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10 Fun Ways to Surprise your Kids

Updated on January 21, 2013

"Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things."

I love my children. I love the way the run up and give me great big hugs, I love the little fingers holding mine as we cross the street, and I love the unconditional love I receive from them. There are days though where bedtime cannot come soon enough and I know I haven't done the best job I could being a mother. I spend a lot of my day telling my son and daughter all the things they shouldn't be doing instead of what they should. If I were to record myself I would probably hear a lot of the same phrases used over and over again. "No, don't do that, quiet down, play nice, and let mommy have some quiet time" would be just a few.

In the midst of the chaos that is our lives, it is hard to find time to bond and spend fun time with our kids. We always have yearly vacations to look forward to and those provide many memorable moments but sometimes we need to take time in the daily grind of life to have fun and surprise our children. While thinking of things I could do in any given week, I was inspired by some of the adventures I had as a child spending time with my mom and grandma (aka mema). Below are ten different fun activities that don't require a lot of money but are great ways to spend time with your kids and enjoy the small moments.

Night Swimming!

Nighttime is associated with lullabies, bedtime stories, and quiet in the household. I am a strict advocate of bed time and usually there are no compromises on the routine. Even on the weekends, the kids can stay up a little later but we are usually home doing the normal stuff. Every once in a while the rules are meant to be bent a little. I can still remember going swimming at night at my mema's house. I remember the feel of the warm water and how much fun my siblings and I had feeling like we were getting away with something. As the normal nighttime routine is going on, surprise your kids by asking them to put their bathing suits on and jump in the pool. Go with them, play and enjoy their excitement. For an even better surprise, throw in some glow sticks!

Sleepover at home
Sleepover at home

Have a Sleepover at your House

Most children love to sleep over at friends' houses. I think it is because they get to stay up late, watch movies, and have treats. This isn't part of their everyday routine and it is fun for them to relax. Bring all that excitement to your own house with just your family. Break out the sleeping bags, air mattresses, blankets, and pillows and throw them on the living room floor. Play family games and rent a movie and spend the night treating your children to some fun. Have everyone sleep in the room together including the parents.

Pedicures for a girl day
Pedicures for a girl day

Take Each Child Out by Themselves

Every child loves to have one on one time with their parents. They deserve to have the focus just on them even for one night. Choose one night or day per month for each child and take them out to do an activitiy they are interested in. Ask them what they want to do and within reason let them choose. Some great things to do are mini golf, go carting, visit a museum or local park, or even just out for ice cream. My mom used to do this with each of her three children even as we got older and I always looked forward to having her to myself. This is a great time to start a real conversation with your child and it enables you to really listen without any other distractions.

Jam Session

I am constantly telling my children, especially my son, to quiet down. Whether they are yelling, bickering, or playing with noisy toys kids are loud by nature. I believe kids should be kids and allowed to be loud within reason. So give your kids permission to be as loud as they want for a set period of time and join in. So break out the forbidden pots and pans or instruments and put together a family band. Rock out to your favorite music and let your kids go crazy. Investing in a pair of ear plugs and some excedrin may be a good idea beforehand.

Get Messy!

I am always trying to keep a neat house and clean up after my kids. Art projects are strictly supervised and the less the mess the better for me. I have a hard time letting them get really dirty a making a mess. So it is time to buy some butcher paper and paints and strip the kids down and let them paint with their whole bodies. Take the paper outside and just let them have free rein.

Build a Fort

My siblings and I used to have the best time taking all the cushions off the couch and building forts that we used as the backdrop for our play. Let the kids tear off the cushions from the sofa, break out the blankets from the closet, and help them construct a place for imagination to take over. Be there and play with them as prince and princesses in their fortresses.

Get Lost!

