Special Nights are a great way to spend quality time with each of your children no matter how many kids you have!
Back in 2013, another large family mom mentioned that it was her son’s “Special Night.” Intrigued, I asked more about it because I have always heard of “special nights” in the context of smaller families who gave each child one night a week, which is totally not feasible in a large family for obvious reasons.
After she explained it to me, I talked it over with my husband, and we implemented it immediately! It has been such a wonderful addition to our family over the years, I wanted to share with you how we got started, how Special Night morphed over the years, and what our current Special Night looks like with a mix of bigs and littles. I hope you will see just how easy and delightful it can be for your family!
How to Implement a Special Night for Each Child
1. Choose a night that you are most often home. For nearly a decade, that was Tuesday! Then, I was invited to a Bible Study that met every other Tuesday, and my husband began teaching at a local college and was often too tired to stay awake for Special Night, so recently, we moved it to Monday nights.
2. Start from the youngest (or the oldest). We decided to start with the youngest since they have a harder time waiting, and we simply work our way up through the children.
We don’t start letting them have Special Nights until they are 3 years old. For several years, our children “aged out” at 18, but we recently changed things up again to include them in a different way. (more on that in a bit…)
3. On Special Night, everyone but the Special Child goes to bed early. At least that was how we started! Now, we have bigger kids who don’t take kindly to being sent to bed at 7 or 8 pm! So, it’s up to you – have your other children go to sleep, have a “rest time,” or do what we do now and let the other children stay up in a different part of the house.
4. The Special Child gets to choose 1 food and 1 drink for their Special Night. We either pick these up the day before, or daddy picks them up on his way home.
This is how we started all those years ago, and except for a short season when we actually took the Special Night Child out for a meal, we have stuck to this.
Recently, we started taking our older kids out for coffee to get away from the house and really focus on the big conversations we don’t often get to have with little ears hovering nearby.
5. Special Night begins after dinner! We are night owls, so Special Night usually isn’t until 7 or 8 pm, but you could start much earlier if you like. Bedtime for the Special Night child depends on their age, so set that time as well accordingly, but they definitely get to stay up later – one of the BIG perks of Special Night!
Now, here’s a little history of our family’s Special Night, so you can see how things changed over the years…
circa 2013 – 2014
Back in 2013, we would put the other kids to bed or Rest Time and then gather with the Special Night Child in the living room. Here’s a photo of me reading a favorite book from my childhood – A Fly Went By – to our daughter who was 10 at the time. Looks like she chose jellybeans for her Special Night!
The Special Night Child gets to choose the night’s activities. We’ve had UNO games, we’ve read books, they have played games on the iPad or computer. We’ve watched movies, scoured Amazon for the latest gadget, cooked or baked, and we’ve even taken a walk! Anything is fair game within reason!
You might have noticed the “Special” plate above. This plate was purchased by Ty’s aunt when she went to Germany, and she gave it to us to use for the kids’ Special Nights. You can buy them in the United States as well.
While a special plate isn’t necessary, our kids sure have enjoyed this tradition!
circa 2014 – 2019
At this point, our kids were getting older, and the oldest ones didn’t want to go to bed with the littles. The house we lived in during those years had a parlor with French doors, so that’s where the older kids would go to watch TV while the little ones went to bed and the Special Night Child got the rest of the house. Other than that, nothing much changed from the inception of Special Nights around here!
circa 2019 – 2020
For a short period of time, we tried eating out with the Special Night Child. We were in a new city, and had fun trying out new places with the kids. Perhaps if COVID had not put a damper on our Special Night escapades, this would have lasted longer. But, it did seem expensive – another reason we stopped going out. So, we went back to the way things had been all those many years, until 2022…
circa 2022 –
Currently, we have two different kinds of Special Nights – one for the bigs and one for the littles. The younger kids, ages 13 and below, have continued the same tradition as before.
However, we now take the older kids (ages 16 and up) out to a local coffee shop that is open later in the evening (because apparently not everyone drinks coffee all day long like we do and evening hours at coffee shops are hard to come by!).
We sit for an hour or so, sometimes run errands together, but the main reason we take them away from the house is because they are old enough to stay up late every night they wish to (remember, that was one of the BIG attractions to Special Night for little kids!), and they watch movies and play games with much more free reign than their younger siblings. So, we use the time to have deeper conversations (away from those listening little ears) and figure out big life steps, and just have fun together out on the town!
Over the years, the one thing that hasn’t changed is how every single child is so excited to know their special night is coming up. We get focused time with each child in a doable large-family friendly way. It’s been such a blessing! Here’s to another decade of Special Nights!
So, do you do a Special Night with your children? How do you have it set up? What kinds of things do you do?
Originally posted in June 2013. Updated in October 2022.
I did this the last time DH was deployed. At the time we had 6, so each child had one night a week, then I had a “mommy night”. It really helped to make sure I was spending the time with each child that they needed, & gave us an opportunity to talk through what feelings or issues the deployment presented to each child.
DH & I have really been looking for a way to increase our one on one time with each of our children. I had completely forgotten about having a “special night” with them. Thanks for the reminder!
This is a great idea! I sent this post to my husband and think it will be a well needed addition to our family times. Our 3rd child needs some extra encouragement right now and I think this will certainly help her too.
Fabulous! Let me know how it goes!
Reading this has made me realized that we really should start having our special night with the kids again. I guess we stopped because baby #8 made nights VERY difficult. We did it the same as you, special treat and they got to choose what we did. It is a sacrifice though, as it makes your day longer, but in a large family that’s really the only time they get alone with mom and dad. 🙂
Oh good! You’ll have to post about it! 😉
I love this idea! I only have 3 kids, but I think my kids would love it, and I love that it’s frugal. Thanks!
