Here's a shout-out to all the moms that are "in charge" of figuring out ways to spend quality family time and keeping the kids entertained! You rock. But hold on a second -- what about when mom needs a break? What if mom is out and about and the kids are growing restless? There has to be some fun ways for dad to get involved and even take the lead in this role that moms seem to almost-always inherit.
Well, there are. Read on to see my list of activities that are fun for both, kids and dads.
Yes, this is my personal list that I will be referencing every time I find myself on daddy-duty. Who knows, I might even tell my wife to take a much-needed vacation so I can check a bunch off the list!
Let me take a step back and explain what prompted this story.
In our family, my wife definitely leads the charge when it comes to keeping our daughter entertained and involved in activities that stimulate her growth. Over the past year, I can only remember a handful of times where I was the one coming up with ideas or setting up activities for the fam. It has become more of a hot topic as our business lives have become, well, much busier.
I tend to play video games a couple times a week (I find it to be a great way to get my mind off of work), and I noticed that my daughter had become more and more interested over the past few months. She would want to play, so I would get out the second controller and we would play together.
Almost every time, she would get frustrated due to the games being too difficult -- which is understandable at 4.5 years old. Heck, the games are difficult for me.
Then lightning struck.
My wife told me to get a "GameBoy".
It might be one of the coolest things she has ever said (and she says a lot of cool stuff).
Since GameBoy systems have not been sold in over a decade, I looked up Nintendo's newest handheld offering, the New 3DS XL, and sure enough, there were a bunch of games that my daughter would be more than capable of playing. I bought one later that day and the two of us had an absolute riot playing Mario Kart.
Since then, I have bought another 2 games and another handheld system so we can connect wirelessly and play games together.
Video games may be a fringe topic amongst parents, but it has truly brought my daughter and I closer in just a couple of weeks. To me, that is a huge win. Especially when there is really no way for kids to escape the world of technology that we live in anyways.
This revelation prompted me to do some brainstorming on other things that my daughter and I (or the whole family) could do while keeping us both entertained. This is not some generic list of every idea on the internet -- these are things that I would actually have fun doing.
Indoor Activities for Dad and the Kids
There are days when you just cannot be outside. Whether it is rainy, way to hot, or just a day where you want to stay in for no reason at all, I've got you covered with some ideas for entertaining the kids (and yourself).
Random Indoor Activities
Build a bridge or skyscraper out of toothpicks and glue. To this day, I still remember doing this way back in 3rd grade. We had a competition -- 3 boys vs 3 girls -- to see whose bridge could support the most weight before crumbling under the pressure. We had a set number of toothpicks that we could use, but no limit on glue. Being boys, we just piled the toothpicks together and globbed on the glue, it was ugly. Embarrassingly ugly. The girls used their knowledge of bridges and angles that support more weight to produce a beautiful (almost professional looking) bridge. Our bridge held more than 2 times the weight that the girls' bridge held, but it was just due to how much glue we used. Functionality over fashion baby!
Build a tent and "go camping" in the living room. So underrated. Everything is better inside a tent.
Do your research and then do your best "Mr. Napkin Head" impression. No matter how many times I do this, it is always a huge hit. If you haven't seen The Holiday, then you probably have no idea what I am talking about (see video below). PS, you need glasses for this to be funny. And yes The Holiday is one of my favorite chick flicks, along with How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days and 10 Things I Hate About You.
Dominate Google Maps and spy on your extended family members' homes. We take for granted how incredible Google Maps really is. I mean you can see grandma and grandpa's car sitting in their driveway for crying out loud. After creeping on family members gets old, just go explore the rest of the world -- you will be exhausted before you see everything on your bucket list. I think this is fun and my daughter digs it, too.
(This is probably No. 1 on my list) Have an ultra-fancy dinner with the family at home. That's right, dress in your fanciest attire. Make sure to give everyone made-up prestigious names like Priscilla, Your Majesty, and Sir Lawrence. Don't forget to use your best manners, as this could be a super-fun learning experience for kids.
Make a secret handshake. This is something that I want to do more than my daughter actually does. I cannot get her to do it. I envy you if you are able to accomplish this task. But don't tell me about it, because that would only be pouring salt in the wound.
Plug your phone into your computer and go through all your photos/videos. Assuming your kids make regular appearances in the photos, they will love this. And I find a walk down memory lane to be quite enjoyable, as well.
Facetime everyone you know. Even if each Facetime session only lasts 30 seconds. Even if all you do when someone answers is say something silly and then hang up. It's good to do silly/weird stuff sometimes -- it keeps things light.
Get 2 Nintendo 3DS XL's and get your Mario Kart on. I spent enough time rambling on this one earlier. Take it or leave it. Your call. Worst case scenario, video games help kids with hand-eye coordination, being more social, and problem-solving (Read more on this here, here and here).
Crafty Stuff (I don't get all that crafty, but these seemed to fit)
Move the furniture around in your kids' rooms. Everytime that we do this with our daughter's room, she gets way excited and wants to play in her "new room" for the next week straight. I get it, I feel the same way when we find a better way to organize our bedroom. It's like moving without any of the work or costs.
Paint/Color windows with the kids to make it feel like you are always on vacation. You can make the paint at home or you can buy some window chalk markers on Amazon. We did this not too long ago (see image above) and it was way more fun coloring on the windows than in a coloring book. We ended up expanding this from a one-window-project to 4 windows.
Various Games to Play with Kids Indoors
Get the "Pattern Play" game. It is pretty neat and something that I really enjoy helping with. It's not too difficult after a couple puzzles, so all you need to do is go along for the ride. You can find it here.
