Do you remember your first date? What was your favorite part; getting ready, the anticipation, or the event itself? The first date that I had with my husband was unforgettable, not because it was perfect, but because it was exciting, comical, emotional, and everything I never expected it to be. It would seem that play dates with your kids don't have much in common with the special dates you have with your husband or wife, but perhaps they should. There are some major differences, obviously, but the communication required, anticipation involved and special nature of the event itself, I think, is something that can and should be replicated with "parent dates." Spontaneous outings are fun, and regular trips to the park or walks with friends are irreplaceable, but I feel that there is tremendous value both in terms of teaching opportunities and maximizing enjoyment when a date with your child is treated more like an adult date.
Studies have shown that whether we are talking about a big purchase or an elaborate vacation, the anticipation if it is actually the most valuable part, literally where you get the most bang for your buck. The vacation may be amazing, but it only lasts a few days, the anticipation however can bring happiness for months ahead of time. Perhaps we can maximize the fun and enjoyment our kids get out of a special "parent date" by taking a little extra time to plan ahead, talk to them about what we are going to be doing and what we might need to do to get ready. All of this only adds a net positive to the eventual experience itself.
One of my oldest daughter's favorite dates is to Color Me Mine. What started as a reward for good behavior during the school year last year when the baby was born has turned into a tradition. During our first visit to Color me Mine, A and I painted a watermelon bowl. From that point on, we have taken the time to schedule follow up trips, planned ahead of time what we will paint (at this time that is more fruit bowls to complete our collection) and talked about & looked forward to the event for days or even weeks ahead of time.
This type of project is very practical as well, which pleases the logical part of me. We can use the bowls every day. They also happen to make eating and meals more special and fun for my daughter. Something I have learned at YCA is the key to making the event more enjoyable for a child is letting her be as hands on as possible. That is a very hard task for a lot of moms that want it to be "perfect." With just a little prep work you can set up your child to create a beautiful fruit bowl that they did on their own. The watermelon bowl is the easiest to start with. The orange bowl, our second project required a little taping on my part but then my daughter sponged on the various colors of orange.
I use this example because it is not the cost of the event that makes it special, I believe it is all in the set up. We've been to elaborate, expensive birthday parties that my daughter hasn't thought twice about, but she's always excited to use her watermelon bowl for dinner and loves planning and prepping for what fruit we will paint next.
Do you plan a regular date with your child? What are some successful ideas that you have done?