My four-year-old daughter perks up at any opportunity to spend with me or her dad one-on-one. Of course she enjoys time with her younger brother, but she looks forward to uninterrupted conversation, special experiences catered to her interests, and knowing she will have my undivided attention during our time. Family date night ideas help make this happen.
Sometimes, we splurge on tea time in the city or tap into her artsy side with a Broadway play, but I’ve found most of our family date night ideas are inexpensive and don’t take much planning on my part. In many cases, we don’t even have to leave the house to have fun!
These Kidlist-approved ideas are also a great resource for grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers — anyone wanting to spend extra quality time with that special little loved one. These moments not only strengthen relationships, but also create wonderful memories that inspire confidence and help set the tone for how your children approach other relationships as they get older.
One of our favorite dates is to simply visit our favorite local ice cream spot! Pick up a quart and make sundaes together at home, or grab a few flavors to-go and set up a blind taste test at home to rate your favorites. Later, you can share your delicious “research” with the rest of the family.
If you’re looking for the extra cherry on top, visit the Museum of Ice Cream for an unlimited supply of ice cream . . . plus a chance to swim in their pool of sprinkles.
Get out those aprons and cook a meal at home. Crack open a cookbook (or your laptop) and let your child select a recipe that appeals to their taste buds. Hit the grocery store to shop, then prep everything to bring your recipe to life. What a treat for the whole family! You could also try a cooking or baking lesson for just the two of you. Many businesses even offer online options if you prefer to cook in your own kitchen. There’s so many ways to elevate pizza night at home. Grab your favorite toppings and make it a competition!
- Plan a movie night at home! This is one of our family’s favorite things to do. Pick a movie, turn down the lights and cuddle up in the comfort of your home with your favorite treats.
- Who doesn’t love an old school drive-in movie? Check out our list and don’t forget to pack a bag with snacks!
- Look for the Classic Cinemas location near you to find $5 movies.
- Located in Wheaton, Cosley Zoo is a five acre zoo and animal education center with close-up interactions with farm animals and wildlife native to our area.
- A major highlight of visiting the Brookfield Zoo is the dolphin show. Exciting news was just released that the show hopes to return March 22, 2024! There’s so much to do here, so we typically plan for a full day when we go because our kids never want to leave.
- Cuddle a Bunny is new to Chicago and the perfect spot for your little ones 5 and up! There is a $18 fee and tie slots fill up quickly.
- Danada Equestrian Center is the best place to visit if you love horses. We go quite a bit during the summer months for a quick walk or a picnic as we watch the horses trot about and chat with the friendly staff. My son loves to run and there’s plenty of space here for us to roam and collect rocks and sticks.
- Visit your local pet store! No need to purchase (although I’d always encourage), but it is fun to “visit” the animals there.
Hot Cocoa, Tea, and Coffee for You!
- Coffee shops near parks are such a perfect pairing for a simple, fun date!
- Shop hot cocoa locally from Four Brothers or Chocolaterie Stam, and then put together your own unique hot cocoa bar at home.
- The last two suggestions here are a bit unique, but give Culver’s frozen hot cocoa a try on your next date night. It’s only available for a limited time during the winter months, but it is yummy! Or if you’re feeling up for coffee, take your little one for a surprisingly yummy treat of apple juice and whipped cream from Starbucks. Friends of ours shared this with us, and it is definitely a hit every time!
Sweet Treats and Donuts
- An easy go-to idea is a healthy, yummy smoothie. You can have a smoothie date at home or visit one of the many great smoothie shops around us. Extract Juicery is one of our go-to spots, and we love supporting this amazing family-owned business in Wheaton and St. Charles. On Tuesdays, they typically have a buy one get one deal that you can’t beat.
- My husband enjoys taking our daughter on an early Sunday morning donut adventure. Try a spot on our list for the best donuts in the suburbs and get your day started on a sweet note! Even when we travel, they sneak away and have a ton of fun finding new places and trying unique flavors.
- My family will always say yes to Boba! Try Joyee in Evanston or Naperville or Boba King in Wheaton. Bonus: Boba King also has a really neat 3D cotton candy maker!
- Check out classes at My Gym. The classes are the perfect opportunity to get their little bodies moving while you get a workout in, too! Classes are available, but they also offer open gym and numerous events throughout the month.
- Kido is now offering yoga classes provided by Buddha Belly Kids Yoga. Check their schedule for this class and other unique date day activities. My kids have thoroughly enjoyed numerous events hosted by Kido in the past! There is a $5 fee and the ages recommended for this class are 1-6 years old. Side note – this is my favorite kids boutique to purchase from. Consider this a one-two punch by making it a shopping outing after the yoga class!
