By Brittany Carlson 

It happens to us all the time. My husband, Derek, and I make it through the marathon of dinner, bath and bedtime with the kids to finally have some time to ourselves, only to spend it watching television (or worse, arguing about what to watch) instead of really investing in our relationship.

Don’t get me wrong – movie night has its place, and I love a good movie. 

But once in a while, I really want to spend some quality time with my husband once the kids are asleep.

Here are a few of my favorite date nights at home:

  1. Work on a puzzle together. For some reason, doing a puzzle really relaxes my husband and I, and doing something with our hands opens up the conversation. Our favorite puzzles are nature scenes. I’m actually getting him a new one for Valentine’s Day.
  1. Play an escape room game. We’ve tried several brands, including “EXIT” the game (these have pen-and-paper puzzles to solve) and “Unlock! Mystery Adventures,” (more app-based). These are great if you’re feeling adventurous and want the thrill of solving puzzles together without needing to leave the house.
  1. Play a board game. Derek and I love having game nights with other couples, but we also love to play games with just the two of us. Some of our favorite games that are still fun with only two players are Yahtzee, Sorry, Monopoly Deal (faster, card-based version), and the more strategy-based Machi Koro (think city-building in card form) and Anno 1503 (sort of like Settlers of Catan, but faster and allows for two-player games).

  1. Learn a new skill. Last year, Derek and I subscribed to Date Box, and many of the boxes had us making something new together, from cake balls to cocktails. Some of our favorites including learning to roast and brew coffee from the bean (something we would have never tried on our own) and making abstract art using masking tape and paint. Some other things I’d like to learn together include learning a new language, learning to sew and learning to keep a small garden.
  1. Work on a project together. This may not sound very romantic, but I know I’m speaking my husband’s love language when I offer to organize or clean out a section of the house with him. Nighttime is also our best (read: only) time to get certain jobs done, such as going through kids’ toys to cut down on what we have, or cleaning out a closet that’s been driving us crazy for months. Projects can be anything, such as sanding down and refinishing a piece of furniture, or even planning a family vacation. (We’re hoping to take the kids on a cruise in the near future).

These at-home date nights are budget-friendly and convenient, but what I love best about them is that they allow my husband and I to reconnect amidst the craziness of raising children together.  They remind us that we have a relationship apart from parenting needs to be cultivated. They give us a chance to just be together and laugh and show that we still care.

These ideas are just a starting place and every couple enjoys different activities together. But I hope reading about some of our go-to options will inspire other couples to plan something fun and different for their next date night in.

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Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and now has two sons, Adam (4) and James (18 months). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She and her family live in upstate NY. 

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