Things that are better with kids
April 25, 2017 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Come September my husband and I will be transitioning from our little two-person family to three (fingers crossed, of course)! We've spent some time thinking about things we want to do before the kid arrives, and will be going on a last holiday for just the two of us. But we also want to think about the reverse - what are experiences or things that are better with a kid, or that can only be had if you have a kid?

For example, I think a vacation to Disneyland or Disneyworld would be more fun with kids involved, or at least, while it might be more hectic, I think I would get significant joy from seeing my son's reactions to things. Ditto for something like the Tyler Place Family Resort. To pick something closer to home, you can only go to Legoland in the Boston-area if you have a kid with you.

Bonus points for telling me what you think the optimal age would be for that experience - I would love to be able to refer back to this list as my child gets older.
posted by peacheater to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (41 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Zoos and Aquariums are much more fun, starting at babyhood and lasting until they get bored with animals.
posted by bq at 3:08 PM on April 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

The zoo is great!

Bears! Lions! Ducks! Whatever animal your kid is interested in, is there! The petting/ hand feeding is a riot.
posted by exois at 3:09 PM on April 25, 2017

Christmas is better with kids, if Christmas is your thing. Really, all the holidays. The joy of trying to catch leprechaun! Giving out Valentines to everyone for how much we love people! Easter egg hunts!

Chuck E. Cheese is surprisingly awesome, it turns out (with kids).

I no longer have to feel weird about liking middle grade and young adult fiction -- it's just research for book ideas for my kid!

Maybe everything that was better as a kid is also better with kids, sums this up.
posted by freezer cake at 3:18 PM on April 25, 2017 [12 favorites]

state/county fairs. Wacky animals! Fried food on a stick! Rides!
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:20 PM on April 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

Playing with Lego! Or any toys, really...
posted by barnoley at 3:24 PM on April 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Visiting a fire station - start at 3, repeat at 4 and again at 6 because they will have forgotten the previous visit

Going to the library - starting at 2 and half, maybe? (Most of the time, but not fun when child just wants to look at movies and makes you choose all the books. Also difficult when you've read almost all the books and have to hunt for ages to find new ones)

Going to toy stores!
posted by kitcat at 3:27 PM on April 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Going to pet stores. And petting zoos. That can start I'm think at 9 months or even earlier.
posted by kitcat at 3:34 PM on April 25, 2017

Sledding, ice skating, kicking a soccer ball around. The beach!
posted by gideonfrog at 3:58 PM on April 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

My kid was fascinated with trains as a preschooler, and going on train rides with him was fun in a way that I had never found it before. Things that I previously ignored were thrilling for him (Wow, the engine, wow the wheels, wow we're going really fast), and I enjoyed watching him. Also firework displays are still a winner with him, even at 13.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 3:58 PM on April 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I read this to my husband and we both busted out laughing.

I'd say everything is better and worse. Things are just different. But Disney through a 4 yr old little girl's eyes is something absolutely magical.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:04 PM on April 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

Ice skating. I would feel kind of dumb going to an ice rink alone and might have a hard time finding other adults who wanted to go with me, especially if I wanted to go more than once or twice a year, but with kids I can go a lot. I've learned to skate backwards and do a couple kinds of turns and I freaking love it. I started taking my oldest kid when she was about 4, and the younger one started at about 2 (which is not the optimal age if your main goal is to have fun yourself - they need too much help and attention at that age.)

Camping isn't always better with kids, but it can be. It's great to see how much they enjoy it.
posted by Redstart at 4:09 PM on April 25, 2017

Covering some of the topics listed above, a "staycation" is pretty entertaining with kids (especially if you just have one). How often do you stay home for a cheap vacation with any sort of adult excitement? What if you add into that equation a tiny human for whom the weekly garbage truck visit is THE BEST THING EVER? Also staying home feels like gaining all sorts of sleep and rest and downtime when compared to traveling with a young one.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:14 PM on April 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Playing music around the house is really fun with kids. Dancing, singing. Definitely looking at animals.
posted by vunder at 4:17 PM on April 25, 2017

Every single holiday! Presents and decorating and baking, etc.

