Get to Know Your Kids: How we make parent-child dates actually happen (Plus 260 kid-date Ideas)
“What is the best trip you’ve ever been on?”
That is the question that was recently posed to my children and a group of their peers at a church activity.
Some said vacations to the ocean, others mentioned trips out of town to visit family, but as eyes turned on my four-year-old son, he was more than ready to give his resolute answer. “That time, two dates ago, when mom and I played on the playground together and then we got ice cream!” he exclaimed.
I was surprised by the answer, so I reminded him of the many fun and special trips he had been on.
“No,” he said, “not those. Our date, the one to the playground, was my favorite.”
That date to the playground cost all of $1 and took up only two hours of our evening, and yet it meant so much to a four-year-old little boy (a middle child, no less) out for a special night with his mom.
A photo from the very date!
And that is the power of a parent-child date. It allows our children to be seen and known.
There are so many things we pursue that seem worthwhile (money, success, education, leisure time), and yet if we’re not careful, we unknowingly accept these in trade for what actually does matter (relationships & the kingdom of God).
So, I want to teach you how to do dates with your children in a way that I think can actually work.
The key is this: we don’t schedule parent-child dates as often as you might think, but we do schedule them.
How we schedule kid dates
I had wanted to do parent-child dates for a long time. It fit what I believe about being intentional in my relationship with my kids. However, the schedule never quite made sense in my mind.
It never made sense that is, until one day last Spring when my husband created a date night system and inputted it into our shared calendar.
How it works
- Tuesday night is date night
- A date night occurs every other week (2 dates per month)
- Once a month this is a mom-date, the other time it is a dad-date
- Our three kids rotate through, so each of them has a date with one parent or the other every six weeks
When I first saw the schedule, it seemed too infrequent. It almost didn’t seem worth doing. However, as we have implemented this plan over the past 6-7 months, we’ve discovered that it is actually quite brilliant.
It is often enough to have a powerful impact on our relationships with our kids, and yet infrequent enough that it is practical for our family.
To keep costs down, we eat dinner at home, and then go out for a fun evening activity that always includes dessert. These are simple and inexpensive evenings that include things like driving around to look at Christmas lights, chatting over Starbucks drinks, watching a sunset, or playing at a playground. The impact is in the time spent together, having fun, making memories, and connecting one-on-one.
My daughter Clara and I went to Starbucks for a date just last month.
When my husband Mitch and our 4-year-old son hit their turn, they prefer to call it “man time” rather than a date. 🙂 They are cool dudes like that.
As a fun commemorative element, I make a point to take a photo of my child on our date and then set it as my lock screen for the following month. That has been a fun and special date-night tradition.
Why we think parent-child date nights matter
1. Date night facilitates intentional one-on-one time with our children
In a nutshell, this is the driving reason behind why we do date nights with our kids. Although we spend plenty of time together as a family, it’s often interrupted or chaotic. The dynamic is completely different when you get one on one with a child for a period of time and make an effort to interact with him.
2. Our children feel special and important
It is so fun to see the way they absolutely glow when they are walking out the door with mom or dad. That glow continues throughout the whole date.
5. Meaningful conversations have space to flourish
Because they feel special they seem to be much more open to us. They are in a jovial, talking mood, and we get to cultivate a friendship with them during these times.
I love the things I get to learn about my children on our dates! It is amazing what comes out when there’s no older sibling inserting herself into the conversation, and no little sibling crying for attention, et cetera.
Emily and I split a strawberry frappuccino at Starbucks and visited the animals at Petco together on this date.
4. Date nights remind us to listen
Unfortunately, many days I am consumed with cooking meals, cleaning, getting children dressed and ready or off to bed, homeschooling, and working from home, that I don’t make the time I should to just listen.
Date nights remind me to do that. In fact, they put listening on my calendar. What’s more, the listening that I do on a date night reminds me to do more of it when we get back home.
3. We make memories together
Just like four-year-old son Matthew remembered a date that had occurred more than three months prior and considered it his favorite trip, our children remember and cherish their date-nights.
This is one of the most exciting things in their lives as 6, 4 and 2 year olds, and that enthusiasm makes the time incredibly valuable.
On this hot summer’s evening, Clara and I went out for frozen custard and then picked out flowers to plant in our flower beds together. We both love flowers! She also helped me plant them.
I hope you can see just how simple these dates are from the examples I have shared. They are not expensive, and they are not a big time commitment. All that’s needed is a little intentionality and childcare for any other children.
I hope you’ll try it in the new year! I’m sure you can think of a few kid date ideas your children would enjoy, but if you need a little creative inspiration, I’ve rounded up more than 260 kid date ideas below!
260+ Kid Date Ideas
I wanted to share a few of my own parent-child date ideas based on our past year of dates with our kiddos, as well as links to other great ideas around the web. We want our kids to think these dates are special, memorable, and fun, so we keep some simple, but for others, we pull out all the stops!
20 Kid-Date Ideas:
- Go get ice cream (I don’t think we’ve ever had a parent-child date the didn’t include ice cream to date.)
- Go on a special shopping outing that is wrapped up in something you will do together
- Explore a cave
- Go out for pizza
- See a movie together
- Play at a park
- Go to an arcade
- Race go-karts
- Go hiking
- Attend a special event in your area
- Take Old Time Photos together
- Go to a trampoline park
- Get your nails done
- Go to the batting cages
- Coffee (and hot chocolate) date
- Go on a fun local tour (we toured our state capital together!)
- Go ice skating
- Walk around and explore your downtown
- Swimming pool or indoor waterpark
More Parent-Child Date Ideas from Around the Web
General Kid Date Ideas:
20 Awesome Date Night Ideas with Kids via Simple Kierste
12 Great Ideas for Parent-Child Date Night via Military Shoppers
6 Ideas for Date Night with Your Child via Social Moms
25 Seriously Fun Kid “Date” Ideas via Life as Mom
Mother-Son Date Ideas:
25 Mom and Son Date Ideas via Frugal Fanatic
60 Fun Date Ideas for Mom & Son via The Mommy Mix
Father-Daughter Date Ideas:
15 Awesome Father-Daughter Dates via Seaside Sundays
Mother-Daughter Date Ideas:
Over 20 Mother Daughter Date Night Ideas via The Cents’Able Shoppin
20 Things to Do with a Teenage Daughter via The Hillary Leonard
Father-Son Date Ideas:
27 Ideas for Father and Son Bonding via Mommy Making Memories
Looking for more ways to be intentional?
Check out my 90 Date Night Questions for Christian Married Couples printable!