Do a Thing Night
April 12, 2016 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Once a week I would like to have Do a Thing Night with my husband, where we do something at home after the kids are in bed, that is outside our daily repertoire. I would like ideas for things to do that are 30-45 minutes, don't require a ton of set-up and clean-up, and don't require excessive advanced planning or supply purchases. Snowflakes inside!

We have two little kids and are prone to inertia-driven zoning out and watching TV after they are in bed. This is fine some of the time, but on occasion I'd like to do something together. Novelty is fun. Difficulty level: two engineers, not creative/artistic people.

I like jigsaw puzzles, board games, legos, coloring. He likes.... dicking around on the internet. Nothing wrong with that per se, but it doesn't lend itself to good together activities. He's agreed that he'd participate in random stuff he's not really into once a week, for the sake of togetherness, but he won't be the mastermind.

In the pursuit of this goal, though, I don't want to accumulate too much more crap. Well thought out, selective crap accumulation is potentially ok, but we have little kids aged 2 and 5 and they have crap-accumulation pretty well covered. (Although this does mean we have access to the stuff you'd expect to have with little kids in the house.) Consequently, if you recommend a board game, please recommend one that has lots of replay value. Preferably one that isn't *too* language-based - English is his second language, so while I love Boggle (e.g.), he doesn't.

Beyond that I don't want to place too many more restrictions.
In summary: Fun things to do for 2 grownups
- at home in the evening
- who aren't at all artistic
- without too big of a barrier to entry, energy or supplies-wise
- not requiring a dedicated place to be left out
- not too loud

posted by telepanda to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (36 answers total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
My husband and I play crib for the same reasons that you list above. We have a friendly bet so see who wins most over the course of a year (just a tally sheet on the fridge). Loser buys a treat for winner.
posted by Ftsqg at 7:00 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

How about getting the Arduino starter kit? The various parts don't take up much space (I keep everything in one of these) and the whole thing costs under $100. That could be several months worth of Do A Thing and the starter kit comes with a book of 12 projects that are really, really easy for someone who has never ever done anything like this before. Each project can definitely be done in under an hour, especially if you've got two people working (one doing the wiring, the other doing the code), and don't require any other materials.

I got one for Christmas (I am not a programmer, I am not an electrical engineer, I was an English major) and in just a few hours worth of time in the interim, have worked through most of the projects and have now moved on to soldering some new boards and sensors, and creating a wireless humidity sensor for our basement so I can answer the age-old question, "Is that mold, or just dirt?"
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:00 AM on April 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

other possible games include go and rummikub (which you can play with two packs of cards - in fact, if you bought some cards there's a whole pile of games you can play).
posted by andrewcooke at 7:08 AM on April 12, 2016

My in-laws and my own parents both played lots of cribbage, and my own wife & I have played with them, and taught our own kids to play. (For my parents, my mom would make a batch of fudge and pour it onto a platter. They would start to play cribbage as it cooled, and then eat it with spoons once it wasn't mouth-burningly hot. It's been like fifty years and they still do this!)

Alternately, could you read to each other? Let the text (book, poem, play) be a surprise.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:16 AM on April 12, 2016 [15 favorites]

"He's agreed that he'd participate in random stuff he's not really into once a week, for the sake of togetherness, but he won't be the mastermind."

This doesn't sound like the most appealing starting point, if this is your husband's take on this idea I'd probably more look at getting some childcare every couple weeks and going out for dinner. Don't underestimate how helpful it can be to just get out of the house once in awhile. Otherwise, I would probably look into simple card games like gin. Putting on some music, pouring a drink and playing some cards can be sublimely fun and relaxing.
posted by cakelite at 7:16 AM on April 12, 2016 [15 favorites]

Dick around on the internet.... together?

Hear me out. Pick a topic and then surf around. We're into music so it's often: have you heard this song by this band? How about this one? Or we watch a John Oliver video and discuss.

Alternatively I suggest baking cookies. Bonus: you have cookies at the end of it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:18 AM on April 12, 2016 [13 favorites]

My hubby and I used to like to turn the lights low and listen to old radio murder mysteries.