- Sign up for a sports class for parents and kids through your local park district. These typically take place once a week and are a great way to introduce your kids to a variety of sports and teamwork!
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
- Visit Wheaton Nursery or any local nursery and purchase a few new seedling or plants to plant together. If you have a garden at home, gardening is a great way to spend time with your nature loving kids. We keep a journal and draw pictures of everything we’ve picked for the day.
- Winter, spring, summer or fall, anytime is a good time to take a hike on some wooded trails! Nothing is as good for the soul as time in nature together.
- If your snow bunny loves the cold, there are lots of awesome ice skating options as well as snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing!
Indoor Date Ideas
- Never forget the power of an indoor play space to burn off some energy and stay warm indoors. Call beforehand to check safety protocols and business hours. My kids love the freedom and fun of an open gym or trampoline park.
- I have taken my daughter, who loves all plants and flowers to Garfield Park Conservatory for a date day too many times to count! They also have amazing programming and a beautiful butterfly garden where we spend most of our time.
- Winter is a typical time for your local park district to be hosting parent-child events indoors: classes so you can try something new, parent-child dances, and affordable recreation of all kinds. Jump online, or reference the park district booklet for more information.
Winter Night Out
- Heard of local restaurants with igloo dining? What a unique and memorable dining experience to share with your child!
- For a more active outings during the wintertime, check out a spot where you can go snow tubing, skiing, or sledding!
Overnights and Road Trips
For a longer and bit more extravagant date, plan a little staycation right here in Chicago! There are lots of kid-friendly local hotels and hotels with pools.
- Okay, it’s been sitting long enough! It’s time to tackle that 1,000 piece puzzle or gigantic LEGO set as a team.
- Older kids and teens may love to help with small renovation or craft projects around the house, and they’ll learn so much during the process.
- Home Depot offers fun in-store kids workshops the first Saturday of every month. Be sure to register in advance.
- Grab all the blankets, sheets and pillows to make a fort in your living room or the kids’ bedroom. Make two and see who’s actually stays up the longest!
- For your young golfer, Topgolf in Naperville and Schaumburg is always a fun spot with great food, too! Or try Mistwood Golf Dome in Bolingbrook.
- My younger cousin visits us during the summer from Texas every year. For this tween baseball fan, the Kane County Cougars baseball game was the highlight of his trip. So much so, he actually got to go twice! There’s so much to do, and it’s a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.
- Enjoy a night out cheering on the Bulls or Blackhawks this season. Check online before you go with littles, because lap kids are typically free entry! There are also so many great local high school and college teams to support.
Library or Bookstore
Consider a volunteering date! Caring for and about people in need is such a meaningful experience to share with your child.
There are still spots available for the Kidlist volunteer event on March 10. Come join us! It’s always an amazing time (and definitely a kid-friendly experience).
There’s so many opportunities in our area for one-on-one time with your tweens and teens. Here’s a list of some of our favorite activities for that age group that would also make the perfect date!
Lately, the Kidlist team has been wanting to check out Tiki Terrace in Des Plaines and Enterrium in Schaumburg, which both seem like they would be really fun for a dinner out with older kids. Let us know if you have a favorite spot to take your teens.
Our list of sensory-friendly events and activities is a great place to start if you’re looking for family date ideas that cut down on overwhelm. How about an extra-special night out at a sensory-friendly children’s theater performance, or a trip to check out the new We Rock the Spectrum location in Naperville?
More Ideas for Family Dates
In a hurry? Here’s a few ideas to consider without much planning…
- Picnic in the park
- Car detail or car wash (especially if there’s a chance for them to spray the car or be involved)
- Farmer’s Market
- Playground date
- Splash pad
- Ear piercing
- Arts and Crafts: Pottery painting, rug tufting (this location also has pottery painting), beading, making felt animal puppets, painting, chalk art
Prefer to keep things spontaneous? Start by using Kidlist each month to brainstorm. Our events calendar is the perfect place to start. Write down your favorite ideas on small pieces of paper, and put them into a jar or bowl. (Make sure to involve your child(ren) in brainstorming, so they feel some ownership and excitement! You can even sprinkle in some surprises, if you’re feeling festive.) Then, when the opportunity arises, just have your child of choice pick one out, open it up, and depart on your adventure.
Kidlist has all the inspiration for winter fun with kids in Chicago’s western suburbs! Do you have a favorite activity to do one-one-one with your child that wasn’t included? Please let us know in the comments below!