I love date night. I love the excuse to get all dolled up like I used to before we had kids, and I love having some quality time with my husband. It’s nice to feel like myself again, and not just “mommy”.
And the time and money investment pays off. After we go out on a date, a lot of the day-to-day irritations seem not so bad for a while.
But with my husband’s job history, date night can get complicated. Sure, we may not have as many time-coordination difficulties as before, but we still have to find the money to pay a sitter – plus, he’s not about to let me hire just any 12-year-old off the street. He has to size up the babysitters first to make sure they’re not secretly druggies or otherwise questionable.
One of the ways we’ve found to get around these struggles is doing at-home dates. It’s great because it doesn’t require us to get a baby-sitter, plus we can do it any time we need to.
If you have kids, you’ll have to get them down for the night beforehand. And note that I’m totally not above bribery – if what it takes to get some time alone with your spouse is some tablet time or video games or candy, you won’t get the side-eye from me. Do what you gotta do, man, because your marriage is worth it.
If you don’t have kids yet, you might have an easier time putting these together. But even then, make sure to limit distractions. Turn off electronics (aside from the work phone, of course). Take the time to really focus on one another.
10 Fun At-Home Date Night Ideas
Stay-In Movie Night
One of my favorite dates we’ve ever had was an all-day Harry Potter marathon. I mean, this was definitely pre-kids. But it was amazingly fun, because we seriously went all out. We went to a specialty candy store and bought Bertie Botts jelly beans, chocolate frogs, and found a recipe for butterbeer on Pinterest.
You might not have time for an all-dayer like this, but regardless, the trick is to make it special. Figure out some treats that go well with whatever movie you’re watching, and make wherever you plan to watch it super comfy. I mean, get all the blankets and pillows you can, wear comfortable clothes, and get all snuggled up together.
You might fall asleep together, but that’s okay. The point isn’t really the movie – it’s the connection.
Depending on where you live, this might be more or less fun. Like when we lived in a rural area? You could see all the stars in the sky, and it was amazing. Now? It’s still fun to get outside and enjoy the fresh night air, but there are definitely fewer stars to see.
One idea for a date night we have planned for the future is to check out a constellation guide book from the library and try to identify new constellations together.
The great thing about this is that we can go in the backyard with the baby monitor, snuggle up in some blankets, and enjoy hot chocolate. It’s a great opportunity to just talk and feel close to one another.
Have a picnic
If your spouse is currently on night shifts, this might be a little more doable because it’s in the daytime. You can always plan it for the morning first thing when he gets home, or in the afternoon before he goes to work.
Or, if you can swing this during nap time, you can use the same baby monitor trick I mentioned before.
It doesn’t really matter what you enjoy at the picnic. Make a fancy meal if you want. Grab take-out or fast food. Make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and enjoy them with milk. Heck, bring out last night’s leftovers to enjoy.
Regardless of the food, it’s a great opportunity to shake up your normal routine.
Are you and your spouse artistically inclined? Even if the answer is no, this is still a fun way to spend time together.
For example, you could grab a pack of cheap canvases (they’re fairly cheap at JoAnn’s, especially with their coupons) and some paint and try to do still life paintings together (or some modern art type paintings for the less artistic 🙂
You could also get a set of mugs and some sharpies or some oven-bake clay to make each other a gift on your date night.
Or, you could just get a coloring book or some dot-to-dots to do together. No artistic ability required 🙂
Make a special dessert.
This is one of my favorite dates because, hello, dessert! I know I’m not the only mom who’s had a salad for dinner so she could enjoy cookies once her child went to bed. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.
One of the fun things about this date is the preparation. I like looking through Pinterest with my husband deciding on which new dessert recipe we want to try. We almost always try something completely new to both of us, and it’s fun to experiment.
Have a couple’s book club.
My husband and I both love to read, so this is a great option for us. It takes a little more preparation than the others, but it’s a fun way to stay connected throughout the week, not just during the date.
All you have to do is go to the library and check out two copies of the same book. It’s fun to read a book knowing your spouse is reading it too. I hate when there’s a book I want to talk about and nobody around me has read it!
This is also a really flexible date. Whenever you have the time, you can discuss the book, which keeps you engaged with each other more often. Or, you can limit the time you talk about the book to one specific date night and run it more like an actual book club.
Some ideas if you’d like to do this long-term:
- Alternate choosing the book of the month, with no complaints allowed. You have to read the chosen book together!
- Read some of the classics (abridged or unabridged is up to you!)
- Read books set during a certain time period.
- Ask for a suggestion from a third person and commit to reading whatever they suggest.
Every year since we’ve been a couple, we’ve said we should go camping in the summer. I don’t know how it’s never happened, but who knows? Maybe this will be the year. In the meantime, camping in the backyard might just do the trick.
If you have space outdoors and it’s feasible, set up a tent in the backyard with sleeping bags, pillows, and flashlights, or set up in your living room instead. If you can, make a small fire to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. If you don’t have the space or inclination to make a bonfire, you can always roast marshmallows over a gas stove, or here’s a recipe for a s’mores dip made in a cast iron skillet.
If your spouse is on night shifts, you could always set the tent up during the day and hang out in your grown-up “fort”. I like the idea of setting it up when rain clouds start to gather and enjoying the storm all snuggled up together.
What can I say? I’m a Washington girl at heart.
Have a game night.
Board games are my favorite. I’m a little competitive by nature, and it’s just a fun way to spend time together without the pressure to come up with interesting topics of conversation.
My current favorite is the Oregon Trail card game. It’s hilarious! And so nostalgic. Plus, if you have a hard time keeping your competitive-ness in check, it’s a good option because you team up to play against the board, not each other.
We haven’t beaten it yet, but the ways we’ve lost have made us die laughing. Like the time we almost won then we drew a “died of a snake bite” card? And writing the epitaphs for each other is just the perfect outlet for the dark humor that comes from being a police officer (or being married to one ;))
Whatever game you choose to play, this is a great, inexpensive date night option.
Cook something new.
I love cooking, but since becoming a mom, it’s not exactly the soothing ritual it once was. It’s now a dance of how much chopping I can get done before the little one has enough of me not paying attention to him and either throws a fit or gets into something he shouldn’t. Sometimes he’ll be entertained by snacks, sometimes he won’t.
It’s a regular lottery.
For this date, when it’s time for dinner with your kids, serve them something easy to prepare (and remember what I said about bribery – it’s a totally valid parenting technique), then when they go to bed, get the real cooking started.
While you can definitely cook an old favorite together, why not try something new? Have you always wanted to learn to make Indian food or sushi? This is the night to try it.
You might also consider signing up for something like Home Chef that sends you the ingredients and directions for fancy meals. We’ve tried it, and I’d consider keeping the subscription just to collect the recipes. They’re delicious! (p.s.: if you use this link, you get $30 off your first box. So it ends up being $30 for three awesome meals.)
Pamper each other.
After a long hard day, both my husband and I could use a massage… so this type of date night is awesome.
Depending on what you want, this might require a little more of an investment, but it’s up to you. You can give each other massages with lotion, or go all-out and get fancy scented massage oil (or get a massage bar from Lush, if you’re a Lush junkie like myself :))
You could even pair this date with some fancy fresh fruit and cheese and some candles.
Whatever you do, this one’s fun and relaxing (and a great lead-in to other marriage building activities, if you know what I mean.)
Date night can be hard to coordinate, but it’s definitely not impossible if you think outside the box a little.
What’s your favorite stay-in date night?