We also used to play "exquisite corpse" where one person starts a doodle, folds it over, and then lets the other person continue. Continue until the page is filled up.

Sometimes on trips of if bored, we would go through the alphabet and try to name book titles, authors or movie titles.

What about making make-ahead food? Like pasta? Then you can throw all the noodles in the fridge and use 'em later.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:19 AM on April 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

Chocolate tasting, wine tasting, something like that-- something that's not for kids. We had a tasting of all different vanilla ice creams once.
posted by BibiRose at 7:23 AM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

"tasting" sessions is a great idea. For a special one, you can buy Miracle Fruit on the Internet and try it with different fruits.

You said low barrier to entry so this is more of a corollary suggestion, but: I bought a small hot tub to solve this problem (the "we don't talk anymore because we're tired from work and once the kids are down he just wants to dick around online" situation.) It's really good. Can't fall asleep there, and there's no screens. If we don't want to talk we can just watch stars, but we have our best grown up conversations there now. I got mine on Wayfair for like $3k.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:30 AM on April 12, 2016 [21 favorites]

Set is a fun (and surprisingly difficult) game that doesn't take up much space (it's just cards), and will be good to play with your kids once they get a little older. It scratches some of the same pattern recognition itch that word games like boggle do for me, but it's picture-based.

My husband and I bonded a lot learning how to play blackjack with good strategy and then we learned to count cards. The downside of that is that we both now are super into gambling, which isn't the best hobby. We're going to work on poker next. Card games in general are probably a good idea if you both like games.

We also tried to learn python together, but that was somewhat less of a success (we both learned some python, but it wasn't so good for actually spending time together).
posted by snaw at 7:34 AM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

My husband and I have been playing Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes for a quick, easy set-up game. It's kind of meant for a group of people but you can definitely do it with two if you don't ramp up to the harder levels (you can do a free-play where you set the time and difficulty, so it's kind of up to you whether you play it to "get better" or just to play). Lots of replay value because the puzzles are randomly generated.

It is cheap and all you need is a computer and a print-out of the manual. We normally do four or five rounds, switching roles each time, and that eats up 30-45 minutes.
posted by cpatterson at 7:36 AM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

My husband and I sometimes play geoguessr (free online game) together. No setup and it gets us talking about places we'd like to travel.
posted by chaiminda at 7:41 AM on April 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

Is this supposed to be not-thinking-about-kids time? Because you are in the prime ages for kids being hilarious and forgetting stories later. Maybe have a notebook where you each write some interesting things that happened that week. It can be for the kids or yourselves.

I'll second baking, card games, and Set.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:45 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll be watching this thread with interest. My mind also went to "internet stuff" you could do together. Maybe a joke Twitter account you share, a tumblr about a favorite tv show, a blog with local food or music reviews?
With my partner, these activities tend to center around activities that will somehow generate income. I suppose because we're both pretty frugal and "making cash" seems to be a good motivator to turn off the tv. In the past, this has mainly meant doing home repair stuff together because we save lots of money that way and we're in a constant of house remodeling so we can flip our house. But we also sometimes rehab furniture together or clean out clutter and list it on eBay. Baking or meal prep can also work to fill this time. In summer, gardening projects. I realize this doesn't sound especially fun, but it is the kind of thing we both enjoy. Is there something kind of practical like that that would frame the time as being responsible but also bring you together?
And fingersandtoes is sooo right about the hot tub. someday I am definitely getting a hot tub. Or a sauna. Maybe Both!
posted by areaperson at 7:46 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Get a book on how to do massage. Try out techniques on each other.

