I am a fairly color-in-the-lines type of person, and my kids are often, uh, not so much.  Why walk down the stairs when you can jump?  Why go around the puddles when you can splash through them?  Every now and then, it’s fun to do something totally crazy, just to keep them on their toes!

Here are some ideas of ways to do something unexpected for your kids:

  • Read a book backwards. Start at the front of the book, but on each page, start with the last word and read your way to the first.  See how long it takes your kids to figure out what you are doing!  Gresham thinks this is hilarious.  The key to making it funny is to keep your vocal inflection the same as you would if you were reading a story that made sense – go down at the end of a sentence and up for a question, etc.
  • Read a book with funny voices. Our favorite is “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” – I read each page like the animal on the page, adding quacks for the duck, for example.
  • Go for a walk or to the park at night with flashlights.  Something about a flashlight makes any day better!
  • Serve lunch backwards. One day, we were running way behind, and it was almost 1:00 p.m. when we were leaving the grocery store.  Everyone was starving.  I announced a backwards lunch!  We had cookies from the bakery, then a banana on the way home.  Later at home, we had our sandwiches.  Instead of a delayed lunch, we had a wacky lunch!
  • Short sheet your child’s bed. This is a great but harmless prank!  Here are some directions if you’ve never done this.
  • Go on a mystery car ride. Take them out in the car.  Drive them to somewhere unexpected, like the ice cream store!  If you think they’ll figure out where you’re going, add in some extra random turns before arriving at your destination.
  • Serve a fun dinner on a blanket in front of a movie. This idea can turn a blah rainy day into a cozy day!  Serve finger foods and let everyone watch a movie together.
  • Play something imaginative with them. It’s hard for us adults to live in imagination-land, but a trip there every once in a while will surprise and delight your children.  Pretend with them.  One easy possibility is to imagine that their toys are coming to life, sort of like Toy Story.  Pretend that the toys are planning an escape from the toy box or shelf, etc.
  • Water balloon fight.  In the winter, plastic forks as catapults to fling cotton balls will do the trick!
  • Keep a pack of glow sticks in the cupboard.  Target’s dollar spot often has packs of glow sticks (thin bracelet ones) for a dollar.  Glow sticks are a fun surprise for anyone, but they are especially useful to cheer up a sick day.
  • Put on a puppet show with their stuffed animals.  The story line doesn’t even have to make sense.  The fact that you are doing something silly for them is what matters!
  • Sonic Happy Hour.  Yes, most Sonic drinks have artificial colors in them.  That’s why this is a “do something unexpected” and not a regular thing!  But Sonic happy hour really can be quite happy!  Sometimes it helps to get out of the house for a few minutes on a homeschooling day.

What do you do to catch your kids by surprise?

P.S. – We really dislike it when our kids think they should *always* do something special or have a special treat.  If that is a problem at your house, try this simple rule… “If you ask for it (special treat), then the answer is no.”  All the fun of an occasional surprise is lost when children demand one all the time…


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  1. Lindsay Jul 7, 2012

    Cute ideas!

  2. Victoriana Aug 29, 2014

    Thanks for the suggestions! And we have the same rule in our house, "If you ask for a special treat, the answer is no." This is also our rule at the store. "If you ask for us to buy a special toy or treat, our answer is no." This way we are not bogged down with the gimmies and I wannas at every store trip. It also allows us to be "nice" parents, who will occasionally surprise them with what we see them silently eyeing in the store!

  3. Lisa Lewis, MD Jan 24, 2015

    Great ideas. I especially like the idea of keeping glow sticks on hand. This post will be printed out and saved!

  4. Jen Jun 30, 2020

    I’m glad you added that note at the end @ every day is not special treat day. With Covid my son thinks every day he deserves a treat...clearly I went overboard in the beginning and am paying for it now!

  5. Carrie-ann Jun 30, 2020

    Fantastic ideas!
    Thank you 😍

  6. Judith Stonik Jun 30, 2020

    "Camp out" overnight on the living room floor. Especially if you have a fireplace. Indoor hide & seek: hide a timer and it has to be found before it goes off. I like water balloon/cotton ball fight and your read a book backwards. And glow sticks are always fun - even at adult parties.


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