Have you ever heard of a “penny date”? If you haven’t, I’ll explain what it is in a moment. And if you have, then I hope you’ll like this new twist on a simple idea. Grab some dice, a coin, and the car keys, and let’s get going!
What happens when the baby needs to sleep, but the big kids want to go on a field trip?
That’s the dilemma I faced one beautiful winter day wandering around my house with a cranky infant. My big kids were begging to get out, but the thought of hauling the stroller in and out of a museum, or trying to keep the littlest one quiet while we sat through an IMAX movie, just didn’t appeal to any of us.
I had recently come across the idea of a “Penny Date” on Pinterest, and it dawned on me that this was exactly the outing our family needed. We were at the beginning of world geography studies and I was all about opportunities for map reading. I also knew that Mr. Cranky-Pants would get some much-needed rest in a moving vehicle (lucky me, he was one of those kids who fell asleep within moments of being put in the car!)
So with a whole lot of inspiration and not a lot of preparation, I grabbed some local maps, a guide from the library on touristy places nearby (that turned out to be horribly outdated), a quarter, and some dice and loaded the kids in the car.
What transpired was so very memorable! We had an amazing day discovering nearby, but new-to-us areas. It was not long after a hurricane had swept through eastern North Carolina, and we were moved and humbled to see the devastation practically in our backyard. But as we navigated around detours and washed-out bridges, we also laughed A LOT, and had great conversations about things completely unrelated to map reading and geography. I very much regret that we haven’t done one of these trips again. So after I finish sharing this how-to with you, I’m hopping right over to my calendar to add it to our plans!
(Want to see how that goes for us? Follow me on Instagram and look for the tag #homeschoolpennydate)
What is a Penny Date?
The general idea of a penny date is that you decide before you set out that you’re going to flip a coin X number of times. Then you get in the car and begin driving, flipping the penny every time you come to a stop sign or stop light. If it lands on heads, you turn right; if it lands on tails, you turn left. You keep doing this until you’ve flipped the predetermined number of times, and wherever you end up, you get out of the car and explore.
That sounds like a great date for broke college students, or parents that just want to get as far away from the house as possible while the sitter is in charge! But I knew some modifications would make it a little more family-friendly and adaptable to our particular geographic area.
How we adapted the idea
First of all, I don’t find it particularly easy to flip a penny, do you? So we used a quarter. Oh, and let me add here that I did no flipping or rolling myself… just the driving 🙂
Second, if we had flipped at every stop sign, we would have ended up driving in circles around a nearby housing development. Instead, we took a die (or dot cube if that’s what you like to call it) and rolled to see how many miles we’d go before the next flip. If we came to a dead end, or T intersection, we flipped right there, even if we hadn’t covered the miles yet, and then rolled for a new mileage. I also had an extra die and an extra quarter. Originally this was in case something rolled under a seat, but since I have a nearly 6′ tall teen who rides in front, and a tween still in the back, it was handy for taking turns without having to pass things back and forth. Safety first, people!
Finally, after we had done our prearranged number of flips (15, if I remember correctly, chosen pretty much at random because it just sounded good to us), we stopped in a nearby parking lot and pulled out the local attractions book I had borrowed from the library to see if there was anything of interest nearby. We found that there was (supposedly) an animal sanctuary just a few miles away, so we set out to try to find it. It was no longer in operation, but there was a lot of giggling about whether we were invading someone’s driveway or whether we were still on a real road.
After that, we turned back to a local restaurant to break for lunch. I’m happy to report, by the way, that the baby had slept through just about all of that driving and, having had a good rest, awoke just in time to charm everyone at that little roadside eatery.
Here, while we munched, we opened the local maps and the kids tried to figure out where we were. They did pretty well! Using the signs they remembered seeing and the route number they knew we were on, they pinpointed our location and were able to get the general idea of how we’d gotten there, as well as a more direct route back home.
It’s a formula for fun!
Can you see the potential discoveries and family bonding time here? Ok, maybe if you’re more of a planner, this would be difficult to embrace. But I really encourage you to give it a try. Just reminiscing about this trip as I described it here for you, I absolutely CAN’T WAIT to do it again!
Are you ready for your own adventure?!
DISCLAIMER: While this is great fun for the whole family, be sure that the driver can DRIVE without distraction! A second adult or an older child who can manage the gameplay is A MUST!
Click ‘Shop Now’ below to purchase the great packet of Penny Date Printables including instructions, recording sheets and journal pages!