100 ways to date your kids

We’ve all heard to adage that it’s important to “date your spouse.” Before marriage, you spent a lot of time being your best self and working to grow that bond that eventually led you down the aisle. It took effort then, and saying “I do” won’t get you off the hook. If anything, it is even more important to live with intention after marriage than it was before!

When you live with someone day in and day out, you’re going to drop your guard–in fact, you should! There’s no point in hiding the “bad and the ugly” from your spouse, because it’s these very weaknesses that they are uniquely designed to complement and help you (with God’s grace) to overcome so that you can both get to Heaven. That said, sometimes it’s all to tempting to let ourselves coast, to trust that the other person will be there, still loving us, no matter what. And, of course, they should–but we’re all human, and relationships are a lot more enjoyable for everybody when each party is committed to personal growth + big-hearted charity.

Now it might surprise you to think of motherhood in the same way. But it makes sense when you think about it. After all, we live with our kids every day, just like we live with our spouses. They see “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” And it can be just as tempting to coast with them, to trust that because we’re serving them three squares + washing their laundry + getting them to soccer practice on time that they should be grateful and feel brimful of love for all we do. But, like our spouses, our kids are human. Unless my child’s love language is acts of service and he is also very astute and mature, he’s simply not going to translate clean toilets + stocked shelves into love.

In a big family, this can be even more compounded. With more kids comes more laundry, bigger meals, and more soccer practices. There are a lot of personalities jockeying for attention, a lot of people with a lot of needs. A mama of many is never exactly coasting–every day is a marathon! We can be so consumed with dealing with what’s clamoring loudest for our attention that we can miss what’s right in front of us–the reason for everything we do, the only thing worth succeeding at: winning our kids’ hearts.

That’s why this year, my husband and I made one of our resolutions dating our kids 1-on-1. Each month, he and I each choose one kiddo to take on a special date: one with Mama and one with Daddy. For February, we decided I would take the boys on a Valentine’s Date, and he would take the girls. In November, I’ll get the girls for a special holiday outing, and he’ll get the boys. Group dates can be a lot of fun, but we decided that focusing 1-on-1 would be the main goal, so that’s what we’ll be doing most months.

If your kids are anything like mine (and I’m sure they are), they are fun, interesting people who are worth getting to know better. As mamas, we want the good years with our children to extend well beyond their high school graduations. But healthy, lasting, loving relationships with our kids takes intentionality–just like our marriages. The good news is that your kids do love you, and where there’s lots of love, a little effort can go a long way.

If you’re feeling called to start dating your kids, I’d encourage you to go for it! Here are a few ideas to get you started. I’ve categorized them by approximate cost (this will vary a bit depending on where you live). I’ve tried to emphasize activities that are active + collaborative, rather than passive, despite my own personal penchant for movie-watching. You can bond over movies, but it’s just as easy to wind up checking out. You know yourself and your child best. The important thing is choosing activities that will help you and your child connect + tap into your child’s love language.

These are out-of-the-house activities, because (just as with a romantic date) it’s a lot easier to focus on each other when you’re outside your regular environment and away from your daily responsibilities. If you’re a homeschooling family, then I really advocate getting out of the house!

FREE

  • go for a hike
  • visit the library–read to each other, then bring home a favorite book
  • stargaze (for your night owl)
  • bird-watch
  • visit a playground–and don’t forget to play yourself!
  • make sidewalk masterpieces with chalk
  • free admission day @ your favorite museum
  • toss a baseball
  • go swimming at the lake
  • take a walk in the rain–puddle stomping encouraed!
  • browse at the pet store
  • volunteer together
  • play basketball
  • have a picnic
  • do the monthly project at Home Depot (requires registration)
  • visit the fire station
  • beachcomb
  • ride bikes
  • run in a race together
  • visit Jesus in adoration
  • kick a soccer ball around
  • attend daily Mass without the rest of the crew
  • fly a kite
  • go to a summer festival
  • take your sketchbooks on a nature walk
  • stroll through the botanical garden
  • drive to the nearest city + go sightseeing
  • go for a drive in the country
  • feed the ducks
  • be like Miss Rumphius: plant some seeds + make the world beautiful
  • drive with the windows down + the radio up (sing along)
  • explore a local cemetery (please be reverent)
  • visit your local Cathedral or other religious landmark
  • bring cheer to a local nursing home
  • go creek walking
  • play a new board game at a local game store (check open play hours)
  • geocache
  • photograph the world together
  • watch the sunrise
  • watch the sunset
  • sing karaoke
  • take your latest projects to a cozy coffee shop + knit together
  • blow bubbles — lots of bubbles!
  • play in the mud
  • go for a leaf/bug/etc. scavenger hunt
  • skate (roller or board)

$

  • frequent your favorite food truck
  • go fishing (most areas require a license–you can get a daily one!)
  • grab a coffee (or hot cocoa)
  • go camping
  • go out for ice cream
  • get up before everyone else + go out for donuts
  • hit the batting cages
  • grab a pizza
  • thrift shop
  • garage sale hop
  • attend Shakespeare in the Park
  • mini-golf
  • swim at the community pool
  • peruse the farmer’s market
  • take a roll of quarter to the arcade
  • tour a chocolate factory
  • visit a living history museum
  • get a pedicure
  • get drinks at an old-fashioned soda jerk (or milkshakes)

$$

  • visit the planetarium
  • visit the zoo
  • go ice skating
  • ride go-carts
  • go to the aquarium
  • visit a planetarium
  • visit a children’s museum
  • hit a target @ an archery school, paintball court, or range
  • enjoy afternoon tea
  • play Willy Wonka + pick out candy at the coolest candy store around
  • paint some pottery
  • pick out supplies at a local craft store + make something together
  • go to your local garden center + purchase something to plant
  • catch a movie, then take time to discuss it after
  • rock climb
  • try a new restaurant
  • play laser tag
  • ride a train
  • take a dance class
  • go bowling
  • visit a trampoline, bouncy house, or vertical sports center
  • seasonal event: pumpkin patch, country fair, Christmas tree farm

$$$

  • see a play
  • ride slides at the waterpark
  • attend a ballet
  • visit an amusement park
  • take a class together
  • catch a concert
  • dress up + go to a fancy dinner
  • ride horses
  • go to a sporting event
  • attend the Renaissance Faire
  • take a high ropes course
  • go to a hotel for a night + stay up late!