THE BLOG
07/30/2015 12:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Hurry! Plan a Surprise Family Playdate

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Our kids are overscheduled and so are we. Yesterday went something like this: alarm at 6:00. Check email. Coffee and smoothie for me, scrambled eggs for the kids. Pack two lunches. Walk dogs. Marinate chicken for dinner. Drive my son to his job at a local camp and my daughter to her camp clear across town. Head to work. Answer 100+ emails. Throw a "birthday lunch" for a colleague. Participate in three conference calls. Draft one proposal and one contract. Race to pick the kids up from camp, drop son at home and run daughter to music lesson. Slice zucchini and potatoes for the grill. Toss a load of laundry in. Feed family, do dishes, check email. Collapse into bed.

Wait! Stop the clock! It's July! Where's the sense of adventure, the long lazy days, the hours spent staring at the clouds? Where's summer?

August is around the corner. If we aren't careful, we will miss the chance to create Summer 2015 memories. What better way to do that than with a Surprise Family Playdate?

A Surprise What?

A Surprise Family Playdate.

Why?

Because kids love surprises!

How?

Plan a day of fun and surprise the kids with the plan in a creative, fun way first thing in the morning. It doesn't have to be a trip to Disney, the surprise itself will make it feel larger than life for them.

Who Should We Include?

There are no rules! Invite the grandparents, or not. Mom and dad or just mom. Or just dad. All the kids or plan a super-special day for each one separately. Aunt Susie and Uncle Joe. Or get a partner in crime... one of your best friends whose kid is friends with your kid, 'cause two planning mama bears are better than one!

What Should We Do?

Anything you and your kids love to do can make for a great surprise play date. But the best are experiences you haven't yet had the chance to try, or something they've been begging to do.

There are so many possibilities! Here are a dozen awesome ideas for the perfect Surprise Family Playdate to get your creative juices flowing.

  1. Wake the kids up with a fishbowl and a goldfish, and announce a Surprise Family Playdate to the aquarium. If a live goldfish is too much of a commitment, fill the bowl with goldfish crackers or Swedish fish.
  2. Go "something" picking. Then, come home and cook something fabulous with whatever you picked. Wake your kids up with a basket (tied with a beautiful ribbon of course) for them to fill and have a list of four or five recipes for them to choose from. Right now, peaches, tomatoes and zucchini are in season where we are, but there's always something wonderful growing this time of year.
  3. Jump for joy at one of the indoor trampoline play spaces opening up all over the country. It is amazing exercise and totally fun. Be sure to plan around nap time, because the kids will be tired when they are done. Socks are required, so wake your kids with a new pair of socks (though some places require that you purchase, and wear, their own special socks).
  4. Beach Day! Greet your little one with a new sand pail and fill it with a few beach toys for a lazy day at the beach. Bring everything you need for an unstructured long day. Don't forget the umbrella and sunblock.
  5. Shoot your town A to Z. Grab the camera and head out to shoot something around town that starts with each letter of the alphabet ... A for an apple orchard, b for a basketball hoop ... you get the idea. And, just to make it a little more interesting, grab those old-fashioned, disposable film cameras to give to the kids. At the end of the day, take them in to be developed. A lesson in history and patience, all in one.
  6. Hit the water park. According to waterparks.com, there are more than 1,200 water parks in the US. Chances are pretty good there is one within an hour or two of you. Print a map of the park to present to your children first thing in the morning.
  7. How 'bout a nighttime surprise playdate? Build a bonfire in the backyard, roast s'mores and stargaze. Bring as many crazy s'mores fixings as you can think of (Peppermint Patties anyone?) and a star map (you can find one on the Internet for your area for August from various websites including www.astroviewer.com).
  8. City day! Live within an hour or two of a city? Plan a full day with a museum stop, a zoo stop and a great restaurant or two. Most cities offer some kind of boat ride -- another great summer adventure. End the day with ice cream cones! Share the plan with the kids in the morning by giving them a map of the city and showing them each of the stops you will be making.
  9. Ride the rails. Younger kids especially love trains. Board one in your town, ride just a few stops and disembark at a station from which you can walk to a park and an ice cream shop. Conductor hat and train tickets can kick off the day.
  10. Princess spa day. Many day spas offer special packages (and pricing) for little fingers and toes. Plan a ladies day ... lunch or afternoon tea and a spa visit for you and your little princess. If you dare, present her with pretty nail polish in the morning.
  11. Outdoor movie nights are all the rage and popping up everywhere! Find one showing a family friendly movie, pop a huge bucket of popcorn, load up blankets and pillows and enjoy a classic film under the stars. Print over-sized movie tickets and a theater-sized box of candy -- but no opening until the movie starts!
  12. And, of course, a Teddy Bear picnic is always fabulous! Wake your little one with a new stuffed bear, pack a basket with everyone's favorite treats, bring a camera and enjoy a summertime Teddy Bear picnic.
Of course, there are likely to be other awesome ideas within an hour of you ... caves to explore, waterfalls to visit, rollercoasters to ride, puppet shows to see and so much more


Two Caveats:

First, you might be tempted to tell them in advance. Don't do it.

Second, this is a day to leave your digital devices behind. Other than your camera. One day. A great family surprise and all of your attention focused in the moment. Try it. I bet it will do you all good.