When you have one child, it’s pretty easy to have one-on-one time with him or her. It was when we found ourselves with three boys growing faster than we ever imagined, that we realized how much we wanted to carve out time to cherish special moments with each of them individually. That’s when we started the idea of taking each of our kids out on ‘dates’ on a regular basis.
When we first started out, it wasn’t formal or scheduled, but routine is important to us and we quickly saw the importance of making this investment in our relationships with our kids a regular activity.
“I remember one of the earliest dates was me taking our oldest son out for ice cream at a local soda fountain, or for a 50 cent donut at the local donut shop when he was about 3 or 4 years old. Even though at the time we had only two kids, we saw the value in spending one-on-one time with them, and also noticed that the time the other parent spent with the other kid(s) at home was special because of the different dynamic with one child being away.”
Our Initial Schedule:
Child 1: Week 1 with Dad
Child 2: Week 2 with Mom
Child 3: Week 3 with Dad
Then, next month would flip:
Child 1: Week 1 with Mom
Child 2: Week 2 with Dad
Child 3: Week 3 with Mom
This gave us the opportunity to switch back and forth each month with each child.
Eventually we realized that this schedule didn’t allow for any of our boys to have individual time with BOTH parents – a double date, if you will – so we changed it up and now each month one child gets a double date. Taking the above example, our new routine looked like this:
Our New Routine:
Child 1: Double Date
Child 2: Dad
Child 3: Mom
Child 1: Mom
Child 2: Double Date
Child 3: Dad
…and so on! With this schedule our three boys get a quarterly double date with both of us and a single monthly date with one of us on the off months.
This rotation now goes into our calendars so that we can plan them for the month. We calendar everything that matters – read more on that in our Maximum Impact Guide HERE.
Evolving Date Options
Our monthly dates with our kids have evolved as our finances have grown. It went from being as simple as a 50 cent donut from the local shop, to allowing them to choose a meal from a fast food restaurant (fast food is a rare indulgence for us so they consider it a huge treat!). Once quarterly double dates were implemented we added the option of sit-down meals to make the time a bit more special.
While the boys always enjoy an edible treat, we also use dates as a chance to do something special that the other kids might not want to do. For example, our youngest boy could spend hours at Target deciding which lego set he wants to save up for next. In contrast, we were able to take our oldest to a haunted house that the other boys wouldn’t have been ready for. The trick is to do something of their choosing so they know the time is truly about them.
No matter what we do or where the date is, it’s always more about time we spend together. Often we’ll bring a game to play (like UNO) and let the kid choose the restaurant, or do something more active, like throwing a football, Top Golf, indoor skydiving, a movie, etc. The options are endless!
Finally, we use the special time together to check in with the child, but this is highly dependent on personality, mood and overall season of life. Sometimes they are happy to discuss life and give us updates. Other times they don’t want an interrogation. Over time we have learned to manage our expectations and let the child guide the time as much as we can.
Evolving Dates by Age
Dates have also evolved naturally as the kids have gotten older. As their attention spans increase and they become more aware of their personal preferences, we let them have more of a say in what we do.
We also use dates as an opportunity to encourage autonomy! Something we did from the beginning was to teach our kids how to order for themselves when the dates were at a restaurant, encouraging them to pay with the cash we gave them, and as they grew a little older, go back up to the counter to ask for things like condiments and napkins. It was a great way to teach them how to interact with adults and to practice good manners.
If you don’t already, we encourage you to start the practice of taking your kids out for one-on-one dates. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, expensive or complicated. It’s the quality time that counts so just start with what you feel comfortable with and let it evolve from there.
Below you’ll find some go-to questions we put together for monthly kid dates. We also created a handy print-out with ‘levels’ of dates based on age – download yours here!
“One thing I’ve learned about boys is that in general they will respond better to statements than questions. So I’ve learned to say “tell me about your school day” instead of “how was school?” That slight change created more discussion with my boys.”
Not sure what to talk about on the date? We get it! Especially as they get older, kids tend to get tired of the same-old questions we tend to ask. Rather than just asking how their day was, here are some questions and general topics to bring along on your next date with kids:
- Learn about their likes and dislikes
- Who is your best friend and why?
- What are some of your favorite things? Are they the same as they were last year?
- What is your favorite topic to learn about?
- What’s going on in their life?
- What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen or heard since our last date?
- What’s something interesting you’ve learned recently?
- Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced this year.
- Tell me about a time you felt proud of yourself.
- Learn about their hopes and dreams
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
- What do you want to be when you grow up and why?
- If you had a private island but couldn’t leave, what would you want to have there with you?
- Encourage character development
- Let’s say you won a million dollars. You can spend half on whatever you want and donate the other half. What would you buy and what cause would you donate to?
- Tell me about someone you felt happy/sad for and why.
- How do you feel about your chores? Do you feel like you are ready for more responsibilities?
- What’s an example of unkindness you’ve seen recently, and what did you do? Would you do anything differently next time?
- Fun questions to encourage creativity and humor
- If you were a superhero, what would your name be and what superpower would you have?
- If you were invisible for a day, what would you do?
- What title would you give a book that was all about you?
- If you could switch places with any family member, who would it be and why?
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