Five Activities Guaranteed to Bring Smile to Your Kids Faces
Dads need to remember how much fun it is to play with the kids. It today’s super busy world dads act like being a father is more about driving kids to playdates or music lessons. At EliteDad we believe dads need to reconnect with their masculine role in the family. Dads who play with their kids are better dads, bottom line. If you aren’t finding time to play with your kids you are missing opportunities to build bonds that will help you survive their more challenging teen years.
The squeal of laughter from your kids with big smiles on their faces is what being a parent is really all about. If you can’t make you kids laugh doing one of these activities we will retire from the business. Kids at this age are an absolute pleasure if you take the time to play with them and it is so easy to make them laugh and have fun, these are the ‘salad days’ of parenting.
HIDE AND SEEK
Outcomes: problem solving, analytical thought, counting, time appreciation, patience, spatial appreciation, mirroring, fun
There is no easier or more enjoyable game for a young child to play than hide and seek. It can be played in the house or in the backyard. As a dad this game is a gimme. Here’s a suggested way to create tonnes of fun for you and your kids. You and your only child can play, but a few more kids or mom makes it more fun. Although we are sure that most, if not all of you are well familiar with this game, having a refresher after not having played it for many years can’t hurt. Here’s how it can go:
o Gather all participants, identify a place to count.
o Dad is ‘it’ first, tells the kids to go and hide, make sure they know the ‘no go’ zones for safety (furnace area, tools etcetera, you are the dad you know where they are).
o Establish a number to count to, for example 25 seconds. Tell them to go and count very loud so they can hear the numbers.
o Listen to their laughter as they try to find a place, usually you know where they are just from listening
o Finish the counting loudly and tell them you are searching, conduct an out loud dialogue so that they can hear you searching (children will get bored in their hiding spot quickly otherwise). Tell them you are going to find them, that you are the best finder in the world.
o When you see their little feet sticking out of the couch, depending on the age of the child you can change your out-loud dialogue, ‘I know I will find Jenny, she can’t hide from her daddy, oh I know where she is, she is in the closet (when you know she is behind the couch) .” You will hear the giggles as they know they have tricked you. “She’s not here! I thought I would find her, where can she be?” Usually at this point with little children, they say, I’m here daddy! They are so excited they tricked you that they forget the game.
o Get the kids you find first to help look for the remaining hiders, when they are all found, it is time for the kids to be the searchers and you to be the hider.
o Have them count out loud to 25 and go hide in a smart spot where they will initially miss you
o After they come through your room and leave, sneeze, they will squeal and run back into the room, eventually they will find you and marvel at the good hiding space.
o Depending on your kids, you can pop out and surprise them and start chasing the searchers. You can expand the game into a game of chase where you the monster (chaser) chases after the searchers. Kids love this!
o There’s a 90% chance that when you search the next time they will be in your last spot. Ham it up that you don’t know where they are. It is so cute to see them right were you just hid thinking they are being clever.
Hopefully you can see why this is an immensely pleasurable game for both kids and dad. Chase and hide and seek are classic games that have thrilled kids forever. The really cool thing is your kids are learning from you while they have a great time. You are teaching them counting, patience, and how to look at things differently. The spots you choose reflect a highly developed sense of space and dimension. Whenever they find you and copy you they are seeing objects in the house differently. This game is easy, fun, and beneficial, it should be part of every dad’s repertoire.
Here’s something else that’s really neat to do. In the middle of playing this game and right after you have heard your children scream, giggle and you have caught them, go have a look in the mirror. See the huge smile on your face, see the joy your kids bring you. It’s infectious! Our faces reveal how much pleasure we get from our kids, from seeing them happy and being part of the family. Remember how life steals all our time and remember how rare it is that we smile like that, and remember that your kids need to see that smile on your face!
Outcomes: fitness, coordination, quick thinking, problem solving, time appreciation, patience, special appreciation, mirroring, fun
Ok, as an Elite Dad you want to have fun with your kids. Here’s a secret, it’s a blast to let go for a while and act like a kid. Too many fathers are stoic, reserved and concerned about appearance. The Playground Chase is the perfect opportunity to let loose with your kids.
Kids love to be chased, look at any young animal in the animal kingdom, they are constantly chasing each other. It is very natural for all young to chase and evade. This game is always a success because it is very natural.
