I promised last week on Fatherhood Friday that I would offer up some simple and inexpensive things for us as Dads to do with our youngest children. And if you have a preschooler at home it’s best to come up with a schedule that includes everyone’s nap times, snack times, and meals for the day. Try to stick to their regular bed time if you can. Stir in a little fun, and a pinch of adventure, sprinkle it with creativity and you will be surprised at the memories that you will have created by the end of the day.
If you are like many of us Dads, your kids see you as the serious one. Let’s face it, we go off to work every day. We come home tired and sometimes stressed and our children see that and assume that is all that we are and what we are really like on the inside. They never saw us in our younger days when we were carefree college students and doing silly things to try to get the attention of that girl that one day became your wife and their mother. Your children need to see you in lighter and more carefree moments. They need to see us at play a whole lot more than they need to see us at work!
Are you interested in showing them a different side of you?
If so, then here you go!
- Go to a neighborhood or community park: Almost every neighborhood around here has a little park. I bet you haven’t been to it in a very long time and you probably drive by it every day. If it’s nice out, consider bringing a picnic lunch with you.
- Go on a treasure hunt: Make a list of things to find. (A round rock, a pretty leaf, a pine cone, a coin, a golf ball, etc.) And whoever finds the most gets to sit on Dad’s lap first.
- Go on a nature walk: Take a sandwich bag or empty carton and head out for a walk to find ‘nature’ to bring home. This can be anything from rocks and sticks to flowers and dandelions. Dry the flowers and save them for Mommy’s scrap book.
- Create sensory activities: Get a cheap inflatable kiddie pool or old wash tub and fill it with dried rice. The child will love the feel of their hands digging into the rice. Consider burying a few of their toys in the rice and have them try to find them.
- Cleaning helper: Cleaning is more fun if everyone is doing it with kids party music playing at high volume! Try to clean to the beat of the music. Be careful with cleaning products as they are not safe for little ones.
- Make it a play date: Why not see if you can team up with another Dad and make it a group activity. If Dad #2 can’t make it, then consider doing it anyway and maybe he will do it one day when you are not available.
- Visit the Science Museum: Look for museums that have toddler or preschool friendly areas like children’s museums, art museums with a kid’s only area, and more. Let them explore at their pace. And remember, if it is a children’s museum, the stuff is supposed to be touched! That is what it is there for!
- Visit the library: In the summer this is a great way to find some new reading material and spend a few hours in the cool air conditioned public library. Most local libraries have story time and toys to keep little ones interested in reading and related activities. So, go ahead. Sit on the floor and read them a book.
- Create a mini herb garden: Your local big box store, hardware store or garden store have little kits to buy to plant your own little window garden. There’s nothing more exciting to a little person than seeing something grow that they planted. Whether it’s seeds, mini plants, or a veggie garden your kids are sure to love to get their fingers dirty. And, when they get to eat something that they grew, they will remember it for the rest of their lives.
- Create your own story book: All you need is some paper, some crayons and a stapler and you can probably make your own book. Take a few sheets of printer paper from your printer and fold them in half. Staple them in the middle of the fold and you have a blank book just waiting for their creative little minds. (Be careful with the stapler,) Your child doesn’t have to be an artist or know how to write. Just have them make some pictures (stick figures are fine) and narrate the story to you. You can write it down for them if necessary.
- Dance like a fool!: Your child will think your dance moves are hilarious. Don’t be shy. Let your hair down. Turn on some kid-friendly tunes and get down. Have Mommy video it if she is around. Then laugh about it as you play it back and watch it together.
Here is the thing. Just do something! Your kids don’t care what they do with you as long as they do something with you. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Just, turn off your cell phone, iPad and the TV and spend some time on the floor at their level. But remember, they don’t have great attention spans. If the activity that you planned isn’t working, then move on to something else. Don’t blow up at them because they are not having fun at this wonderful little thing that you think they should have fun with. They have personalities and tastes that they can feel but maybe not express to you verbally.
Go easy on them. This is supposed to be fun, remember?
Here is a little secret about what I have just shared with you. If you do this right, they will be so tired when bed time comes that they will fall into bed and sleep until morning. Now, what you and Mommy do once they are in bed early and asleep is totally up to you.