Learning. Learning is fun, but there is a whole new joy to refreshing knowledge when teaching a little one. Simple questions I thought knew the answer to become an excuse to say "hey, why don't we go look that up?!"

Picture books. Sure is fun reading a great picture book with a little one.
posted by beccaj at 4:22 PM on April 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not as specific, but in some ways your whole community becomes richer and more fun with a kid. Your local library, rec centre, park, coffee shop, etc, will be so much more fun, educational, and social.
posted by subluxor at 4:30 PM on April 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Swimming pools. I don't have a kid but I want to borrow my friends' kids to have a better reason to go to the pool.
posted by hellogoodbye at 4:38 PM on April 25, 2017

Oh, and winter. I don't know what climate you're in, but if you're somewhere with cold winters, a child will force you to rediscover the joy of playing in the snow.
posted by subluxor at 4:42 PM on April 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hanging out in restaurants and drawing.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:42 PM on April 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just a word of warning not to get too specific in your hopeful predictions because you might end up with a kid who actually hates doing the thing. Like, I adore animals and pets and zoos and nature shows and I must confess that I was really looking forward to taking my kid to the zoo and getting him his first training wheels pet etc and... yeah the kid does not care about animals. He thinks they're boring, hates the zoo, has never asked for a pet. *kicks dirt*

Tell you what though, that first trip to the kiddie amusement park was magical.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2017 [9 favorites]

The firsts. All the spontaneous firsts that take your breath away.
The first lick of ice cream. The first sled ride down a snowy hill. The first salty taste of the ocean, then floating in the surf. Biking without training wheels, sleepovers without parents, waiting at the school bus stop alone. The first game won in group sports. The first recital in front of an audience.

Have a camera / recorder ready, but live in the moment. You are seeing the world new again through your child's eyes. That's what is now different.
posted by TrishaU at 4:56 PM on April 25, 2017 [20 favorites]

Oh, TrishaU. I know this is not the place for comments, but you're so right and have brought tears to my eyes.
posted by kitcat at 5:05 PM on April 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh gosh, there's just SO have a way of completely revitalizing the dreary old mundane you've become accustomed to or take for granted.

Public transit jumps out as a big one to me – my kid just about loses her tiny mind with excitement whenever she gets to ride the bus. Looking at Christmas lights on houses. Apple or berry picking, then going home and baking something incredible. Going on puddle walks whenever it rains. The beach and/or wading many summer afternoons whiled away there. Visiting secondhand bookstores and letting them pick whatever they want, then going to a bakery or coffee shop afterwards to read your new books – they feel so grown-up. Really, any sort of "treat run" – ice cream, the donut shop. Weddings – there is nothing cuter than seeing little kids bust a move at the reception.

I could go on and on!
posted by anderjen at 5:21 PM on April 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

Yeah pretty much the whole world.

Except my kids hated Mary Poppins and I can see why.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:43 PM on April 25, 2017

I walked by the park the other day by myself and realized that without my kid, I couldn't sit and watch the kids playing. Honestly, kid watching is fun anywhere, and you'll get to do it at the library and beach too. You'll get to play in wading pools and at spray parks in the summer.
posted by Margalo Epps at 6:03 PM on April 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

As the parent of a one year old, I feel obligated to tell you as soon to be parents that for the first 6-9 months or so, the answer is nothing. They're just tiny helpless piles of need and shit and screams and give nothing back, and you're basically going to be homebound all the time, unless you have family nearby.

I want to warn you of that because I'm sure you are reading this thread and eagerly awaiting showing your child the world and you are going to be bitterly disappointed when it is not like that at all.