Paper airplane contest.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:04 AM on April 12, 2016

posted by MonkeyToes at 8:23 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Video games. Fun, nonsense, bonding. You can pick up older consoles and games for dirt cheap at places like GameStop or a local thrift shop if you don't have one already. MarioKart is soooo fun for two people to play. Seriously. My husband and I laugh the whole time. And it's great for competitive people who don't become jerks about it. Or play a MMORPG online together. As one of those ppl who love dicking around on the internet, I heartily endorse video games of all kinds as a way to have fun while still dicking around. Bet he would love it. We really really look forward to our kart battles.
posted by the webmistress at 8:27 AM on April 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

first 7 minutes: dance together. As a bootstrapping activity, you and your husband can each pick one song.

next 5 minutes: cut cheese into little squares; put on a plate with some crackers. Cut up some paper or card stock into little squares too. Pour beverages. Make sure you keep it fun; keep some music playing. Find or repurpose a little box to store the paper pieces in (a tissue box will work).

next 20 minutes: write possible fun activities on the squares of paper, and put them in the box. Don't edit too much.

Next week: reading the squares! Expanding snacks into fruit pieces! Better dance music selections!

Next next week: random activity! So exciting!
posted by amtho at 8:35 AM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

We do Scrabble, I love getting high word scores with 2 letter words, or coming up with wild assed words! Good times!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:58 AM on April 12, 2016

Seconding MarioKart. On its face it might seem too similar to watching TV, but I can't think of many at-home, after-kid times that made my husband and I laugh so much. Even when competition gets intense, it's a good thing, because it's a fun intensity we're enjoying together.

We also found ourselves playing Minecraft a lot, even after the kid was in bed. If you're on the same server (a LAN can be even better, since you'd be the only two on it), it can be very fun to help each other out, share discoveries, etc.

I also like SET and Exploding Kittens (fine for more than two players, but at least as fun with just two since no one is "out" and waiting around for the next turn).

Apparently I like things that force us to really try, but share a good laugh at the same time.
posted by whoiam at 8:58 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I hear you on the replay value, but I cannot recommend board games enough. Or card games! Actually, card games would probably be best for the "not accumulating a ton of crap" part of the equation.

There are some really fun ones out and about now that a) don't take up a lot of space, b) are quick and fun to play and c) don't get boring after three plays! And bonus, some of them could be accessible for your five year old if they're interested!

Here's a fun short list of card games geared more towards grownups and that are oodles of fun:
Sushi Go
Love Letter
Three Cheers for Master
Exploding Kittens

Heck, if you're engineers and like thinking a lot about rules and systems, Magic: The Gathering might even be a fun thing for you both to get into. You could even do the online version of it so you don't end up broke and with eleventy billion cards everywhere. :)
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:05 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Start doing a blog and/or podcast together! I dragged my husband into watching Outlander with me, and we write a blog about it. Part of the blog is that we do a live G-chat through our first watch of each episode, which is fun and makes the tv viewing feel a little more "projecty" than just vegging on the couch. We started doing some podcast episodes about the show, and a couple of movies, which is super fun to do. It turns out that editing a podcast for other people to listen to is more work than we necessarily want to do all the time, but just sitting down in front of a mic and having a semi-structured chat for an hour once in a while is really fun.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:05 AM on April 12, 2016

Um...I'm going to go out on a limb and guess this was already suggested and deleted, but...
Have you considered having sex?
(Sorry, it just seemed like it met all your requirements, and you are grown-ups who are married...)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:32 AM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

Jenga! We have it for when our nieces and nephews come over, but it's fun for us to play too.
posted by Lescha at 10:59 AM on April 12, 2016

Fantasy Box?
posted by anderjen at 11:25 AM on April 12, 2016

This may sound dorky, but if you can leave the house, I'd go for a walk together. It is just nice to chat and breathe the air. That sounds like the perfect amount of time for a stroll.

Games are fun. Pick one he LIKES, not one he is putting up with.

Listening to a podcast together is fun. Wait wait don't tell me, the weekly Will Shortz NPR puzzle, and (sometimes) the Savage Love podcast tend to be on our playlist whenever we're in the car together. I'd pick a well rated one that addresses interests your husband and you share. Also good are radio dramatizations and audio books.

Are you game for doing something physical besides the obvious (always a good thing to schedule for regular occurrence too)? Because just about everybody's TV will play exercise programs. You can get videos/DVDs from the library too. Doing yoga together, for example, requires practically nothing but comfortable clothes.

