Why Your Kids Need A “Yes Day” (and You Do, Too)

This article was originally published in 2017.

I used to be fun and spontaneous. It’s not that you can’t be those things after you become a mom, but they morph into “responsible” and “flexible”, which really aren’t the same at all when you’re faced with the daily workings of motherhood. Even though it’s my job to say “no”, and I do it for their own good day in and day out, it gets old. It gets comfortable and easy. Eventually, it becomes a reflex – shooting out of my mouth before the kids are finished asking for something; even before their requests have time to register in my brain. 

I realized one day that we all, myself included, needed a little break from the constant – yet well-intentioned – stream of “no” that starts before sunrise and lasts into the hours after bedtime. I got the idea from Jennifer Garner, who got the idea from this book, and now stars in this movie.

Despite the objections I’ve heard, it doesn’t weaken my position as a mother or authority figure, nor does it encourage them to become more spoiled, privileged or entitled than they already are…it’s just one day out of 365 where we plan to have no plans other than whatever fun we can dream up before bedtime.

The first rule of Yes Day is that we don’t talk about Yes Day.

My kids don’t know when it’s coming; they just know it happens ONCE per calendar year. On that day of days (which happened to be today), I simply say “yes” to their early morning requests. They are responsible for catching on as the day progresses – (Yes, I will make you three breakfasts – you sure are hungry today! Yes, you can eat cheese balls and play video games at 10am on a Thursday! Yes, we can take grandma to lunch! Yes, we can go get ice cream! <– that’s when they realized what was going on) and I will only tell them it’s a Yes Day if they ask me point blank. 

The second rule of Yes Day is that we can break a few rules, but we can’t break the law.

No, you can’t ride in the front passenger seat, 4-Year-Old Child. No, we can’t swim in the neighbors’ pool while they’re at work. The kids know Yes Day isn’t a free pass to break all the rules – it’s a free pass for good, clean fun. They have to agree on each activity, and if a fight breaks out? Yes Day gets cancelled. Guess who can suddenly manage to get along without a single argument? 

The third rule of Yes Day is that we don’t spend over X amount of money.

My original budget was $100, then $50…but we haven’t come close to spending it. In 2018, we spent nothing. Yes Day in 2019 set me back a whopping $35.34. You might find, as I did, that your children aren’t seeing dollar signs flash before their eyes when they realize it’s a Yes Day. They’re more inclined to ask for as many of their favorite foods, favorite toys, and favorite people as you can cram into one day – it becomes a race to see how much fun you can have before bedtime.

In 2021, we had out Yes Day over Christmas Break so my husband could join us, and he loved it! Our low-key adventure started with the kids asking mac & cheese for breakfast (ew, but yes), and then they wanted to go on a family hike (yes!). Then it was cheeseburgers (yes!), outdoor ice skating (yes!), Andy’s Frozen Custard (YES!), and family movie night. 

See? It doesn’t have to be an extravagant ordeal, and it doesn’t have to descend into utter chaos (like the movie). Yes Day is our kids’ favorite day of the year – and probably one of mine, too!

Need for things to do? Check out this list of Experience Gifts for Wichita Kids for inspiration!

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Erin is a marketing consultant in Wichita KS. She spends her days helping local businesses and non-profits navigate the ever-changing waters of digital marketing and homeschooling her kids. She and her daughter also own Sassy Squid Ink, an imprint designing notebooks, journals, and sketchbooks. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of 2, Erin's hobbies include bribing herself to exercise, traveling with (and without) her family, and trying to remember where she hid the chocolate.