Once they're mobile and start actually interacting with you, then you can start experiencing all those things that everyone talks about when they talk about the joys of parenthood. Then pretty much everything you do is like taking them to Disney land for the first time. Like every little thing is a new and exciting thing for them and you get to see the world with them for the first time. You don't need to take them to Disney world, you can just drop them on top of a pile of clean laundry and it'll entertain them for an hour.
posted by empath at 6:42 PM on April 25, 2017 [15 favorites]

What a great question!

Kids books are pretty awesome/magical. So fun to rediscover that. And lots of kids movies. And music, too (though some kids music is just dang annoying.). Ice cream. Parks. So fun to discover all the awesome parks in my area.

both me and my husband become closer with our families. Or more accurately, our relationships with our families are just stronger, but also more boundaries. That was a very welcome transition. We get to be the "adults" too now, and call the shots more. It's... nice.

Also kids are just sooo dang funny. I was showing my 1 year old a little statue of the Buddha tonight before bed I had lying around, and then going to bed I could just hear her crying "Boo da! Boo da!" from her crib, & that kind of wonder filled surprise is pretty specific to young children.
posted by Rocket26 at 6:53 PM on April 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Assuming you're not in a rush: taking the dog for a walk around the block with a friend's toddler is a completely different experience. Toddler, climbing up 3 foot slope: "I'm on a HILL!!!"
posted by deludingmyself at 7:13 PM on April 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Going to animated movies is more fun with my kids, though I saw them before as well. My youngest gets teary-eyed and wants to snuggle during touching scenes, which is so sweet. I hate to see her sad and crying over real-life things, but holding her while she cries over Dory losing her parents is cathartic.

Going out with kids, especially babies and toddlers, is neat because people talk to you who normally wouldn't. Having little kids with you makes you approachable, and for lots of people, means you belong to their "tribe," as someone who has kids or their kids are grown. And although many waiters and waitresses may hate to get my family at their table (because kids mean more mess and more needs), many servers have also been exceptionally sweet to us because of the kids.
posted by Knowyournuts at 8:43 PM on April 25, 2017

My favorite things were reading aloud and following kids in to new experiences.
I read aloud to each child at bedtime and enjoyed it so much. I had never read Ann of Green Gables as a child and got to experience it twice with two of my kids. My son was so crazy about the Redwall books when he was in first grade he would beg for more chapters. I still see sparrows as warriors. Charlotte's Web is a joy to read aloud.

My oldest was very interested in Native Americans, so in any of our travels we included visits to Native Peoples and if asked to take part in any dances or activities we would. It's not something I would have felt open to doing on my own, but with a young child you do things you would never normally consider. We met some lovely people, enjoyed some meals and danced. It was great. My son lived to look for snakes, frogs and lizards. We did a lot of catch and release and went on lots of ranger talks. I am more of an expert on reptiles and amphibians than I would have expected.

So I guess my answer is reading aloud and letting your child lead you.
posted by readery at 9:00 PM on April 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

Trains. Disney Movies. Bowling. Stargazing. Running naked through the backyard.

Stupid-ass things like tunnels. My kids could spend hours on end driving through regular boring tunnels. Ditto the car wash. On the day after Thanksgiving we ride the commuter train, just for fun. My oldest kid is thrilled by any and all sirens. My middle kid has a love affair with the tornado siren test, which he calls, "THE NOISY!" and gets super-excited about. It's like the highlight of our month.

Food -- everything is a first. My kids just ate a banana split for the first time. My baby is into stinky cheese.

Moving at a slow speed in general. I got into birdwatching when I had a toddler because it took him so long to do ANYTHING, I had plenty of time to look at birds.

