Of all the parenting advice that we love and hate, the one nugget of wisdom that comes up over and over is to plan one-on-one activities for parents and children without other siblings in tow. Same aged or not, kids thrive on individual attention from us.
My family schedules one-on-one dinner dates between adult and kid pairs on a rotating weekly basis. Years ago, my then-four-year-old son insisted on bringing his Transformers out for quesadillas. Now, he’s a regular at the counter of the Homemade Cafe for Saturday chocolate chip pancakes.
Kid dates do not have to center on food! Day-long adventures are perfect when preschool is closed. Public transportation can be a part of the magic. Here’s some inspiration to create your own sibling-free outings for special one-on-one time, listed roughly in the order we tackled them.
Ride to 12th Street BART in Oakland while waiting for MOCHA to open for some messy art time. MOCHA is best for 3- to 6-year olds, but toddlers are welcome. Open Wednesday through Saturday.
All-day transportation extravaganza. Take BART to Powell Street, then cable car over the city to Fisherman’s Wharf, and THEN one of the historical MUNI streetcars around Embarcadero to the Ferry Building. And finally BART or ferry back home to the East Bay. I did this with just a daypack and no stroller when my son was four and he loved it.
Super special safari. Barbara, owner of Kids Gym Berkeley, tells us that she and her son, Grant, love to go to Safari West for unique memories and one-on-one attention. We love this Santa Rosa gem for ages 4 and up.
Yerba Buena attractions: Children’s Creativity Museum, carousel and adjacent playground. Bring food or get burritos inside the Metreon. A total blast for ages five to twelve.
Play, big kid-style. Are the days of pretend play over? Try Plank for fancy arcade games and bowling; Pinball Museum in Alameda for vintage-style gaming (closed on Mondays). Fun for preschoolers on up.
Head over to San Francisco in the car after traffic dies down and then drive down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. Park near the bottom and take the stairs up and down the street. Julian and I did this when he was 5 or 6; I let him take a ton of pictures and we made a little book afterward.
Geocaching. For school-age kids, I want to pick something we are actually doing together, rather than me watching them jump on a trampoline. Geocaching is free, and makes luring them to a new nature spot a little easier. Best for ages 6+ when a map might have some meaning.
Cal Academy of Sciences. Visit this enormous museum with only one child and follow their lead as you wander among rainforests, penguins, and Pangea. Still have energy? Golden Gate Park has terrific play structures. Level up and make it a sleepover date!
Reminiscing, for tweens. Recently, my husband and son did a bike ride down memory lane, cruising by the house where he spent many of his nanny share days and stopping to look how small Totland now seems when you are 11. Sometimes on a day off, we go visit our old preschool.