Sometimes you want to break the script and create a moment of connection, fun, spontaneity, especially in the evening, which can turn into a countdown to bed. You want laughter, smiles, joy – without added burden.
Chip and Dan Heath have studied memorable moments, identifying a set of characteristics that power them. We blend their ideas with themes we heard from moms and dads for a playbook on creating low-lift, high impact moments with your kids in three bites. The key? It’s the things that you’re doing anyway and from time to time, when you’re up for it, just add a little something to break the routine, get a smile, make the mundane fun.
What To Do (Bites)
Break the script
With so much of our days highly structured, take the opportunity to break the script and create a little moment of magic; making the mundane a little special. In the car with your child? Turn on the music, belt a song they like or can sing to. Reading a regular bedtime story? Jump up and act out a page or two. Roar your terrible roar. Gnash your terrible teeth. Babies? Raspberries on the belly during diaper changes. Sensorial and unexpected if you don’t do it all the time!
Make it emotional
Trigger emotions to make the experience stick. Surprise. Joy. Awe. Excitement. Make them giggle.
Elevate the senses
Throw on music and dance. Put a candle in a banana. Drop sprinkles all over their table and let them lick them off (yup, one mom told us she did that on Valentine’s Day!).
I’ll never forget what Helga Stephenson’s advice was about being a parent. She said: ‘you’re in the memory and tradition business.’
Keep it simple. Nothing here should be Pinterest-worthy. Kids don’t care. They’ll love the spontaneity and won’t give a shit about perfection.
Rare rather than regular and never promise in advance. As fun as it is, remember it’s about breaking the script. If it becomes a regular event, it loses impact and you’ll exhaust your already exhausted CIAIY self. Children will inevitably ask for more “special tuck-ins” or “Teddy Bear Toast.” It’s ok to say “no, not tonight.” And don’t promise in advance. You’ll risk setting everyone up for disappointment – including you.
Be in the moment. It’s about a moment between you and your kid(s). You can take a quick pic but don’t post it. It’s a moment of bonding – not an Insta story.
I wish we were more spontaneous with them. I was so structured. My husband and I were like co-CEOs. We worked together as a team which is good but I think we could have loosened up a bit.
Our Favorite Examples
- Backward Book Night – start from the back and read to the front (for older kids, not 3 year olds, too confusing)
- Moonlite Projector – projects classic stories on the wall
- Glow in the dark bath: “I have a stash of glow sticks that I get from the dollar store. I announce “glow in the dark bath” and the kids get in the tub, we dim the lights and each kid gets a glow stick. Simple and fun.”
- Special guest: From time to time, announce “special guest” and introduce a new toy (e.g. giraffe, action figure, rubber ducky – small, cheap). At the end, take the guest back only to announce its arrival on another day.
- Bubble night: Announce BUBBLE NIGHT. Fill that tub. Throw in bubbles. Make bubble beards and mohawks.
- Special Dessert: “I’d announce ‘special dessert,’ make the kids shut their eyes or turn their chairs and create a dessert that was basically a few fruit slices, 2 chocolate chips (eyes) and a few sprinkles. Turn their chairs back, surprise…their reaction was outsized to the effort.” (Tip: keep supplies on hand, hidden from kids.)
- Fun-shaped Anything: Get yourself a set of cookie cutters and make any ordinary meal or snack fun – “Dino pizza is a hit in our house.”
- Teddy Bear Toast: Cut up three banana slices, put two on top for ears and one for the snout, then place two blueberries on for eyes and one on the snout to create a little nose. Easy. Crowd-pleasing.