It has been my experience over time that while family activities are important to dads and children, there is nothing quite like the one-on-one activity between a dad and his son or daughter. There is a common bond of memories and experience which tend to last a long time.
Even though time is precious, it is critical to make these one-on-one times with our children. But to be successful, the events take some planning, coordination and focus. Spontaneous activities can be fun, but ones that are well planned and tailored to the needs of the child involved seem to be the ones that stick with them the most.
Successful One on One DatesIn our family, we have called these activities "dates," even when they have involved our sons and me. As we have tried this practice of regular dad-kid dates over the years, we have found the following keys to success:
Plan ahead. During our regular family councils where we look at the calendar and plan activities, we have tried to schedule these dates in well in advance. A little forethought as to the schedule will help build anticipation and help us busy dads stay committed to keeping the date.
Focus on your child. Each of our five children was so different in his or her personality and preferences. My older daughter tended to like activities that for the most part were indoors and casual. My middle son is the polar opposite—get him outside in nature. Our oldest son tended to be more cerebral, loving things like mental games, the library and debate. Plan activities that will appeal to your child's current interests and future aspirations.
Enjoy variety. Even with a focus, make sure that you don't do the same thing over and over again. Spice up the time alone with some diversity. For my older, deeper thinking son, we played chess, were spectators at a fencing tournament, went to plays at a local Shakespearean Festival and attended high school debate and speech events.
Try to keep it interactive. Even though my daughter was a "movie maven," and we saw lots of movies together, we tried to end the evening at an ice cream parlor or taking a walk and talking about the movie. Both you and your child sitting at a play or a movie and not interacting is not much better than sitting at home in front of the television. Make sure your activities give you a chance to interact, talk and share experiences.
Have a few special times. Dad and child dates can often be pretty simple and inexpensive, but an occasional splurge means a lot to a child. A local concert, professional or college sporting event or night at a rodeo can let them know that they are important to you.
Take advantage of community activities. Like the church event I mentioned earlier. there are frequent events in your community that would make a great choice for a date. Check out the entertainment section of the local newspaper, listen to other parents at work or in your neighborhood, or see what's going on at your church, community center, library or other local venue. Or consider planning your own community event with you child's friends and their dads.
Creative Date IdeasHere are some ideas for dates that we have experienced or that have been recommended by other dads I know who love this one on one time with the kids.
- Make and fly kites
- Tube down the river
- Go through old family pictures
- Go on a hike and take pictures
- Make snow sculptures
- Play a favorite (or a new) board game
- Tour a local museum or historic site
- Go to the local home show
- Attend the local high school play
- Go to a sporting event
- Visit the local zoo
- Get into geocaching
- Go to a nearby country line dance
- Take a hot air balloon ride
- Assemble a jigsaw puzzle
- Go on a trail ride on horseback
- Attend a stargazing event at a local planetarium
Certainly not a comprehensive list, but hopefully enough to get your mid racing with great ideas.
Creating one on one activities with your children will have a huge effect on the quality of your relationship—now and in the future. Make the time and take the opportunity to get together for a little date regularly and see how good it feels.