The secret to spontaneity for families who prefer sitting still is simple. Don’t let weekends go to the wayside. Use that downtime to let the kids pick their own adventure.
Start by writing a list of chores, activities and excursions on a sheet of paper. Tear each topic into slips, fold them up and drop them in a bucket. Shake it up and let chance choose the weekend’s course.
Get off the couch and into cinema seats. Tackle tedious chores. Hike up hills or explore nature. Even build a blanket fort or stargaze from a backyard tent. Here’s eight of my favorites selected so far.
1. Yard Work: Planting, raking, pulling—yard work IS NOT my forté. While I took to the shrubs like Edward Scissorhands with hedge trimmers, my kids kept busy at the water table. Once cut to a satisfying degree I called for backup. Tiny gardening gloves grasped clippings, filling sleds to drag to compost. Then it was on to the flower beds. Momma got down and dirty yanking weeds to clear overgrown areas strangling the landscape. The kids plopped piles of crabgrass and dandelions into sleds to discard, along with an impressive collection of rocks, leaves and pine cones. We finished by filling buckets from the water table, giving easy breathing plants a good dousing of H2O.
2. Visit the Library: We visited our local branch and discovered a spectacular children’s play and learn section. While I sat nearby on a cozy couch reading, my munchkins looked through interactive story books and got imaginative in a space all their own. They quietly created meals in the play kitchen, choo-choo’d the train table, stacked block towers and developed wall art on super-sized LEGO brick, magnet and peg light boards.
3. Create a Racetrack: We upcycled drop ceiling tiles ready to trash to create a DIY racetrack with jump ramp for toy cars. The project was by no means Pinterest-worthy, but provided hours of entertainment all the same. Grown ups drew road lanes while the kids decorated the concourse with ABCs, smiley faces and funny figures. Then it was off to the races, finding a sweet spot at the starting line for each toy car to catch air from the ramp and roll the farthest.
4. Put Letters Together to Form Words: I’ll give my five-year-old credit, she’s on point with spelling skills. We reviewed words and she rewrote them, wrote daddy a note with momma’s guidance and traced the alphabet. My little wordsmith even encouraged her younger brother to write, showing him how cool it was to join letters to form words.
5. Play Outside for an Hour: We ventured out and explored every inch of a local park for one hour, starting with a picnic lunch. Sandwiches were scarfed for free reign of the playground. We seesawed, scaled towers and balanced beams, traversed walking trails toward extra play areas and crossed the park to run the diamond and pitch an imaginary game at the baseball field. After mom batted it outta the park we walked back to where we began for five more swings and slides before heading home.
6. Learn a New Dance: We’re always down for a dance party. We took the #InMyFeelings challenge to our living room, mimicking an alien dancing on beat to Drake’s hit song via YouTube—pumping hands in the shape of a pounding heart, steering a wheel and swiping sides while booty bouncing. Next time we’ll go a step further learning Flamenco, an Irish reel or even the Roger Rabbit hop.
7. Plan a Family Date: Every date should involve adventure, food and romance. My kid’s interpretation was ice skating, eating hamburgers and running through a dancing fountain. With 90 degree weather, an afternoon on ice was awesome. We got out on a weekday and the rink was ours. First time skaters—including daddy—learned to glide without getting in the way of loop jumps. Once skating got us starving, we headed out to fill up at our favorite restaurant, enjoying a dancing fountain show from the patio. Our little ones raced back-and-forth following choreographed fountain sprays set to music while we sat shoulder to shoulder getting spritzed with a cool water mist.
8. Explore Nature: A fresh air adventure set to the soundtrack of nature is always a favorite. We put on protective wear and traveled to a local reserve. Hundreds of tiny hopping frogs lead us from the trailhead to a pond filled with geese and fish. Down a bit we discovered mud tracks and a treetop overlook offering a birds-eye view of the forest. Little feet stomped through streams and ran open fields winding through goldenrod meadows, the best neck of the woods to spot shapes in clouds. We climbed boulders and logs, explored a wilderness playhouse, tossed sticks and made wishes blowing dandelions. With five miles of easy treks there’s always a reason to return and explore more of the ecosystem.
The pick your own adventure activity has helped our family experience spontaneous fun. My children come home full of energy Friday afternoons following school and wake up wide-eyed Saturday and Sunday ready for the weekend. There’s no more asking, “What will we do today?” It’s up to the kids, now.