Blowing their minds with random facts. One of my kids is big into "How many minutes in a month? How many seconds in two hours?" and he hit me with his biggest whammy: "How many minutes in a year?" "FIVE HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED MINUTES," I shouted back. I didn't tell him about Rent because I wanted him to think I'm awesome at math. In 15 years he'll hear Rent for the first time and be like "HEY WAIT A SECOND!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:07 PM on April 25, 2017 [12 favorites]

It all depends what age you're talking about. The beach with my nine month old? Not so much. He ate a mouthful of sand and didn't really understand the overall "ocean" thing. But the beach with a six year old? So fun. Anyway, under age one, I'd say that the best places are home and parks within easy walking distance, oh, and also cafes where you can get a moment of adult time plus a muffin while the baby is asleep on you.
posted by slidell at 9:22 PM on April 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Was that ending to my comment a downer? In the long run, I think almost everywhere is better with kids, except maybe nice restaurants.
posted by slidell at 9:25 PM on April 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

There is so much. For all the stress, frustration, etc that you will have (And you will have it!), there is this new panoply of experiences that open up, and they vary with age (at least, they have for me with two aged 5 and 3).

Some highlights, in no particular order:
  • Having a baby fall asleep snuggled into your chest/jacket like a little joey kangaroo is magical - I had to fight against doing it all the time!
  • Interactions with most animals. My eldest is quite a scaredy cat but has always loved snakes, watching this little toddler mashing her face against the glass at the zoo next to a snake head was baffling and hilarious in equal measure
  • Getting them to try new foodstuffs. Oysters, olives, lemon etc. Both my kids really love lemon, the little one even likes the peel!
  • Going on the swings in the playground. Was good before, is great now, though tiring!
  • Fireworks
Just basking in their presence. Their wonder, their love. Having children gave atheist smoke an appreciation of the metaphor of original sin - they truly do exist in a state of shameless innocence and wonder and you'll do almost anything to preserve those qualities before the world washes them away.

They'll drive you crazy and you'll beg for a moment's peace, and then they'll say or do something that'll take your breathe away and they don't even know it. Congratulations, you are going to have so much fun.
posted by smoke at 2:42 AM on April 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

For the first couple two or three months, I'd agree that babies are basically just little bundles of largely characterless spitup and poop and need.

But after that, even really regular stuff starts to get great -- like, we have a kid that's just shy of a year now, and when he was about four months old, we'd just sit around and watch the kid sit in his bouncer and stare at his hands in confusion because wow, hands! Jeez, fingers! Similarly, our kid didn't know how to burp at first, so for a while he'd just kinda open his mouth and try to stick out his tongue but he didn't even really know how to stick out his tongue. It was hilarious watching him try.

And then there was the first time around five months when I was changing him, and he ripped out a fart, and just started CACKLING WITH WILD LAUGHTER.

And now there's bathtime at night, which is technically another chore, but is now delightful because our kid likes to sit in the bathtub and look at this bath book, and it is VERY SERIOUS, and there is nothing quite like watching this tiny person who kinda still looks like an old man and who doesn't understand the concept of not trying to put more in his mouth than he can comfortably swallow, and he's frowning over his book of, like, four pages about ducky's magical pond, and he frowns and turns the page and looks up at us with a concerned expression like a tiny fucking Winston Churchill reading top secret briefing papers about D-Day.

Unloading the dishwasher is pretty great, because our kid FUCKING LOVES IT. We pop him in his high chair, and drag it up to the dishwasher, and he starts cackling and waving his arms with happiness even before the door is open. Like, he looooves watching us take the silverware out, and bang out with the plates. For a special treat sometimes on the weekends, I'll put him on my back in the baby carrier while I do it, and he gets to be up close and personal with all the shiny things at adult-level.

Coming home at night is pretty great, too. Sure, it means that the next hour of my life (I work long hours) are going to be an intense whirlwind of trying to eat and take care of the baby and prep him for bed, and like, we might be past the most intense bout of it now, but when he was in the 8-9 month range and was in the high chair getting dinner, I'd open the door, and as soon as he heard my voice saying his name, I'd just see this wild waving of hands and legs and shrieking and not even caring about milk anymore because HE WAS SO EXCITED!!!! IT WAS MOM!!!!!!!!!!

