Have you ever experimented with the ideas of parent-kid dates? They’re a unique way to spend individualized, quality time with each kid! This post has some great budget-friendly kid date ideas!
Guest post from Katie of My Joy in Chaos:
As a stay at home mom of five, with a husband who works fairly long hours during the week, our individual time with the kids is quite limited.
We live in about an 1800 square foot house and it feels like there is always someone in every room. As soon as we start time with one kid, there is suddenly an avalanche of additional kids climbing on us to see what we are doing with their sibling.
As our kids started getting older we looked at the example set by my husband’s parents when they did foster care for teen boys — we take turns taking them out on dates!
Why do we take our kids on dates?
Each of our kids is incredibly unique. God has created them with individual personalities, interests, and talents. If we are always doing everything together as a family, we are bound to leave out a hobby, adventure, or food that someone likes and wouldn’t otherwise get to enjoy.
Some of our kids are also completely different in a group setting compared to the one-on-one setting. By spending a few hours focused on each child, we get to know a whole new side of him or her!
The siblings are no longer competing for attention, but rather getting to soak up quality time with just mom or dad.
What do we do on kid dates?
We don’t do all of these every time we go on a date, but our kids can typically expect 2-4 hours of uninterrupted time with mom or dad when it is their turn.
We often let them dictate the agenda unless we have an errand that needs to get done.
Their favorite choices are:
- Go out to eat
- Visit favorite stores
- Play at the park
- Visit the library
- Walk around the mall
- Run errands
How do we save money on kid dates?
Spread the dates out
We used to try and do one date per month. Back when we only had two or three kids, this was reasonable. Now that we have five kids we’ve shifted to doing them in two-month blocks. I take January and February, my husband takes March and April, and we continue to alternate throughout the year.
Spreading out for your family might mean once per week or once per month. Look at your calendar and your budget and get realistic about where you have wiggle room in both.
Sign up for restaurant deals
I’ve taken kids to Chili’s for as little as $14 with tax and tip because we had a free kids meal coupon, I ordered off the 3 for $10 menu, and we both took food home for later in the week!
Other places may send coupons for a percentage or dollar off, free appetizers or desserts, and other discounts to your email. Many also offer accumulated rewards where you earn points for eating with them and can cash them in at certain levels.
Many restaurants will also tell you what day of the week they offer free kid’s meals. For instance, every Tuesday is Kids Eat Free at Pizza Ranch. If this is what one of our kids chooses for a date then you better believe we make it happen on a Tuesday!
Choose not to eat out
Our kids have gotten pretty accustomed to dining out being part of their date but we’ve made it a part of our budget and are okay with it for now. But should there come a day when that doesn’t work, we would find other things to do. Eating out, especially for full meals, can get pricey quite quickly so looking for alternatives is a great way to keep costs low.
Look for free or discounted events
Libraries, book stores, toy stores, craft stores, and other places around your town might offer fun events for kids and families. We have done LEGO builds at Target, JoAnn, and Toys R Us that always add an extra bonus to a date.
Our movie theater often runs kid series with older movies that come back to the theater for a limited time for a discount. They usually offer a free small bag of popcorn with each ticket as well. They also have $5 Tuesday showings (all day for every movie!) and Student Thursdays.
Be honest with your child about the budget
Our kids LOVE sushi but it’s completely out of our budget to take them to a sushi restaurant for every date. Instead, we allow them one sushi date per year. This makes it a special treat, plus we can plan accordingly for the expense.
What are the best free kid date ideas?
Visit the library
Reading the same books over and over at home can get old. Hit up the library, grab a stack of books, and curl up on the couch together. Many libraries also offer board games now which would make for a fun afternoon.
Our library also offers lots of different classes and events that are free when you register. In February and March, they had multiple Harry Potter events for different ages, and around the holidays they offered craft classes to make small presents – all for free!
Go on a walk or bike ride
We can only take advantage of this idea during a few months of the year because we live in the frozen north, but try to get out and enjoy nature!
Our town is full of bike and walking paths, and now that our kids are getting older they can handle going a further distance without complaining.
Venture out then find a place to stop and talk before heading back home.
Pack a picnic
My kids adore picnics. Eating outside is an adventure that never gets old. Throw some peanut butter sandwiches and veggie sticks in a container and find a new place to explore.
The point is to spend time getting to know your child; the food is just a bonus.
Our school district offers so many free events that it’s easy to find one to attend.
Check out a concert, visit the art displays, or take in a play.
Most school sporting events will have an admission fee, but some may have free entrance depending on the school and sport.
I’m always amazed at the number of events our park district offers for no charge or with a small canned food donation.
They have done movie nights, craft events, inflatable game parties, and more – all for no charge!
If you aren’t doing dates with your kids or at least doing something with each of them on a regular basis, I want to encourage you to try.
It can be as simple as grabbing one when you head off to the store, to drop books off at the library, or while taking the dog for a walk.
We only have so many years with our kids before they are off on their own. Spending intentional one-on-one time with each of them gives us the chance to learn who they are as people, discover what’s in their hearts, and have a little fun along the way!
Katie is the wife to Micah and mom of five smushed into six years. Her goal is to help moms find joy in their everyday chaos by offering practical homemaking tips, inspiration for growing their faith, and simple family activities on her blog My Joy in Chaos.
Ashley P says
Since my oldest (6) started learning about classical music in our homeschool, I wanted him to experience the symphony firsthand while also getting some one on one time away from his brothers. Imagine my delight to discover that our small city has a volunteer orchestra that performs free concerts several times a year! (They do have a bin at the front for donations of cash or canned goods for the local food pantry, so we always try to bring some cans with us.)
His first concert was a tribute to John Williams. He loved getting to hear music from Star Wars and Superman. And he got so excited to hear they were performing Beethoven later this year. So this has become an inexpensive way for he and I to go on “dates” while also exposing him to cultural and educational experiences.
Check your location and see if they have a volunteer or amateur orchestra. You might be surprised!
Crystal Paine says
I love this! Thank you for sharing!
We have seven kids, and a very limited budget. The best solution for free kid dates our family has found, is by having our kids take turns staying up late with us. Monday nights are our “date nights”. We almost never have something going on on Monday nights, and doing it on a specific day each week ensures that we don’t forget. We just rotate, so every kid gets a turn every six weeks (the youngest is a baby). This works great for us because the kids get to hang out with both mom and dad, which is special, and we don’t have to go anywhere, so it makes the logistics easier for us. We make a special snack, then spend an hour and a half or so watching a movie, playing a game, Legos, or another activity of their choice. We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and it works great for us!
I really love this idea! So simple, yet so great! How have I never thought of this before!? Thank you!