Dads and Moms, if you are like me, you are always on the lookout for tips and ideas to add to your “parenting toolbox.” At this point I have several toolboxes, from “What do I do when my kid has a fever” toolbox to “How do I comb my daughter’s hair” toolbox. Today I will share my toolbox of 8 activities to connect with my daughter that have brought us closer.
8 Activities to Connect with Your Kids – Dad and Kids Activities
1. What are the activities you like to do?
This really is the first place to start. I am much better at throwing a ball, playing fetch with our dog, watching a basketball game, or cooking breakfast than I am at playing Barbie. That doesn’t mean I don’t play Barbie with my daughter, I do, but we have to acknowledge we all like some activities more than others. When we think through what we like to do, we also start the process of exploring how we might include our kids. When we enjoy an activity, our kids can feel our curiosity and passion, and they absolutely love sharing that with us.
So, start here when thinking about how to connect with your kids. There will be plenty of other activities where you’ll have to “fake it ‘til you make it!”
2. Any time is a good time to connect with a tickle party!
I have literally tickled my daughter for most of her five-year existence. Just last night, in the middle of discussing her day at school before going to bed, she turns to me and says, “tickle me!” One of my earliest memories of one of my own uncles was the day he wrestled and tickled my brother and me at my grandparent’s house during a family visit. Uncle Mike, up to that point, was always a kind Uncle, but also a little stiff. We simply didn’t know him that well. But on that one day, all of that changed. I can still remember the fun, joy, and surprise as my brother and I tried to get the best him while he tickled us to tears and near exhaustion. A little research reveals that tickling is one of the earliest, preverbal ways we communicated with our mother and activates the parts of the brain related to pleasure.
So, for a free, spontaneous, nonverbal, joyful activity to connect with your kid, you can’t go wrong with a tickle party! But always be sure to stop when the kid asks you to. Not all kids love tickling as much as others, and stopping when asked is an important way to teach your kids about consent and autonomy over their bodies.
3. Watching or attending a sports game is a great way to connect.
As an American and Texan from the Dallas area, I’m a big fan of my local sports teams. My favorite team is my hometown basketball favorite, Dallas Mavericks. Unlike previous seasons, to my surprise this fall, during those early morning games (India is 10 ½ hours ahead of Dallas), my daughter stopped asking me to change the TV to Peppa Pig. She saw how much I enjoy the game and has slowly, to my wonderful surprise, become a fan of basketball and the team. This past Christmas, while visiting family in Texas, we all went to a game and had a blast. Of course, it doesn’t always work out like this, and tomorrow she may decide she’s no longer interested. But what it taught me is that my daughter wants to see what I’m passionate about and wants to be a part of it and connect if possible. So, what sports do you enjoy playing and watching?
4. What’s for breakfast? Who’s for Lunch? When’s Dinner? So many opportunities to connect!
Want to be Dad of the year? Taking care of your son and daughter, while cooking a meal for the family, is a sure-fire way to earn some points. Out of necessity, when our daughter was very young, I propped her up on the kitchen counter in her baby carrier so I could watch her and prepare the meal. I liked the company, and so now, in every home we live, she has a designated spot on the counter. In our flat in Delhi, we have a footstool so she can either stand by me while I’m preparing a meal to see what I’m doing or use it to help get herself up on the counter to sit and watch. Beyond cooking, I think the more important idea here is, we all have chores and duties around the home. Because our kids have a strong desire to be by our side, to participate in what we are doing, we should ask ourselves: Is there a way to involve my kid and connect while also accomplishing our everyday chores?
5. Connect with a pet! Playing fetch with our dog Taco.
Honestly, instead of play fetch, this could also be feed and water, comb and pet, or cuddle with Taco. My wife and I always dreamed that once we had a large enough home, we wanted to adopt a dog and give our daughter the experience of growing up with one. It really warms my heart, almost three years later now, to see how far they’ve both bonded and connected with each other. Adopting a pet is a big decision and isn’t for everyone, but if you do, it’s an instant way for all of the family to connect in a multitude of ways. And if you live in the Delhi area, check out Friendicoes, a shelter and clinic dedicated to finding homes for the stray dogs of Delhi. It’s always better to adopt instead of shop!
6. Reading a book, analyzing the day, talking about the future— all the ways we can connect before bed.
Bedtime can be stressful for me. Because I get up early in the morning, I go to bed at the same time as my daughter, and I am often feeling cranky myself at the end of the day. I find I’m at my best when I take a moment before transitioning to bedtime to remember to be patient. Bedtime is becoming more and more important to me because some of our most important conversations happen before falling asleep. And now that she is reading, and we can both take turns reading to each other, a whole different world is opening to both of us at the same time. We also like to change into pajamas, brush our teeth, and put out a glass of water before bed as part of a routine we share.
7. Connect through art, being creative, or making something together.
Art is another example of an activity that I enjoy that my daughter has grown to love. Even if art really isn’t your thing, kids usually love it, so it’s a great way to connect. I’ve broadened my thinking on this activity, though. Instead of a focus on art, you can connect through merely being creative together. For example, when my daughter and I are cooking pancakes together, in some ways, we are being creative. So, the question to ask yourself is whether there are things you like to create that you can do with your child? A few examples that come to mind include gardening, sewing, carpentry, baking, scrapbooking, or working on your car? Of course, some of these might need more adult supervision or more creativity in how to involve your kids than others, but I think you see my point. One last observation, pay attention to the difference between creating a work of art together versus creating individual pieces side by side. Neither is better than the other. My advice is to do both and notice how the connection between the two of you might change.
8. Connecting through games and puzzles will last you a lifetime.
As a kid growing up, some of my fondest memories are the epic Monopoly games we played at my grandparents’ house. Those Monopoly games with my siblings continue today, except now these games include our kids! My wife and I daydream about our home someday being the place where our daughter’s friends come and hang out for family game night. We started introducing our daughter to board games and puzzles early in her life. Though we did have some early success with puzzles, she didn’t really begin to show interest until after she turned four.
- One of the first board games we’ve really bonded over is Outfoxed! by Gamewright. Outfoxed! is one of a growing number of games that focuses on the cooperation of players winning or losing together, instead of an individual winner. We can vouch that these types of games do help eliminate the winner/loser dynamic which can frustrate young kids.
- The other game we love to play together as a family is Uno. At this point, we’ve logged several hours at home, on the airplane, in hotel and friends’ homes around the world, connecting while making memories. I can’t wait to see what we’re playing when she’s in high school!
Connecting with our kids is so important. While there are a wide variety of activities to help us connect, time and attention are also needed. The truth is, none of these activities work unless we take the time and give our attention freely. And it’s true that we need to meet our kids on their terms, meaning that sometimes I get on the floor and have a tea party with Barbie. But I also need to include my daughter in those activities I enjoy. Please share in the comments below the activities in your toolbox that help you connect with your kids.