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Dates with kids

We all know my thoughts on keeping friendships alive with dates, but what’s even more important are dates with your kids. Now before you turn me in to children’s services, hear me out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a single mom like me, or if you have a spouse at home — we all get busy as life has a way of sucking our time and our energy.

While the week isn’t usually a great time to do dates with your kids, it certainly can be. And they don’t have to be anything that costs a lot – or any – money. My son is young, so he’s easily amused. So am I. We have that in common. What I’m going to suggest might not be the perfect idea for older kids, but tweak it to your kids and their personalities. They certainly need parent time just as much as my little one does.

Play in the rain – If you live in Georgia, you know that this summer has been a soggy one. While it keeps us from being able to ride bikes after work and daycare, it doesn’t stop us from having fun in our own way. I warn you: this suggestion for a kid date is not for the faint of heart or those who are freaked out by messes. Play in the rain. Then go one step further, and play in the mud. We do it in our backyard so as not to alarm the neighbors too much. When it’s pouring, grab umbrellas and rain boots and head outside. Stomp in the mud, build mud castles, look at the drops on spider webs (devoid of spiders, or it’s off-limits), make up stories of the adventures you’re having in the rain, dance – your fun is limited only by your imagination. Note this is not a good idea when there’s thunder and lightning. I want you to have fun, not get electrocuted. At first my son was dubious, but now he loves it. Since it’s hot outside, there’s no need to worry about getting chilled. And a bonus: we can go straight into the tub afterwards, so I don’t have to argue about bath time.

Cook – And by cook, I don’t mean let your kids lick the batter and then make them go away. I used to cook with my son like that, but truth be told, it’s kind of a hassle to cook with kids. It’s so much easier to just do it yourself, but your kid will love it if you actually let them cook for real. One of my favorite things to make with my kid is banana bread. He can mix, he can measure, he can even slice bananas (with a butter knife – duh!) and he can help smash pecans. It’s more complex than cupcakes, but still loads of fun. We also, typically, do a night a week where we cook a dish and then learn a little about where that dish is most popular. This could easily be something fun for older kids. Our geography lessons are lacking, but it gives him an idea to start with, and he gets to help cook.

Go bowling – Bowling is an awesome date for kids, and if you are lacking in skills like I am, it’s an excuse to use the bumpers and actually make a strike or two! It can get a little pricy, but this time of year bowling alleys typically have coupons on their websites that you can take advantage of. My son likes to make fun of our shoes and pause our bowling game to waste quarters in those crane games, which is totally fine with me. You can never have enough shabby stuffed animals hanging around the house. We also get to have bowling alley nachos with that fake cheese, which is one of life’s great (and horribly unhealthy) pleasures. One of my favorite things about bowling with my kid is that you get to teach him to praise others when they do well, encourage people to do better, and also to trash talk. That’s half the fun of any sport, so he needs to learn to keep up.

Get wild! – It’s hot outside, and animals are smarter than us, so they hide out under trees and in their little lairs and chill, but just because a ticket to the zoo isn’t worth the money right now, doesn’t mean you can’t still get your animal fix. There’s always the Yellow River Game Ranch, but since they put the deer behind fences for some reason recently, it’s not as much fun. There’s Dauset Trails, which is free, and some of the animals will come out and visit. And don’t rule out the aquarium. It’s not cheap, but its air conditioned and there are several hours of fun to be had there. But if you’re down with tickets for the aquarium, spend a few more dollars and do something with your kid they will remember forever. Spend the night at the zoo with their night crawler program, or at the aquarium. Spend the cash on a one-on-one animal experience like zookeeper for a day (for older kids) or an encounter with a sea otter, dolphin or a beluga whale at the aquarium. It’s not cheap, but it’s so incredibly memorable. Kids have to be at least 7, so I’m counting down until my kid is old enough for us to experience that together. Lastly, there’s Pine Mountain. It’s a drive, and it might be worth spending the night in a hotel as an extra little treat. But you can drive through the animal sanctuary and feed the creatures that wonder up to your car. A word to the wise, llamas will spit on you and chase your car – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

These are just a few examples for you, but you get my point. Pick somewhere that you have the ability to actually talk with one another. Pick something that’s fun for everyone and that will allow you to, instead of wasting time, make some amazing memories that will last for both of you. It might require some budgeting or it may just require a rainy afternoon, but whatever you choose, make sure you do it together. Strong parental influence builds strong and confident kids. And there’s nothing much better than that.