Friday, July 15, 2011

Get out and Play with Your Kids

There is a lot of talk out there about Father's taking their kids on 'Daddy dates.' That is all well and good. While some it does not really acknowledge the difficulties of the added expenses this can add to families who are barely making ends meet, most of it is full of good practical suggestions and even tips to keep the cost down. All of it is good if you are spending time with your kids.

Maybe I'm missing something, but why isn't there an equal or even more important emphasis on playing with your kids? I don't want to pit "Daddy dates" against "playtime" or something like that because both are about loving your kids and spending quality and quantity time with your kids.

But my exhortation to dad's is: play with your kids. Just play with them. A lot of emphasis is put on these dates, and setting them aside, picking the restaurant, and what you say, do and teach on them. Yes, that's good and fine. But just play with them! Lighten up and have a little fun. Again this isn't either/or unless you make it that way. My fear is some might get so legalistic and structured about "Daddy-dates" that you just miss out on playing with your kids.

1. Play with them in all seasons. Seasons of weather: do you go out in the snow, in the rain, in the sun? Seasons of life: toddlers, kids, pre-teen, teen, etc. The games will change over the years and through the seasons.

2. Play different types of games. Formal, informal. Wrestling, tickle, make a game, rough house outside, sit down for a quite game. Built a fort inside. Throw ball, ride bikes, swing. Etc. Etc.

3. Use your imagination and indulge your children's imaginations. Playing with your kids is one of the few chances you have to act like a kid again without your wife yelling at you ("Hey, I'm just playing with the kids dear.") You can cut lose and unwind. It can be refreshing. My kids sometimes come up with the most bizarre games, but for 30-40 minutes I get a chance to enter their world where the rules sometimes work a little different. (Although we don't get as crazy Calvin & Hobbes' Calvinball--but you get the idea).

I'm not going to go into all the studies about imagination and what it can do for your kids, but they are out there. Should we get involved and participate in such fun?

4. Play the games they want to play. Nothing means more to your kid than knowing they have your undivided attention and you are doing something for them. That means if you have girls and they like dolls, guess what Dad, you now like dolls and dress up. Believe me, I've dressed more Barbies than I care to count. 

5. Playing can invoke strong bonds. Nothing is more fun to me that walking into a room, catching the eye of my 17 month old and suddenly begin to stomp my feet and in a deep voice moan "FEE-FI-FOO-FUMB"... my daughter will turn with glee and run screaming because she knows I'm going to chase her. That's our game. It's time I get to show my daughter love and we both end up laughing in our play. A "date" means nothing right now to a 17month old--but uninterrupted play for just a few minutes will light up her face.

So those are my thoughts, just play with your kids. Some of my best memories as a kid are my Dad playing with me. Some of my best memories with my kids come from unscripted playing. And the best part, I get to be a kid again too.

So don't just take your kids on "dates"-- play with them. That's all I'm going to say, because I need to go outside and play.

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