You’re welcome! I’m sure they will enjoy it!
We do something similar. We use the number of their birthdate and they get to stay up late that night for about 30 minutes. They get to choose something special to do with Dad and Mom. So far we’ve only done this with the 3 oldest, but I’m sure the 3 year old will soon be added to the rotation. We try to do this every month, but if your birthdate number falls on a Saturday we don’t do it that month. We want everyone to have a good night’s rest before church on Sunday.
I have one child and we have movie night once a month…Redbox, candy & popcorn. (I’m not sure who looks forward to ‘couch time’ more, me or him!) While I only have one son, it is too easy to get caught up in everyday life and this night allows us both to stop and just enjoy each other. Thank you for the reminder – we haven’t had our June movie night yet!
I imagine he will have very fond memories of that time spent with you!
I do “Mommy dates”, where I go in order of whose turn it is, and I arrange for someone to watch the other kids while I go out for an afternoon or an evening…or even just take them to the store with me all by themselves and we get a treat while we’re out….but special alone time with just Mommy. They love it.
Yes, I’ve seen this too! Even just running to get gas is a treat. 🙂
I love this Amy!! I have 4 kids and I’ve always tried to figure out a way to do this without having to go somewhere, which is just about impossible right now! Going to start this week! Thanks!
Fantastic! I’m sure you will really enjoy it!
We have 3 boys, and we do “dates,” where one parent takes one of the boys out. Just recently I took one of my sons to the bookstore, and we sat in the adjacent coffee shop and drank hot chocolate and played a card game. This particular bookstore has a child’s section with a train table and trains to play with; it’s definitely a favorite!
Another “date” that’s really fun is taking one of my boys with me when I go for a long walk; he rides his bike while I walk. It’s fun, free, and we get some exercise and time together.
Tonight was my 4 year old’s special night and he and I played frisbee in the front yard. I’m all for some exercise!
I love love love this! I’ve heard about having special time with each child in a large family, but couldn’t figure out how you would do it with a lot of kiddos. This sounds like a great way
That’s exactly how I was! There was no way I could do every single night and then do it all over again the next week.
I love the idea of having a scheduled night. For us it has not been scheduled but we do have special nights with our oldest, she is 6. Whenever she asks, my husband and I make it a point to say yes. We know she needs that extra special time with us because the 2 little ones require alot of my attention through out the day and papa is usually at work. She will lay down while I put the younger ones to bed and then we “sneak” out of the room 🙂 she loves that part, she’s always giggling. Most of the time she just wants to color but another favorite is “Go Fish.” I like the special food and drink idea!
Aww, how fun!
Penny Lane says
Oh I just LOVE this idea. We don’t have a large family YET (working on that!) but this seems like such a great thing to start. I can already tell how important attention on each child can be with our 3 and 1 year olds. Just taking only one of them to the grocery store is a special ‘date’ with Mama. I’m thinking for now, I better get an unbreakable “special plate!” I’m sharing this with our readers as well!
LOL – Yes, unbreakable is good!
Amy, I have been thinking about this exact thing in recent weeks. I had a challenging adolescence, and have been seeking from God what I can learn from my parents, what I can maybe do differently. In reading a parenting book about positive discipline, I realized I had had NO one-on-one time with my parents growing up. I definitely am trying to do this with my little one, and hope to continue. A friend uses the one-on-one car drive: Papa regularly invites one child at a time for a drive. The private time, the soothing monotony of the car helps create an atmosphere that invites sharing.
That sounds lovely!
I go out one night a week with a child. Everyone else stays home with dad, eats dinner, and has fun with him. Generally, the two of us combine eating out together with running errands, and something just fun. Often, we go to the library which the older ones enjoy. They have board games there we play sometimes. We’ll eat out and have a special treat, and make errand time fun. Sometimes we go to the park. Yes, I’m multi-tasking fun time. But still, it works. We have good talks throughout and everyone enjoys the evening.
We do that on occasion as well! Nothing wrong with multi-tasking! 😉
Yep! We’ve been implementing this since 2007. It’s been such a gift to our family and to our kids! They look forward to it all week long and while sometimes we get ino sep conversation, oftentimes, it’s just playing a game and watching a movie or just hanging . We absolutely love it!
Beth Fisher says
We do a different twist on this.
We’ve done this for the past…..15 years. We have family dinner nights. We rotate who’s night it is (we also go from youngest to oldest).
Whoever’s night it is gets to pick what they want for dinner (for all of us), what they wan to do or watch (board game, movie, etc), what they want for dessert, etc.
We went from having 6 people to rotate through to now just having 4.
Love the time together!!!
Rachel Bueckert says
What a great idea! I’ll have to try that with my kids sometime. 🙂
Anna @ Feminine Adventures says
Love this idea! We don’t do anything like it currently. I try to make sure I spend at least a little time with each child one on one regularly, but love the idea of doing it with both parents! What wonderful memories you’re creating. 🙂
We did this for 3-4 years, at least, and the kids loved it. In more recent years, for health reasons, etc, we’ve morphed into doing things more in a group. Staying up with the teens to watch a movie the younger ones can’t, letting the littles stay up an hour past bedtime to watch a favorite show/play a game. As for one-on-one, I try my best to practice being available throughout the day for conversations, interaction, etc. I write this as someone who lives with chronic fatigue and knows better than I’d like what it is to not be able to ‘do it all’ anymore. Wing it if you have to, let it be a surprise at the end of a day that you actually have the extra energy versus something that’s ‘planned’. You being present and them feeling seen and heard is what’s important, even if it isn’t as neat and tidy as you’d like it to be.