I am a big fan of traveling adventures with my kids. We are always on the go and when we are in town, it seems like our weekends are filled with non-stop activities and errands and birthday parties. I think with working all week and the kids being in school, the mom guilt makes me have this frantic feeling that I have to fit everything I couldn’t do with the kids during the week into the weekend. I end up overscheduling us and we run around like crazy people and I get frustrated because I tried so hard and no one is even having fun.
If we’re not doing non-stop activities or traveling, when we are at home on the weekends, I feel the need to clean the house because that is what you’re supposed to do, right? Then there is my other favorite weekend activity of changing out my kids’ clothes to the correct size and season. I spend these weekends cleaning some small corner of our house while the kids destroy the rest of it, and I get so far behind with everything else that I can’t catch up. And then, I spend those weekends annoyed at life and getting mad at the kids for making messes.
I have come to the realization that while the kids love the big things like trips and fun parties and Chuck E. Cheese, they really just want our time and undivided attention. That seems simple, but it is sometimes hard to turn off the go go go or the nagging about cleaning the house or the frantic feeling that we have to do something great and meaningful every weekend.
I have a hard time stopping to smell the roses.
This past Sunday, I asked the kids what they wanted to do. My four- and seven-year-olds said they wanted a picnic lunch in the park. My eight-year-old said he wanted us all to ride bikes. It is hard sometimes to put everything down and go to the park, but we had so much fun and it was just so simple that it made me kick myself for trying so hard to do big things.
While you can easily come up with your own list by asking your kids, below are a few things my family and I have done in Chattanooga that are so simple and free or almost free, and just easy fun.
Have a picnic in the park: You can make your own picnic or be lazy like me and order take out from River Street Deli. We grabbed a blanket, picked up our lunch and headed to Riverview Park. The kids had so much fun having a real picnic and we spent an hour running around the park, throwing the football, swinging on the swings (I had forgotten how amazing that feels!), and just playing and being together. It was short and easy, and the kids loved it.
Cardboard Hill: Our babysitter took the kids to Cardboard Hill and they haven’t stopped asking to go since, so we ended up going twice last week. If you are like us and have pretty much given up on getting any snow, Cardboard Hill is the southern, no-snow version of sledding that is actually really fun. Grab a few empty Amazon boxes, load up the car and go. We went to Frios and picked up popsicles and walked over to the hill. It is so much fun and you FLY down, and the kids love it. Walk down the sidewalk to the river while you’re there — it’s a quiet spot with a pretty view of the Aquarium and the bridges.
Bike riding at Coolidge Park: We love Coolidge Park and it is close to home for us, but this weekend we took our bikes and realized we had been missing out on a perfect spot. We taught my seven-year-old (yikes, yes, we waited really late!) to ride her bike and everyone had fun riding around. The flat grassy spot is nice for falls while learning and there are lots of sidewalks to cruise around on a scooter or bike. The kids also love the carousel, so you can always do that at the end.
Wandering around Downtown: Downtown Chattanooga is so much fun to walk around. We like to walk around the outside of the Aquarium and along the path at the riverfront. We also like the Choo Choo, where they have cornhole and chairs set up outside and the kids like to run around in the garden and play hide and seek. The Passageways are also fun to see. There are also public art installations in different alleyways downtown that are fun to see and great spots where to take some good pictures.
We have so many awesome things to do in Chattanooga like the Creative Discovery Museum and the Aquarium, and amazing hikes and outdoor activities and so much history to explore. While the things on this list seem almost silly due to their simplicity, I think that what was most important for me was to realize because I was overthinking things. I wanted to do big things and my kids just wanted my time and undivided attention for an hour or two.
Going and doing these things gave them that, and they were just happy to get out and do something unstructured with us. And who doesn’t love re-using your Amazon boxes for something useful like flying down a grassy hill with the Chattanooga skyline in the background?