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10 Easy and Fun Summer Date Night Ideas

After kids, date nights are a bit of a crap shoot. It's tough to keep the romance alive amidst all of the sleepless nights, diaper changes and spit up, not to mention how terrifying it is to leave your child with a sitter for the first time. However, taking the time to connect, even if you don't leave the house, is more important than ever.

In a study conducted by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, W. Bradford Wilcox and Jeffrey Dew highlighted five reasons why date nights have strong correlations to healthy marriages:

1.Communication: Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings. arguments and distance between couples. These are feelings that chip away at marital happiness. Taking the time to get away, talk and focus on each other will build communication.

2. Novelty: Unique, shared experiences are important for long-term relationships. They help get you out of your routine. If you try something new together, you will also create memories and inside jokes that you can share together for years to come.

3. Eros: Eros or "romantic love" is something you probably experienced at the beginning of your relationship. Making the time to remember what you love about your spouse helps keep that romantic love alive.

4. Commitment: By taking time out of your busy lives to schedule and devote time to each other, you are displaying your commitment. Letting your spouse know that you are committed to each other can solidify your bond.

5. De-stressing: Sometimes there is nothing I need more than to get out of my house, have a drink and share a laugh with my husband. It's better than the best therapy!

Here are my ideas for Ten Great Summer Date Nights, five for when you can escape into the city and five you can do at home:

Host Your Own Outdoor Movie Night: This one can be done at home in the backyard with a baby monitor. Download a movie on your iPad or laptop and then grab a blanket and a bottle of wine and head out to your backyard for a romantic movie night under the stars.

Get in Touch With Your Inner Child: Eat sugary cereal, play video games or board games, color or build a fort together, anything that you both loved to do as kids. You'll have a blast and you might learn something about your spouse's childhood that you never knew before.

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Have a Culinary Adventure: Visit Hardywood on either Wednesday (West Creek)or Thursday evenings (Original location)for their famous Food Truck Court and order something off the menu from at least 4 food trucks. Take turns feeding each other and talking about your favorite meals as kids and your favorite meals you've shared together.

Kid Around in an Amusement Park: If your kids are too young to visit King's Dominion or Busch Gardens, there's no reason you and your spouse have to miss out on the fun. August 4th-19th King's Dominion is hosting their Beer and Barbecue Food Festival with great live music, craft beer and barbecue.

Plan a Mall Dare Adventure: Visit a local outdoor mall in the evening and, while you're enjoying the summer weather, have fun with this dare game. Go through the mall and see how many dares you each can complete. Be sure to set up what the winner gets ahead of time.

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Have Lawn Fun and Games: For those couples with a competitive spirit, set up the baby monitor in your yard and try a new outdoor game together like Molkky, Bocce Ball or Ladder Toss.

Go Star Gazing: The Perseid meteor shower started on Monday and continues until August 24th, with the peak on August 11th-August 13th. Grab a blanket and visit a local park after dark for some snuggles under the stars.

Plan a Lip Sync Battle: Use the free printables from The Dating Divas found here, for song and movie scene lip sync cards and have your own epic lip sync battle.

(If you can kill it like JG-L, please send me the video! Seriously, is there anything this guy can't do?)

Try Something Outdoorsy Together: Go on a Segway tour or take a SUP (Stand-up Paddleboarding) class on the James River.

Expand Your Mind Together: Listen to a podcast outside with your feet in a wading pool and cold drink in your hand or, if you're a nerd like me, you can work on a puzzle together while listening to a best-selling audio book.

I never said it would be easy! ROFL

Focusing on our kids is always important and sometimes all-consuming, but taking time to connect with your spouse is honestly the best thing you can do for your kids, not just for your marriage. It may seem dramatic, but seeing parents with open communication and a deep commitment to each other will shape their childhood and all of their future relationships. So make time for each other and schedule that date night today!

♥ Erin