If your child has a man in his or her life, then that man -- whether he is called dad, step-dad, uncle or grandpa -- has a big role to play in framing how your child experiences play.
Often-times it is the women of a child's life that do the playing, but more and more our awesome men are showing off their fun side and getting involved in play.
Sometimes this can be tricky for our guys. Most of these men have grown up and forgotten how to let loose and play, outside of the odd tickle fight or wrestling session, which somehow men never forget how to unleash on our willing children. The truth is, our kids just want some time and attention through play.
If the man or men in your child's life are finding it tricky to let loose and exercise their play muscles, here are seven tricks of the trade which will help them become play masters:
1. Be Less Cool.
While your busy being "cool" your child thinks you are being a bummer.
The adult definition of cool requires us to remain composed, never let our guard down and often stay a bit emotionless. This also happens to be the child definition for being very boring and even a bummer. Your child's definition of cool is someone who is willing to share their ideas, feelings, adventures all in a way which is open and free flowing. Imagine yourself without social limitations on what you "should" be behaving like and you will be much cooler in the eyes of your children. Cool dad is much more fun to play with than boring bummer dad.
2. Embrace "Funner."
Yes, we know "funner" is not a word.
This is why it works perfectly as an example; "funner" is not a word but you knew what we meant. Try to embrace the kid way of communicating which is to get the point across without getting caught up on the detail. If your child says, "dad, me want you jump here," please do not correct him or her while in the act of play. You know that what he/she means to say is that he/she wants you to jump in a certain direction. Rather than correct, just connect.
3. Get Dirty.
Put on some adult play clothes and abandon mom's rules for keeping everything just so.
Children have a high tolerance for filth. They love to get dirty. Better yet, they love to see you get dirty. A surefire way to win the hears of your child (and a lot of laughs) is to simply let him/her get you dirty. Go outside and let him/her spray you with the hose or have a little mud fight. In the kitchen, start a little food fight while making peanut butter toast by putting a bit on his/her nose and then allowing him/her to put a bit on your face. Any of these dirty activities will take less then 90 seconds to clean up with a change of clothes and a wipe of a face cloth but will give your child a lifelong memory.
4. Stand on Your Head.
Your child is do used to your routine, why not do something totally unexpected.
This is a simple one. If mom always makes breakfast, switch it up and let dad do it, with the help of the child. Or, if mom always does bath time, switch it up and have dad do bath time but allow them to get clean by sitting in the shower or by running through the sprinkler. Take any ordinary daily routine and do it, just once with your own spin on it. Let them be a part of it and show them that there is more to dad than they think. It will keep them guessing and giggling, I assure you.
5. Make a Memory -- Quit Buying Them.
Quit buying stuff to alleviate the guilt of having very little time.
Instead of stopping at Toys 'R Us and getting the latest and greatest, stop at the grocery store and grab a package of pre-mixed cookie dough or stop at your office supplies cupboard on your way out and get a couple of pieces of large paper and a highlighter. In under 15 minutes (the time it takes to watch the sports highlights), you can make a batch of cookies by simply spooning the mix onto a pan together or create a paper pennant string by folding the paper over and back like a fan and then cutting a triangle shape into it.
Bonus points: talk about what you both want to be doing in 15 years over a cookie and a glass of milk, or draw out these dreams on the pennants and hang this is your child's room so he can see both of your dreams and aspirations each day. After all, your child wants to know YOU as much as you want to connect with him or her.
6. Paint the Town Rainbow
Take your child out on the town -- kid style.
We all feel special when someone makes an effort to spend quality time with us. Quality time can take just 10 minutes.
If you are a dad who finds it tough to get down and play, then get out and do. Try one of these three options which all take 10 minutes or less:
- Take your child for an ice cream. If you have more than one child, try and take them individually....this will mean so much more and will give you a chance to really connect.
- Get a container of bubbles or a bubble gun and roll down the window closest to your child in the car. Then, have your child blow bubbles in the car. He/she will be delighted that they are doing something crazy like blowing bubbles in the car, and you will get a kick out of watching the passerby smiles as the bubbles drift out of your car window and make the street magic.
- Get some sidewalk chalk and create a masterpiece in front of your house. Trace your child's body, have them trace yours. Then each draw a face, clothes and a scene around the other's outline.
Bonus points: if you let your child pick out your clothes or comb your hair for your foray out on the town.
Play is all about allowing yourself to be you in front of your kids. It is not that complex.
The reality is that all children want from us is to know that we love, accept and trust them unconditionally. As adults we show this in a variety of ways. As kids, the only currency which works is time spent with the real you -- the stripped down, simplest version of yourself. Remember what it was like when you saw that child's face for the first time; now be the you that you were in that instant, the truest form of you who wants noting more than to protect, teach and share joy with that child for years to come. After all, if you want your children to return to you as they grow, you must invest that currency in them now.
Bonus points: spend five minutes each day at play. Your child will thank you for it now....and forever.
So Happy Father's Day to you magical men out there who are looked up to by so many young eyes. You fill those big shoes well.
Now go out and cut loose, dad, and be the player you always knew you were!