11 February 2024

10 Fun Date Ideas for Parents Who Struggle with Childcare

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February is the month of love, and even though we don't really celebrate Valentine's Day (I can't actually think of a single one we did, apart from our very first one together when we went for a trip to London), it's nice to pause and get a little bit romantic. 

As I sat down to write this, I stopped for a moment to think - when we're married and go out with our spouse, is it still "dating"? Or should we reserve the term for people who meet up to get to know one another?

If for nothing else than a lack of a better term, let's keep calling it "dating" - it's still making time for each other, maybe doing something a little special together, just the two of us.

I think after having children it feels even more like dating to actually be able to go out on our own, just be the couple again. But it can be really hard to find that time to spend on our own - we don't have any relatives living locally who could babysit for us, so we usually plan quality time as a whole family. 

It's a little easier now that both kids are at school, as we're able to plan some activities for just the two of us during school hours. Here are five ideas for daytime couple activities:

1. Breakfast/brunch/lunch

Because who said only candlelight dinners are romantic? If you can both manage a couple of hours during the day, breakfast dates are great! Most places, even the most popular spots, are also quieter during the week, so you can enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere.

2. Cinema trip

When we are really keen on the newest blockbuster, daytime cinema trip it is. Sometimes it doesn't quite work out with the timing - you need to consider the time to get to and back from the cinema, then the length of the movie itself, and add about half an hour of adverts and trailers on top of that. But when all that works out well in between school drop off and pick up time, then again it's a less busy time - and who knows, you might end up getting a private screening if no one else turns up!

3. A walk in the park

Sometimes it's all about the simple things. When you're a parent, a trip to the park is usually a child-centered activity. It's nice to just have a walk and a chat, without needing to keep an eye on the kids, being asked to play, or getting nagged for some ice cream. On a warm, dry day, if you have time to spare, it could be nice to have a picnic too.

4. Visit an art gallery or a museum

Museums can be a fantastic rainy day activity with the kids, but, depending on their ages, they might only find a select few exhibitions interesting - mine love a visit to the Science and Industry Museum, where the whole of the 1st floor is dedicated to interactive activities for children, but aren't really into regular exhibitions where you simply walk around looking at stuff. A date at the museum could give you a chance to see all those things that kids made you rush past.

5. Go bowling

While it might not be the most romantic thing in the world, it's good fun and a way to blow off some steam. And since you've been together for a while, it's less awkward than if you were still in the dating stage and wanted to make a good impression.

If you can only get time together in the evenings, when children are at home, there are still some things you could do to feel like you're on a proper date after they've gone to bed. Here are five ideas for a date night in, for parents who can't get childcare:

1. Movie night at home

One of the easiest ideas ever. You can put on one of your all-time favourites, but the best effect choose a movie you haven't seen yet - it will feel almost as good as actually going out to the cinema, but with the added bonus of being able to snuggle up on your sofa. Make some popcorn and other snacks, turn the lights off, and get the cinema feeling on.

2. Have a fancy meal

Cook something special, different from what you usually have for dinner. Maybe a dish from a cuisine of a country on your bucket list? Or something fancy you've seen on TV, but never tried making yourself. Or that dish that you love, but never cook for family dinners, because kids won't touch it! Alternatively, order a takeaway - again, maybe from some place you wouldn't normally try because of the children.

3. At-home spa 

You can't go wrong with a little bit of pampering. Light some nice-smelling candles, get you both some face masks, foot soak, and good massage oils. And if any of you is like my husband, needing a more intensive massage after a day stuck in one position, I highly recommend getting one of those massage guns with various attachments - works wonders for me too, when my previously broken foot plays up.

4. Garden/backyard picnic

More of an idea for when the days get longer, and warmer. Up here in Manchester, the summer days get really long, and it stays light until well after 10pm. After getting the children to bed, get out into the garden/backyard. Hang some fairy lights on the fence for the mood, get a nice drink (we enjoy a glass of non-alcoholic G&T or a mocktail), some snacks, or even eat that fancy dinner al fresco.

5. Play board games

Board games are usually a family activity here, but they can be great fun for a couple too. You could choose something for the older players that you can't normally play with the kids, or go for the family favourite and enjoy getting more competitive than you do against your children.

So that's 10 examples of things you can do as a couple with children but no childcare available - not just for Valentine's Day. Just think about what you both enjoy doing, set some time aside, and go for it!

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