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.