There are a lot of things I prefer to do without my children. Take showering, for example, along with long car rides, cleaning the house, and playing games (sorry, kids, Mama’s got a competitive streak). It’s no secret that many things are better, easier, or more enjoyable without the addition of our offspring.
But then there are other things that are actually better with children. The enjoyment of some of these activities may depend on the age or stage of your child, but I’ve found these 10 things are infinitely better when I have my kids by my side:
1. Amusement Parks
I took our first daughter to Disneyland when she was 3. I thought she’d be too young to get much out of it, but omigosh, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I got to watch her face light up over and over and over. In the 12 years since, we’ve taken our kids to various Six Flags, Disney, and Universal parks, and despite the predictable annoyances, the sheer joy and excitement of those outings are hard to match.
2. Dance Parties
Every once in a while, we push the furniture back, turn on the disco light and some bass-thumping music, and transform our living room into a family dance club. Kids dancing is the best, especially when they’re young enough to not feel self-conscious about their moves.
Adult coloring books are all the rage now, but even sitting with a child and filling in a kid’s coloring page is surprisingly therapeutic. And I can’t count how many great chats I’ve had with my kids over crayons and colored pencils. I used to resist it — using coloring books as more of a “here, do this so I can get some things done” distraction — but joining them is like a Zen bonding experience.
Okay, this one is admittedly more about me than it is the kids. When our family is engrossed in a movie, I inevitably fall asleep halfway through. Knowing that the kids are safe and happy and no one is asking me for anything, my brain can just shut off. It’s been years since I’ve made it through a kids’ movie without a nap — even in the theater — but it’s the best snooze. Happy kids, happy mama. Win win.
5. The Beach
I know a lot of people hate the beach because of the sand, the seaweed, the crowds, etc., but once your kids are past the worrisome toddler stage, the beach is the easiest place to parent. You slap some sunscreen on them, make sure you have a cooler full of food, and let them loose. Sand and water are the world’s best toys. Our kids will spend hours making things, playing in the waves, and making things again. The joy of this simple, natural play is hard to beat.
6. Watching Fireworks
I know some kids hate them because of the loud booms, but our kids love watching fireworks shows. They probably get it from me, since I’ve loved these spectacles since I was a kid. Now I spend as much time watching my kids’ faces light up — literally and figuratively — as I do watching the fireworks. There’s something truly magical in it.
7. Opening Presents
I mean, obviously, right? Is there anything better than watching a kid tear open a gift? I have so many photos of my kids’ faces the moment they recognize they’ve gotten something they really wanted or something awesome that they didn’t even know they wanted. I relish the predictable sequence of their facial expressions: curiosity, anticipation, surprise, and then delight.
8. Reading Books
Is there anything better than reading a story to a child snuggled up to you? Now that my kids are older, I don’t do it as often, but I should. Even my 12-year-old still loves to be read to, and there’s nothing like entering an author’s world through engaging words and clever illustrations. Stories are transporting — it’s like taking a family trip together (without all of the complaining).
9. “Coffee” Dates
I take my kids out for “coffee” on a regular basis. It’s a chance to spend some one-on-one time with them outside of the house. I get coffee, they get hot cocoa, and we chat. Over the years, I’ve taken note of how the child sitting across from me at the table has grown, changed, and matured. These outings are some of my best memories with my kids as individuals.
10. Talking at Bedtime
As much as I hate bedtime (I mean, really, really hate it), I treasure the conversations I have with my kids as I tuck them in. Something about the late evening, and probably my undivided attention, prompts my kids to ask deep questions about life. Some our most meaningful conversations happen when they should be going to sleep, so I’ve learned to embrace those minutes and appreciate the gift that they are.
You may enjoy different activities with your kids. But we can all find things that make life with children a delight. I will miss these things when my kids are grown. Childhood is short, so embrace the fun while it lasts.