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One of the biggest struggles I've experienced as a parent has been the one with my "non-parent" self. I struggle to hold on to the person I used to be before I had kids, and I struggle to actively participate in other things that enrich my life.

Being able to write for a living has helped, but within the last two years, I've managed to reconnect with a part of my life I had thought was lost forever: theatre.

I've been involved heavily with our local community theater and, finally, this fall, I'm actually in a play. A full-length show with a big part. I feel ecstatic.

I also feel guilty.

I feel guilty because I will be spending most of my evenings away from my family. That guilt is on overdrive right now with school starting back up and my time with my kids steadily decreasing.

So what's a parent to do? You don't want to lose yourself so much in your children that you become an empty shell of a human staring into space like a zombie, right? But you also need to spend quality time with your kids, obviously.

I don't have a perfect solution. Surprise!

I do, however, have a decent one: set aside some time to take your kids out on individual "dates." If the word "date" skeeves you out in this situation, call it an outing —  whatever you want. The point is to give each individual kid your undivided attention for about an hour or so each week or two. This will allow you to fully focus on your kid, show them you care, and that they are important to you.

But what to do? Where to go? Does it have to be expensive? (The answer's "no" on that last one.) I've got a handful of my favorite kid date ideas comin' at ya!

Coffee, Cocoa, and Coloring

If your kid's into coloring, pack up those coloring books and crayons and head to your favorite coffee shop. An hour of coloring, chatting, and drinking your favorite drinks while John Mayer sings his old hits in the background is a great way to connect with your child and take a break from the fast pace of the real world.

Bowl Up Some Quality Time

If quiet coloring isn't your kid's style, try hitting up your local bowling alley. Many alleys have discount days for kids, so try to find out which day would snag you a cheap round or two. Bowling is active enough for the kids who need to release some energy, but low-key enough to allow for conversation and quality time.

Scope Out Events Calendars

Our local public library and children's museum are constantly hosting fun events. With everything from crafting to free concerts, there are plenty of ways to have a good time with your kiddo and utilize the awesome resources these institutions provide.

Watch An Old Favorite

While watching TV might not be the best way to get in some quality time, it can still bring some closeness when you're too busy or too tired. I've recently started watching some of my old favorite Nickelodeon cartoons with my kids, and have loved every minute of it. Their wonder over the fact that I watched the same show when I was their age is priceless. It can lead to some pretty fun conversations afterward.

Paint Some Pottery

If you're lucky enough to live in a town with "paint your own pottery" or "make and take" studios, it's time to check them out! Exercising your creativity with your kid while getting to sit and chat with them is a fantastic way to observe and connect with your child while making fun memories that you can bring home.

Any other bright ideas?

Trust me, my parenting guilt is never in short supply. I'm always on the lookout for more kid date ideas, so please share them in the comments!

Lauren Bonk

Lauren Bonk is a freelance copywriter, editor, and blogger who's been wrangling children and words since 2010. She high-fives her husband frequently, probably drinks too much coffee, and sighs nostalgically over 90's music on a regular basis. Learn more about Lauren at ...

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