Hopefully we don’t have to tell you guys to go for walks with your family, ideally a walk after every meal is nice, but at least one solid walk on the weekend is a must. The walk should be somewhere close to a playground, public playgrounds are free and a wonderland for a child. Why parents pay to take their kids to a playground is ridiculous, but that is a topic of another Elite Dad lesson. So when you get to the playground let the kids have five minutes to explore it, while they are doing that you should check it out for safety concerns; slippery areas, broken equipment, age inappropriate areas.
When your safety check is complete call the kids in for the “Chase Briefing.” Show them the danger/out of bounds areas; have them pick a ‘home base’ (usually a bench surrounding the playground where they are safe from capture). You will be the ‘lion’ who chases them the ‘antelopes’. You show them where the lion’s den is. Explain that the lion’s den is where all the captured antelopes go. Once placed in the den, they can’t leave unless another antelope touches them. Explain the rules of the chase i.e. no jumping, everyone must stay on the equipment – no touching the ground , whatever you guys end up agreeing works out for the most fun (this group agreement is also a great benefit of the game.)
Give them a five second head start and then try to capture them. Intentionally miss them. They like to trick you so ham it up. This gives them a sense of accomplishment but with the thrill of the chase thrown in. Kids love it when the chaser lurks under the playground and tries to ambush an ankle from below. Slides are usually the focus, they will linger at the top of a slide and hurl themselves down as you approach.
If there are multiple antelopes put them in you designated den as you catch them. Usually the smallest child is left uncaught, at that time he/she is the only one who can save the other kids. The chaser can start talking about how he will catch him/her and then eat them all. Have fun with it. Be theatrical! But the young child knows he just has to outsmart you to release them, this is when you make a tragic chase mistake and the little one runs to the den and releases them just as you arrive they scatter squealing with delight. Repeat as necessary J
Watch the other parents if there are any at the playground. If there are women there, they will have smiles on their faces watching you. The truth is, women are attracted to men who show they can raise children. Many times I have played this game and been approached by female spectators who comment on how much fun we were having. It is chemical when they see a fit man making children laugh and have fun, in the back of their mind they are thinking why can’t my man take some time to have fun with his kids. If there are other men at the playground, bystanders to their children playing as they check their blackberries they will be sheepish and embarrassed by the obvious fun you’re having.
We created a weekend tradition where we try to find all the good chase playgrounds in our city. The kids kept a log, took pictures of each playground and put them on a piece of Bristol Board with a map to remember them. Trust me; it is better than walking through a shopping mall.
Outcomes: water comfort, fitness, coordination, quick thinking, problem solving, time appreciation, patience, spatial appreciation, mirroring, fun
Shark is similar to the chase game only it takes place in the water. When our family travels there has to be a pool at the hotel because the children look as forward to playing ‘shark’ more than most of the other activities.
Kids love to play in the pool, dads should play with them. Shark is a version of chase, in smaller pools we change the game to “Blind Shark.” The adult is an old blind shark hunting for seals, he keeps his eyes closed and tries to pinpoint the little ones by sound. Children love to narrowly escape capture by being quiet as you try to locate them. Once the blind shark captures a seal, he is usually prevented from eating it by the swarming attack of the other seals which results in him letting the seal go.
Expand on this game as you see fit. One of the key things about this game is you the dad creating opportunities for the kids to act as a team toward a common goal. Guaranteed fun. They will be begging you to play for longer. At the end of the day, your kids will think you are the most fun guy in the world.
TENNIS BALL HOCKEY
Outcomes: sports agility, fitness, coordination, fun
This is a one on one activity for boys and girls but boys usually get addicted to it faster. Simply this is an indoor sports game, look at your house/apartment and find a place to play. It could be a room with doors opposing each other (they become the goals) or a room where the furniture can be moved to the side and goals made against the wall.
Dads, this is usually where you get a bit of flack for making a mess if your wife is around. Simply tell her you and the child will clean up the mess and return the room to normal afterwards. Insist on being able to have some leeway, you will likely at some point break something in this game. If you do, keep the focus on the kids and not the broken item- this sends the message that things are less important than having fun with your kid.
Mark and pick goals and play this game from your knees. The game is simple, no grasping the ball, just use your hand like a hockey stick and try to score. Younger kids love to score on their dads and make good saves. Keep the score even and run it to 9-9, tell them the next goal wins and see what happens, make extravagant saves, bold claims and agonize in defeat as they score the last goals to snatch victory from you. Struggles for the ball in the middle of the room are hilarious, bank shots off the wall are effective. Have a height restriction for the ball to keep damage low.
