel like I am doing them a favour by exposing them to the variety that is out there.
I personally feel like I really get to bond with my kids over the table, so I do a bit of a happy dance when they choose a culinary date! Here are some ideas:
Tour the culinary world with different ethnic foods!
· Breakfast for dinner! (Kids eat free at IHOP after 4pm, so going for pancakes only costs us about $10!)
· Restaurant of their choice (We don't eat at Swiss Chalet as a family, for example, but they LOVE the treasure box at the end of their meal!)
· Dress up FANCY dinner date night (This is our most expensive date night, but also my most special memory with each of my kids).
My kids LOVE these date nights! My boys especially get to see me run around and join them on their level, which is just really not my normal Mom behavior.
These are the kinds of activities that are overwhelming and expensive with all the kids at once, but one at a time is totally manageable for me and we really bond and laugh:
· Go bowling
· Rent a water toy (a boat, water-bike, canoe etc.), and head out on the lake
· Play at an arcade together
· Check out mini golf near you
· Bumper cars get a LOT of laughs
· Go painting together at Colour Me Mine
· Try something new and crazy together like parasailing!
· Go tubing or snow-shoeing up at the ski-mountain
· Check out awesome activities at Wildplay Adventure park!
· Sign up for a class together! Check out fun cooking, baking, or painting classes to experience as a team.
· Go to a concert or play together (I especially like Bumbershoot children's theater)
· Air hockey
· If there's a carnival near you, make a point to be a kid again!
· Visit your local YMCA center
· Rent scooters and gallivant downtown
· Go-karts are so fun!
Here in my area of the Okanagan, we have a huge selection of farms and orchards to explore. You can do a lot of it without cost, or you can sign up for some really terrific tours. Here are some local spots that are awesome for this:
· Hoof Prints Barnyard and Petting Zoo
· Sign up for a guided educational tour at Mission Creek Park
· Davison Orchards
· Planet Bee
· Sign up for a tour with Okanagan Foodie tours
· MicMillan Farms
· Carmeli's Goat Farm
· Kelowna Lavender Farm
· Kangaroo Creek Farm
· Arlo's Honey Farm
See? Totally doable!
We only get to raise our kids once... and they get one shot at growing up. Let's all make a point to put the phones away, turn off the distractions, get away from the business and stress and just ENJOY our kids. Trust me, you'll be so glad you did - and so will they!