No Planning Necessary

Photo by BGDL at

Last Thursday was Columbus Day. I somehow let this important holiday slip my mind completely. When I picked the kids up from school, they showed me their art projects and poems about Columbus and were appalled that I didn’t have any plans in mind for how we were going to celebrate Columbus Day in our family. So I quickly threw out the first idea that came to mind: “Let’s go exploring like Columbus!”
Together we brainstormed a plan. We’d go on a walk around the neighborhood and be really observant and see what exciting new discoveries we could make.  We spent the next hour wandering. We found beautiful fall leaves and collected our favorites to press when we got home.  We found an actual hitching post in front of a really old house. We went into Rodeo Market and looked at all the pigs feet, cactus and other interesting foods for sale there — it really is like exploring another country when you head into that store. We found “buried treasure” (a few little tasty ripe tomatoes) in the tangle of leftover vines at the community garden.
As we walked, we talked about how Columbus and his crew must have felt when they found and explored the West Indies. We laughed about how Native Americans ended up getting called “Indians” because of Columbus’ confusion about where he’d ended up. We talked about the importance of being observant and persistent and brave–three traits Columbus had in abundance.
It was a lovely little one-hour outing and the kids were so excited to tell their dad all about it. It cost us very little as far as time and nothing as far as money.  It can be so easy to think that we don’t have the time or money for the fun we’d love to have with our children.  But you know what?  The best memories are often built on simple, spontaneous activities and events that cost very little in terms of time or money.

Photo by Chromatophobe at

When I think back to my own childhood, I remember my dad took us out for ice cream in our pajamas. I remember raking up and jumping in leaves at the park for a birthday. I remember my mom picking me up from school and taking me out for a surprise lunch date. I remember going on nature walks to look for new buds and green shoots as winter melted away. I remember my dad telling us crazy made-up bedtime stories that taught us important principles when we got to bed a bit early. I remember coming home to hot fresh bread my mom had baked on the first cold day of fall. None of these things took much planning and all of them were cheap or free. 
Sure, I also remember the trips we went on and the special events we loved. But it’s the little, simple, cheap, and generally unplanned things that really make up the fabric of my strong, happy memories of childhood.
We can and should find fun pretty much every day in our families. Our kids are up for it if we are!  All it takes is a little extra awareness and willingness to make room for fun on an ordinary day.  Sure, last Thursday on Columbus Day, homework needed to be done and dinner needed to be made. But the kids were happy to work extra hard and fast on homework after our little outing and I made a simple dinner instead of the more complicated one I’d had in mind.  That hour or exploring and fun was worth a bit of extra rush that evening.
You’ve heard this saying: “Never put off until tomorrow, that which can be done today.”  It’s a nice principle in some ways.  But when it comes to treasuring our kids’ childhoods and this unique time in our lives as moms, perhaps it’s better to turn that saying on its head and go with this one instead: “Always put off something put-off-able in favor of a now-or-never.”
QUESTION: What spontaneous and fun things have you done lately in your family?
CHALLENGE: Do something simple, spontaneous and fun this week with your kids. Just keep your eyes, ears and mind open and something will come up!


  1. Anna Jenkins says

    These are great ideas, Saren! Too late to do it with my grown daughters but I can certainly do this with my grandsons!

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