The end result will be sweat, laughter and worn out knees (so wear old jeans).
Outcomes: Problem solving, adventure, fitness, coordination, quick thinking, fun
Alright guys, this is the penultimate activity for dads. Unlike the other activities, this one requires some work. But fathers who pull this one off are the champs. The kids talk about this for years, they tell their friends at school about it, your wife will… nah won’t go there.
Kids love excitement and adventure, sadly the suburbs don’t always provide that, but kids find a way to have fun wherever they are. The treasure hunt likewise can be done anywhere and is limited only by your imagination. To help you along I will cover a version of the game we have performed and you can change it to your circumstances.
The activity is based on the standard scavenger hunt game with clues. It begins with an introductory message that the kids discover, usually this is a secret plea for help from the hero. He has been captured but has managed to sneak out notes hoping some children can save him. The notes can say he does not have time to write more but he has left a message hidden somewhere else (you write in the clue where the next message can be found). Each note/clue leads the kids to a different part of the house or the backyard and continues the narrative. I include objects with the notes to make them more real. Your imagination is the only limit! The kids love figuring out the clues and running around the property, working together and figuring out the clues and discovering the next treasure.
o Our scavenger/treasure hunts usually resemble a recent movie or story we have watched. I copy the themes and main characters, the kids like it because they easily recognize the themes and characters.
o Make the captured hero someone small, a mouse or tiny dwarf, it makes the process easier.
o One of the notes can just be a map, crudely written out marking where a secret item is buried in the backyard, they can pace out the measurements and find the clue.
o Get some string and weave a trail for them to follow.
o Usually the game involves a search for a key that will open a safe or treasure chest, it is more fun if you buy a cheap lock with a key, hide the key and have the kids actually open a lock containing a treasure/prize.
o Ideas for notes and clues:
– Spill some flour in the kitchen and make little footprints to the clue.
– The clues can take the kids to a nearby forest or park.
– Make a map and make it look old, burn the edges, write it on cloth (let your imagination guide you).
– If you have a spouse she can supervise the kids through the clues, if not, you can supervise them until they are close to the end, try to let them do the last clues by themselves for an extra sense of adventure.
– Place yourself at the end of the activity, I usually say the final clue is guarded by something, a dog, a monster, or a dark knight for example and hide myself there to give them a fright just as they are discovering the treasure.
– We had a shed at our old place, the final clue had the kids come to the wall of the shed where I had left a mark (small X). They were told to bang 3 times on the wall and see what happens. I was on the roof, they couldn’t see me, and after they knocked 3 times, I began to lower the last note on a string, you should have heard them freak out, “Oh my god! Where is that coming from, who is lowering that?!” You can let them take the note and never know how it was lowered or you can surprise them by revealing yourself with a roar.
– You can put yourself or your spouse into the game. When the kids are moving to their next clue, insert yourself into the game. I circle them and pretend I just saw the bad guy take away the hero, exasperated I tell them they went that way and that the hero left a message and another clue, “Hurry” I tell them.
As I mentioned, I center the treasure hunt activity on a recent story we enjoyed. I regularly made up stories with my kids and usually the most recent story (it could be a recent movie) serves as the theme of the adventure. In whatever narrative you use there is a bad guy and a hero. I start out by writing the narrative out on a piece of paper and then chart out the steps or clues.
Trust me, it might seem like a lot of work at first, but once you started planning and thinking about it, it becomes a blast. This is the type of thing dads do well and kids love and remember forever! They become part of the legacy moments we talk about in the Elite Dad program. Take a risk, let go a bit and embrace life and your kids. Screw complacency and routine. You will find you learn so much from your kids by engaging with them that you will never go back to the way most parents are parenting.
Every time you engage your children and facilitate fun and learning your credibility goes up. Being a dad is not driving your kids to activities; it is not telling them when to go to bed. It is being present so they can observe, interact and learn from you. The EliteDad program empowers fathers, helps them build credibility and brings happiness and fulfillment to their lives. Most dads demand or want obedience just because they put food on the table or just because they are dad. It doesn’t work, you have to invest in your kids and there is no way around spending quality time with them.