If you want something sedentary that isn't a game, and isn't just random TV when in bed, consider watching a really great TV series together, one episode at a time, once a week. Over the years we've seen some wonderful ones together (Downton Abbey, the original Law and Order, the Good Wife, the West Wing, Breaking Bad, etc.) and they are always food for lots of discussion, during and after.
posted by bearwife at 12:09 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Backgammon (or Acey-Deucy if you're not a purist). ElGuapa always beats me at this. So more often we play German Whist.

We also do the Sunday NYT crossword puzzle together every week - our goal is to finish in less than an hour. Bonus, you're sitting very close together on the couch, giving each other your nearly full attention. Finishing the puzzle is not required if you get sidetracked (wink wink).
posted by ElGuapo at 12:50 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

My wife and I play ping pong after the kids go to bed a fair bit. We also enjoy scrabble, boggle, yahtzee, and cribbage. We also like going for walks around the neighborhood. Our kids are getting older, fall asleep pretty quick, and don't typically wake up after that.
posted by trbrts at 1:26 PM on April 12, 2016

My husband and I have a collection of easy set up(or no set up!) games that work well for 2 players to deal with this (we both have long commutes and hours so evenings tend to be limited for us). Some examples that work well for us include:

Love Letter
Sushi Go
Forbidden Island

They're short and fun, and there's little/no set up or clean up and we can rotate through as many or as few as we feel like on a given evening. We find that it works well since we can talk while we play and it's nice to do something that doesn't involve a screen for awhile.
posted by scififan at 2:01 PM on April 12, 2016

How about learning to make fancy craft cocktails? You spend a little time putting together the drink, and then you get to hang out and drink and chat.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:40 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Because you are in the prime ages for kids being hilarious and forgetting stories later.

Very much this! Our kids are 13 & 15 now, and I can only remember a few of the utterly hilarious things they said. Once the second one came along, I didn't have enough brain power to remember much of anything.

My suggestion is knitting.
posted by sneebler at 4:56 PM on April 12, 2016

Massage. Get a book or a how-to video and learn how to give each other really good massages.
posted by oryelle at 7:28 PM on April 12, 2016

I like the card game "Spite and Malice". My family has been playing it for 4 generations.
posted by kamikazegopher at 8:05 PM on April 12, 2016

If you have a turntable, putting on a record makes listening to music a fun and purposeful activity, especially if one of you has found a weird looking used album and you listen to it the first time together.

Theme watching (like a specific snack/cocktail that goes with the movie--e.g., I made aqua velvas for the first time and watched Zodiac because a character in Zodiac drinks them) likewise makes vegging feel more engaging.

Really interesting audiobooks that take a while to get through and spark discussion (like Going Clear) can be a sharing experience.

Paint by numbers (order em cheap on Amazon; everything you need is in the kit) can be surprisingly engaging--and if you have no artistic talent you will feel secretly proud of your tacky pictures.

Baking together can be fun. Everything from the simplest skillet corn bread to a complicated cake.

Do you have a yard? Badminton, stargazing (and its attendant research), horseshoes? Hoops in the driveway?

On the internet but more purposeful than dicking around: research genealogy, plan your dream trip of a lifetime?

A walk, special wine, card games are classics for a reason. I have heard some couples engage in legal marijuana the way some collect and enjoy wine.

None of this sounds fun with a partner who is only participating grudgingly, though! Hopefully once you get going he will be able to think of something he'd like to do.
posted by kapers at 9:34 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

There are books and websites that list card games for 2 players. If you bought a couple of decks of cards, you could work your way through one of those books or sites, trying all the games.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:56 AM on April 13, 2016

Replay value in boardgames is important, I'll concur readily. Quick setup and teardown is also important. Meeting all those criteria are three I can personally recommend (that are designed for two players): Patchwork, 7 Wonders Duel, and (our favourite) Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small.

HOWEVER, I also have no qualms about recommending the following limited-life (though still ridiculously cost-effective, as far as the hours of entertainment you will get ouf of them) "experience" games: Pandemic Legacy and Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:37 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

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