Kids are always wanting to go explore and discover new things. It is usually the adults who dampen this spirit because of life's obligations and the lack of time. My mema would say she was lost and ask where we should go and follow our childish directions. We would laugh and have the best time trying to find our way home. Looking back now I know she knew where she was but let us have the fun taking over. Take the kids in the car and let them dictate what direction they want to go in and follow it. Take along a camera and record the different places you end up and keep them in a special scrapbook.

Chocolate chip pancakes for dinner
Chocolate chip pancakes for dinner

Let Them Make Dinner

We as parents are responsible for the food our children eat and we just make meals as part as everyday life. Let the kids pick what they want for dinner, take them to the grocery store and have them pick out the ingredients, then allow them to help make it with you. For the more daring parents, anything goes including ice cream or dessert for dinner. For everyone else, its ok to put some limits on the choices. It is really about getting the kids involved and spending time with them in a different way.

Surprise Them

There are so many ways to surprise you kids in little ways everyday. Write them a note telling them all the ways you love them, take them out for ice cream for no good reason, surprise them when you are picking them up at school. One thing I did was buy glow in the dark stars and I spread them all over their ceiling and spelled out a message they can see every night. Get creative and let your heart guide you.

Put a Creative Twist on Old Ideas

We all have heard the idea to go on a picnic but do it with a twist. Look up your local airport to see if they have picnic tables or an area to park in. My mom took us to the airport in Palm Beach county where there are table set up and we sat and ate dinner while watching the planes come in. This is a great time to relax and talk as a family. My mom also took us down to the docks late at night to watch the fishermen bring in the catch from the day. I remember that night so clearly and it was the little moments like these that stand out from my childhood. Find places in your town where you can bring the family and spend time together.


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    • jenbeach21 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Thanks for the comment and sharing Green Art!

    • Green Art profile image

      Green Art 

      5 years ago

      Great ideas here! I am always looking for different things to do daily with my grandson. It's very cold here even though it's spring and I think I'll set up a picnic in our living room for us today. Thanks for some fun and creative ideas! Voted up, useful and beautiful!

    • jenbeach21 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Thank you missimagination. It really doesn't take a lot of money to make special memories.

    • miss1magination profile image


      5 years ago

      I love your article especially the 'Get Lost' paragraph I m hoping to start a family in the next two years so this advice will be very useful you get the best shots when kids are excited.

    • jenbeach21 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Thanks for sharing Jools. I try to appreciate the time we have now before they get too much older!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      5 years ago from North-East UK

      My daughter used to love it if I did things to surprise her when she was a little girl - her favourite was me collecting her from school carrying her swimming stuff - then we went straight to the local pool and she got to have her dinner afterwards in the restaurant - happy days! She's eighteen now and spends most of her time with her friends so you are right to be enjoying this time :o)

    • jenbeach21 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Thanks midget38. I love night swimming but I definitely have to be in the mood for a loud jam session!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Love all these ideas, Jennifer, and am sharing them. Night swimming and jamming are definitely my cup of tea! Thanks for the write!!

    • jenbeach21 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Thank you Mama Kim! My kids love when we "sleepover" at home.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 

      5 years ago

      The opening quote is perfect! I especially like the idea of the family slumber party! I'm definitely going to have to use that one very soon!!! Thank you ^_^ voting up and sharing

    • jenbeach21 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Thank you for the comments rcrumple, teaches, and Janine. I think building forts and tents seems to be a common one among parents.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      Great ideas! I would have loved every one of these suggestions as a kid. You can't go wrong with these surprises. I have often made tents with my grandkids and the pretend camping that went with it was endless fun. Voted up.

    • rcrumple profile image


      5 years ago from Kentucky

      Really enjoyed this, even though my kids are well and gone. Great ideas! I remember the forts from even when I was a kid. Up & Useful & Interesting

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      5 years ago from New York, New York

      Wonderful article Jen. We already do the sleepover concept with my 3 year old, who just loves it and gets such a charge out of it. We also recently started baking together and she loved doing that with me too. I truly do agree with many of your other idea too. Have of course voted, shared and tweeted too.


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