Remember when you were little and your parents used to torture you by dragging you to the hardware store or fabric store? As a kid, I considered errands to anywhere but the toy store the ultimate agony. I’m sure I whined like crazy, and I’d like to officially apologize to my parents for my attitude. Now I’m the parent whose kids recoil at the mention of a trip to any store. Their protests are especially fervent when I mention Costco or Target.
I try to avoid running errands with my kids whenever possible for all of our sakes, but most of the time I must schlep them along. Endless trips to the grocery store weren’t exactly what I had in mind during my pre-parent daydreams. In these visions, I created a magical childhood for my kids with elaborate forts, whimsical dress-ups and hours of imaginative play. In reality, there are stacks of laundry in the hallways and smears on the bathroom mirrors. Not exactly the stuff that dreams are made of — or is it?
Recently I interviewed Tiffany Sowby, a Utah trainer for Power of Moms, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of mothers and children. Sowby is a mother to five children ages 4 to 15. She wrote a chapter on “Putting Extra in the Ordinary” in the recently released “Deliberate Motherhood: 12 Key Powers of Peace, Purpose, Order and Joy” (Familius, 2013). She says it’s possible to make mundane days memorable and that doesn’t mean throwing a Pinterest-worthy bash for every occasion.
“We get wrapped up in those big things and our kids don’t care,” she said. “They just want a little extra thrown into the every day.”
Here are five of her easy-to-execute ideas for magical moments:
An easy way to turn a ho-hum activity into fun is to turn it into a game. In the book, Sowby shares a time that she surprised her youngest son by appearing at the kitchen table with a pen and paper and asking to take his order. Playing restaurant added almost no extra time to the task but made her son smile from ear to ear.
2. Celebrate half-birthdays
A beloved tradition in the Sowby household is celebrating half birthdays. On a half birthday the family celebrates by eating half of a chocolate cake with half a candle in it, giving the birthday girl or boy a dollar store present wrapped halfway and singing only half of the traditional Happy Birthday song.
“I’ve done it for years and it’s a huge deal to my kids,” Sowby said. “It’s an easy way to throw a little extra into an ordinary day.”
3. Create a treasure hunt
Some days, Sowby’s children return home from school to find a treasure hunt awaiting them. Usually, she puts these together 15 minutes before her kids get home.
“I usually scribble clues on ripped up pieces of paper,” she said. “Sometimes I rhyme, sometimes I don’t. I draw pictures that don’t make sense. It’s really not anything fancy but all of the kids get involved.” The clues lead the kids around the house, where they’ll ultimately find an after school snack somewhere unexpected, like the bathtub.
4. Magic it
Sometimes Sowby surprises her kids by making treats appear like magic from her shirtsleeve. For instance, if she buys fruit roll-ups for a treat, she’ll hide them in the arm of her shirt and upon request — “Can you magic something Mom?” — the treat appears. Voila!
5. Hand out cookies
A few times a year, Sowby’s kids will get off at their bus stop to find their mom handing out cookies. There’s no fancy occasion to celebrate but that’s likely what makes it special.
“I’m all about enjoying life,” she says. “I don’t want my kids to always be waiting for the next big occasion. They’re young and I want them to enjoy being young.”