This past weekend Joe took Bensen on a "man date" because Bensen was in need of some quality one-on-one time with his dad and because we are trying to make dates with mom or dad a regular thing in our family. They went to dinner and sat by the window where they could count the trucks and trailers driving past. Then they made a stop at Home Depot to pick up a can of paint I needed for some touch ups around the house. There Bensen experienced the greatest thing in his life so far, he sat on a John Deere mower. When he showed me the picture of him on the mower, he got so excited, and he got just as excited every time he showed the picture to everyone when we were with family on Sunday. There were giggles and squeals and so much excitement that his little body would shake because the energy had nowhere to go.
Sitting on the riding mower display for a few minutes and going nowhere was the highlight of Bensen's weekend. It was a simple thing but it left a big impression. He's been carrying his own John Deere toys with him everywhere, they're his current most prized possessions. It made me realize that for every big outing or fun adventure I plan for our family, I can plan a dozen simple ones, because my kids and my husband will love them just as much.
25 Ideas for Simple Family Fun
As a Family
Bensen's very favorite thing right now is to have a picnic and watch a movie. We do this at least once a week, sometimes twice if I'm feeling extra fun. His very favorite is when we lay a blanket out on the floor and everyone sits together. During the summer months, we love to eat on a blanket outside. We can cook a picnic, pull together cheese and crackers or pick up chicken nuggets from the drive-thru and he loves them all just because it is a picnic.
Go on a Walk
There's a trail close to our house that we love to frequent when the weather is nice. We've recently started letting the kids get out of the stroller and run when we hit the trail. They love exploring their surroundings up close and personal. It makes the walk last twice as long, but they have so much fun, I don't mind. It usually gives Joe and I more time to talk as well because the kids are running ahead a ways and we're tagging along behind, enjoying watching them go.
Go to the Park
Bensen loves to go to the park with everyone in the family. He loves eating at the picnic table, playing on the toys and running around in the grass. It's his favorite when we do it all together and when everyone is involved in the activity.
Make a Treat
Whether you make caramel popcorn, bake brownies, make cookies, roast s'mores, or make ice cream sundaes, there is something so fun for kids when it comes to working together in the kitchen to make something. Assign part of the task to each member of the family and
Our kids are old enough now that they are starting to enjoy watching movies. They love cuddling up on the couch as a family in our pajamas or comfy clothes and watching one of their favorites or being introduced to a new classic. We're finding that as parents, we're excited to introduce our kids to some of the favorite Disney and Pixar movies that we've grown up with or that have come out in past years that we've really enjoyed.
What simple activity can you do to enjoy the current season and everything that it brings to your area. In the spring, we love walking around to see the flowers blooming in everyone's yards. We also love going on picnics and playing at the park when the weather starts to warm up. During summer, we explore local festivals, go on late night walks and play outside in the water. In the fall we love to get outside and crunch leaves, and snuggle up inside to watch the rain. We spend a lot of time indoors during the winter, due to freezing temperatures and crappy air quality, but we still find ways to have fun. Going outside to play in freshly fallen snow, drinking hot chocolate, baking cookies and family game nights are some of our favorites.
Go to Grandma's House
We go to grandma's house every weekend and spend time with all of the family that is there. But there's something fun about going to grandma's when nobody else is there and having them all to yourself. Our kids love their grandparents and we love that they live close enough that we can see them often and our kids can build a relationship with them. Bring a picnic or dessert and show your kids all of the fun things that you enjoyed at your house when you were growing up.
Visit the Pet Store
When we were doing our Christmas shopping this past year, we stopped by the pet store to grab a couple of gifts for Howie. The kids were all shopped out at that point and just wanted to run around and play. Joe took them back to see the fish, birds and small rodents and they were entertained for a good 15 minutes and would have stayed there longer if we'd let them. Emmy loved the birds and Bensen was intrigued by the tanks full of fish. It was something different than they're used to but so fun to see.
Readathons in a Fort
I have done this is the past and want to do it even more in the future. We love reading books in our house and do it often. One way to make that activity a little extra special is to build a fort, fill it with pillows and blankets, bring a bunch of snacks and read with flashlights in your fort. I'm not talented when it comes to fort building, so we usually grab the biggest blanket we have and drape it over our kitchen table and chairs. Or we climb into the biggest box that we can find (we keep a few from purchases we've made.
Go Out to Eat
Kids love going out to eat, and it's the perfect opportunity to make them feel special and get some one on one connection with them. Let them pick the restaurant, order a kids meal, and the focus 100% on them. Color on the kid's menu/placemat together, talk about their favorite topics and enjoy getting to know them on a more personal level.
Get Ice Cream
One of my favorite dates with Bensen was when we went out for ice cream cones. We sat and talked while we ate our kiddie cones and then he showed off for me on the play place. It cost me less than $1 and Bensen talked about it for weeks.