If your kids are Disney gurus, get "Pictopia". It is a Disney trivia game that my daughter dominates. Unshockingly after watching hundreds of animated movies, my wife and I are quite well-versed in the Disney lingo, as well. You can snag it at a great price here.
Line up an epic domino course and knock 'em over. The video above may be a bit ambitious, but you don't have to do anything too crazy for this to be a blast. The key is having enough dominoes. Go to Amazon and get this huge set of 300 wooden dominoes. Then line them up as a team and make sure to let the kids be the ones to tip the first one over (I know this sounds like an obvious statement, but I think I will struggle with this part).
Plan a scavenger hunt. Hide a bunch of stuff all over the house and write down a list of clues that help the kids find the various items. Sit back and only offer your assistance when you realize your clues were ridiculously hard (writing clues sounds easy, but it's not).
Play the "20 Questions" game. Think of an object but don't tell your kids. They get to ask you questions that help them determine what object you are thinking of. The only rules are that you must tell the truth and the "questioner(s)" only gets to ask 20 questions. Interesting fact: this game has some serious history dating back to the 1800s. Read more about the history of 20 Questions here.
Do a puzzle as a family. Puzzles are fun, challenging, and can teach a lot depending on the puzzle subject. Prior to the last couple years, I would have told you that I didn't like puzzles. Now, once I take the time to sit down and get into one, it tends to be one of the more peaceful and satisfying experiences I can think of. Our favorite puzzles are the ones from Crocodile Creek. Their 100 and 200 piece puzzles are a really good fit where we have fun and our 4-year-old daughter does not get frustrated (as long as we are helping). We have managed to collect about 8 of these (some pictured below) -- the one about space is my favorite.
Search Craigslist for vintage board games that you played when you were a kid. They are so much cooler than most new versions. Good ones: Trouble and Chutes and Ladders.
Set up laundry baskets and try to throw paper airplanes into them. This would be like a timewarp back to elementary school and it sounds like a great time. I made this up, so if you commercialize this, remember me.
Outdoor Activities For Dad To Do With The Children
Okay, enough of that indoor stuff. Time to go explore the great outdoors or at least get out of the house for a bit. Here's what I came up with:
Outdoor Games That Make Everyone Move
(Another one of my absolute favorite ideas and one that I will be doing as soon as it is warm enough.) Set up and run an obstacle course. Then try to beat your best time. This idea was inspired by whoever created the unbelievably awesome video below. I want to adopt that kid (which is a kind-of-creepy way of saying he is really cool). Depending on the age of your kids, it may take varying degrees of effort to set up a reasonable course. I suspect the sweet spot for this is between 3 and 5 years old, but who knows. Also, the sweatband is key for this to be a success.
Buy a Power Wheels car off Craigslist, setup a driving obstacle course, have your kids drive through it, and then never use the car again while it sits taking up space in your garage. 2 things: Yeah, I know I am obsessed with the obstacle course thing, but that video... it's just so good. And, yes I have some personal history with regard to these Power Wheels cars -- we were given one as a gift and I don't think it has ever been used... until this summer!
Blow bubbles until you just cannot blow another damn bubble. Seems like an obvious one, but with little kids it never fails (at least in my experience). Just making sure you are considering all of your options. Do yourself a favor and just buy the biggest jug of bubbles that you can find. In fact, get the 6 pack -- they'll get used.
The Simple Things
Go for a walk while playing "I Spy". Because it's simple and kids dig that game.
Create a time capsule and bury it in the backyard. I have seen this in a bunch of movies, and usually there is something incriminating that is in the time capsule that ends up burning someone, but I think it sounds cool as long as:
- You don't bury anything that you will need in the next 10-20 years
- You don't bury incriminating evidence that will be dug up for a court case like in the movies
- You remember where you buried it and it doesn't break down over time (darn you mother nature) -- there are kits that will make sure this does not happen.
- You don't move, because then you would have to be the "person that goes back to a house that you used to own" and ask the new owner if you can dig up their backyard.
Go to the Dollar Store and give each little one an $8 budget. Tell them to get as much cool stuff as they possibly can without going over their budget. I expect that you would need to plan on covering the tax bill, because the kids will probably spend $8 on the nose. This sounds like fun and teaches some math/money skills. Right?
Put Your Kids To Work In A Fun Way
Wash the car together. Plan on taking it through a real car wash afterwards, but enjoy the experience. I still remember washing the car in the rain with my grandpa when I was 4 or 5 years old. And yes, I know that washing the car in the rain makes no sense and I am sure he knew it, too. That's what makes it so great.
Overpay the kids to some random chores that you don't want to do. Then let them put the money in their piggy bank. Then take said piggy bank, crack it open and open a savings account (or add to one).
Fun Ideas for Kids while Doing Public Service
This is something that I wish we did more of, hence why it is on my list. That being said, I still don't have that many ideas for it. Here's what I have so far:
Deliver food as a family to a homeless shelter or food pantry. Having your kids be a part of something like this should make them more greatful for the opportunities that they have and start to bring out the desire to give.
Write letters to soldiers overseas. This could be adapted in a ton of different ways.
Questionable Bonus Activity: Just for Girls
Sign up for a communitity daddy-daughter dance. This is a bit of a one-off random activity and they may not exist in your area. I am putting it down here because my wife signed my daughter and I up for one ran by the city, and my daughter will not stop talking about it. I will report back on how it goes after the April 21st event.
I sincerely hope that this list of fun things for dad to do with the kids gives you some ideas for the next time mom needs a break! Be sure to share this list on Facebook and tag everyone that could benefit by reading it :)