7 romantic ideas for a date night at home

When Lori Schmidt Ernest and her husband, Dave, need a date night, they don’t go very far.

“Our favorite date night is to stay home, have some drinks and play games all night,” says Ernest, a mother of one from Gambrills. “It’s just so much easier and convenient to stay in, and we look forward to it.”

Date nights at home are a great option for busy parents and are becoming increasingly popular.

Date night at home WWhen the Ernests have a date night in, they sometimes invite another couple over and play cornhole or horseshoes in the yard, but often it's just the two of them playing board games or darts in the basement.

“We don’t have to pay a sitter and our daughter can get to sleep on time in her own bed,” she says.

Most couples would agree that a date night is an essential part of a healthy marriage, but a recent survey by Care.com — an online service that matches caregivers with those who need them — found that more than 30 percent of married couples had gone six months or more since their last date night.

Couples who take time for date night experience less stress, better communication and stronger commitment in their marriage, according to a study by The Marriage Project, a research initiative based at the University of Virginia, that studies the health of marriage in America today. Their recent study, entitled “The Date Night Opportunity,” also concluded that couples who take time for a regular date night are 3.5 times more likely to report that they have a “very happy” marriage.

But date night doesn’t have to be expensive dinners and costly sitters.

“The best ones we’ve had are when we go outside after the kids are in bed, light our chiminea, make s’mores and play our favorite music,” says Anne Kee, a mom of four from Crofton. “We always end up having a really good time.”

To rekindle your romance right at home, you can do anything from preparing dinner together to star gazing. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

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Date night at home ideas

Cooking couple1. Cook together
When you need a recipe for romance, head to the kitchen. Plan a menu together in advance or get out the fixings for an old favorite. Set the table with your best china and linens, turn on some music, and things will be cooking in no time. For a fresh recipe idea, check out chesapeakefamily.com/breaking-eggs.

2. Play games
A little healthy competition is a great way for couples to reconnect. Play a classic like Scrabble, Monopoly or a game of cards. Or take a cue from your kids and turn on the Wii for a Rock Band or Guitar Hero competition. One surefire classic to inspire fun and flirtation is good old-fashioned Twister.

3. Watch a movie
Pop some popcorn, dim the lights and turn movie night into something special. Choose a movie that has sentimental meaning — an old favorite or a classic romance guaranteed to get you in the mood. For some inspiration, consult American Movie Classic’s list of the 50 Most Romantic Movies of All Time at amc.com/movie-guide/50-greatest-romantic-movies.

4. Head outside
Go on a date in your own backyard. Light the fire pit for s’mores, set up a picnic in the grass, string blinking lights or light tiki torches. Add your favorite drink and the sound of summer crickets, and the romance will take care of itself.

5. Hold a wine tasting
If you like wine, make a learning experience out of date night by opening a bottle or two and comparing notes. Plan a tasting based on a region or variety and compare likes and dislikes. Many vineyards sell half bottles, a less expensive option for tasting several types of wine. Add some cheese and gourmet nibbles and you have the perfect high-end date night — for a lot less than a meal out. Websites like Food and Wine and Epicurious have easy at-home wine tasting guides. (foodandwine.com/articles/how-to-host-a-wine-tasting)

6. Work out together
Breaking a sweat may not seem romantic, but a workout may be just the thing for stressed out couples. A recent study published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” proved not only does exercise produce feel-good endorphins, but sex hormones also surge in the brain after a workout. For a relaxing workout, grab two mats, light some candles and take an online yoga class. Or pop in a workout video and challenge each other for a date night that’s good for your health.

7. Stargaze
Romeo and Juliet weren’t the only star-crossed lovers to find love under the night sky. Stargazing has been documented for centuries as a romantic pastime, and the best part is that it’s completely free. Download an app on your phone like “The Night Sky,” grab a blanket and head outside for a stellar date night with your sweetheart.