Play at the Playground
I take my kids to the park a lot, and I'm sure you do too, but when was the last time that you spent a large chunk of your time playing on the playground with them. I'm a kid at heart and love the idea of a little playground date with my kids. Sliding down the slides, running across the swinging bridges and swinging on the swings.
Get the Mail
Is anyone else's child obsessed with checking the mailbox? Bensen loves to check grandma's mail at the end of her driveway and he loves to walk to the end of our circle to check the community mailbox. Sometimes I take both kids, but a lot of times I make this a mom and Bensen activity because I know how much he loves it. It takes five minutes out of my day but it means the world to him.
There is nothing that Bensen loves more than helping me in the kitchen. He is always grabbing a chair and standing next to the counter so he can see whatever I am doing. When we bake one-on-one, he loves being able to dump the ingredients, start the mixer, and watch the cookies while they are baking in the oven. We like cake mix cookies because they only have a few ingredients so they are easy for toddlers to help put together. If your kids are older, make your favorite cookies or try out a new recipe together.
Go to the Library
With two toddlers, the library can be a crazy place to go, but going to the library often is something that I want to make a priority. My family would go to the library every week or two when I was growing up and books were a huge thing in our home. Both of my kids love books and I want to continue to foster that love. As we make mom/dad and me dates a more regular thing in our house, I want to take my kids to the library to sit and read a pile of books of their choice every so often.
Play a Game
Bensen's current favorite game is Candyland, even though he hasn't quite grasped how to play it. He loves looking at all of the cards and moving the playing pieces around the game board. When we play games together, I'm mostly an observer, but that one-on-one time when he has my undivided attention is his favorite.
As a Couple
While one of us in the kitchen making a meal, the other is usually entertaining kids and wrangling them to the table so they can eat. And when we do dinner at home for date night, we usually opt for takeout. But I know a lot of couples who love to make dinner together, splitting up the tasks and listening to podcasts or music while they do. Joe isn't a big fan of baking or cooking, so he usually opts out of joining me, but when we're grilling for dinner, he's right there in the midst of it all. He keeps an eye on the grill while I put together the sides. I love that we're working toward something yummy together and get to talk while we do it.
Sometimes a simple dessert date can be a lot of fun. Whether you grab ice cream, visit your favorite restaurant just for the dessert menu or find a great place near you that serves a unique treat. Some places near us have delicious dessert waffles, ice cream cookie sandwiches, donuts with ice cream and more!
Go for a Drive
There is a canyon near us that is gorgeous in every season and I love to drive up by it. I have a route that I follow that takes me on a good hour long drive. Car rides like that are great for talking and reconnecting. We also love to look at all of the houses up on the hill and day dream about what our future forever home will look like and what features we want to include.
This is a classic! Drive out to somewhere away from the city lights, find a secluded park or lay a blanket out in your own yard. We have a few favorite star gazing locations and love to watch the sunset then wait for the stars to come out.
Movies in the park are one of my favorite summer traditions, but they're only specific days of the week and they sometimes aren't showing a movie that we're interested in watching. For a date night at home, we can blow up our air mattress and put it out in the yard with lots of blankets and pillows. Then we can watch a movie on one of our laptops or our small TV. I've also gone out in a truck to the middle of nowhere and piled blankets into the back of the truck and watched movies that way!
Try a New Restaurant
One of the things that we've been doing a lot this year is eating out at places that we've never been before. It has been fun to seek out restaurants that aren't our norm, and we've discovered some great, locally owned places in our search. We make note of restaurants that we see when we're driving around and then plan to come back and try them out later. We order appetizers and split main dishes so that we get a taste of everything. It's always yummy and a lot of fun!
Watch YouTube Videos
It's easy to get sucked down the YouTube hole, but fun when you do it together. We love music videos, funny viral videos and comedian routines. Whatever you're in the mood for, start with something that you know well and see what related videos it finds you next. You could be entertained for as short or as long a time as you want.
Look at Old Pictures/Videos
When I was growing up, we'd pull out our family videos or slides every so often and look through them. It didn't matter how many times we looked at them, we always enjoyed them. With digital cameras and phones, it's easier than ever to look back at the videos and pictures that you've taken over the year. I love Facebook memories, so I know that I'd love going through all of our old pictures and reliving those memories together.
Plan Something Fun for the Future
We love to sit down together and plan for goals that we want to accomplish in the future. Some days we plan a big vacation that we want to take years in the future, other days we plan for a trip that we can go on in the coming year. We love to plan for our future house or for things that we're going to do together after we've retired. It's simple and can be done any time, even if you aren't able to do that thing right away.
I definitely want to plan camping trips, outings to museums, visits to trampoline parks and similar play places, exploring local festivals and a lot of other fun adventures. But my ultimate goal is to make memories as a family and find ways to connect and build our relationship every single day. Sometimes the simple things are the best way to do that!
Photography by Sadie Banks Photography