Long before we were parents, my husband and I went to visit friends who were. During our vacation, we went on several "mystery rides" with them and their young son. (We adults always knew where we were going--to a favorite restaurant, the beach, etc., but their son didn't.) I was intrigued, as I always thought that kids should be included in decision making, etc. but then I loved watching their son ask questions and guess about the mystery ride we were taking. My husband loved the idea so we started it, and glory be, it works beautifully for us.
Not every ride is a mystery ride; since my darling boy loathes school, that is never the surprise. Nor are doctor visits or lots of other any-day activities. But, lots of time I want to load the kids in the car, I just announce, "Mystery ride!" and off they run. Sometimes, it's the supermarket or home improvement store or the deli with the train. Sometimes, it's a visit to grandparents or friends. Sometimes it's a deluxe mystery ride to a fun outing, like an amusement park or event. But that's the fun: it's a mystery!
Bonuses: since they don't know where we are going, if it has to change (rain/snow cancels the original destination, friend calls that child is suddenly sick), the kids aren't disappointed that they aren't going to the original destination. They also never know if it's the grocery store or the circus, so there is no "oh, I don't want to go THERE!" whining before. Now that my older son is old enough to guess, it's getting really fun to answer his questions. And my husband likes the "implied message" on family mystery rides that Mommy and Daddy are working together on things for the family. Mystery rides work for me!
Check out Rocks in my Dryer for more Works for Me Wednesday ideas!