Hanging out with extended family is a better now, too, though I understand this is definitely a thing that varies. In our family, though, we now fight less about politics because there's always a baby to talk about. It's kinda even a relief to have a conversation with people who are JUST AS INTERESTED AS US in HOW MUCH THE BABY ATE and HOW MUCH THE BABY DRANK and WHAT AMUSING THINGS THE BABY DID TODAY.

tl;dr: we haven't even gotten to what people tell me is the really fun stuff, and I already enjoy the hell out of my child.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:24 AM on April 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

Watching a baby discover things. I happened to be playing with my baby at the precise moment he figured out he could make things move with his hands. He batted at a little toy by accident, then realizes what he did. His whole body froze and he just paused for a second, then batted the toy again, on purpose, eyes big as saucers. You could literally see it in his eyes, the moment the light dawned.
posted by ficbot at 10:05 AM on April 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Zoos Disneyland etc sure but I think the really really basic stuff is wonderful. Like, when you show them how they can eat raspberries off their little fingers, or when you first point out how wrinkly their fingers are post-bath. This morning as I was getting ready for work, my kid pointed to different objects and surfaces in our bathroom and guessed what they were made of - "wood!" "metal!" "paper!" "plastic!" and was delighted by the idea that everything is made out of *something.*

Singing, and making any little thought or sentence into a song, just because, is better with kids.

You may go through a phase where even just getting dressed and walking around is fun, because your kid wants to look just like you and/or Daddy! Stripes for everyone!

And yeah, like joyceanmachine says, the very basic act of coming home to your little kid is amazing. Even just coming home from running a boring stupid errand! My husband nearly sobbed the first time our kid - maybe just over a year at the time - RAN into his arms when he came home.
posted by sestaaak at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

How could I forget about reading aloud to them? That may be the best part. Children's books you loved, you get to be the one to show to them. It's the absolute best. And, if they'll put up with it, singing to them. Someone who actually enjoys and is comforted by you singing! Wow!
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:47 AM on April 26, 2017

Since its spring, right now we're in a backyard phase every afternoon. Digging for worms, finding roly-polys, "mom, can we pull up some weeds?" because they generally have a caterpillar or a slug hiding under them... hiking near a small stream or pond and finding polliwogs to catch in your hands, oh, and don't forget puddle-splashing and rescuing drowning worms. Blowing bubbles... very very simple things but kids just bring wonder and amazement to it and you can't squash their enthusiasm so you get to be enthusiastic too.

Taking a walk with a toddler is excruciating and you may get only 10 feet from the house for the whole hour that you're out "walking" but if you're willing to make up your mind that you're not really going for a walk but that you're just taking the kid outside that makes it easier.

Babywearing with a snoozing baby while out for a walk on a nice day is one the most favorite memories I have. Another is wading into and running away from the small waves at the beach with a giggling, shrieking little.

I am always gifted with dandelions and other small flowers and lots of rocks and sticks every time we go outside and they are the gifts I treasure most in the world because they are given with such joy and the intent of sharing happiness and love.
posted by vignettist at 12:10 PM on April 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

And oh yeah, depends on your family, but I've found that one thing that is better with kids is, tangentially, talking and relating to my own parents. Now that there is a small wondrous little grandbeing around, the pressure on me - to be successful or high achieving or skinny or whatever other standard I've felt like they've held me to my whole life as a child and then as a youngish adult - has just sort of completely dissipated as a topic of conversation or stress - it just doesn't really matter to them anymore. I've gifted them a grandkid, my job is done, expectations of me are now non-existent really, besides keeping him alive and cute and frequently photographed - and now talking with them is really fun and uncomplicated in a way it didn't used to be.
posted by sestaaak at 1:13 PM on April 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

Thanks so much for all these wonderful answers! I've enjoyed reading through each and every one of them. And I hear your warnings too :)
posted by peacheater at 5:37 PM on April 27, 2017

Update from the world of a one and a half year old: anywhere with water, like a place with a fountain you can wade into. "Spash!"
posted by slidell at 10:52 AM on November 22, 2017

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