The Element of Surprise. Children generally love to be surprised. They may not like the scare-you-spitless kind of surprise, but finding themselves in a fun environment when they least expect it is refreshing and uplifting. And fathers can be really good at the element of surprise. Think about all the fun places there are in your home to hide from the kids (bathtubs, behind the curtains, behind a door) and then hide out. Make some spooky noises until the kids find you and then share a good laugh. Plan a fun activity, making arrangements in advance with mom and then spring it on them at the last minutes. Kids enjoy good-natured surprises and dads can make them happen.
The Beauty of Dates with Your Kids. Planning a date with your children one on one can build positive and lasting memories. One dad I know takes his daughters to The Home Depot for a child's craft class and then out for lunch. Another one enjoys heading out for a movie with popcorn and treats. One dad I know takes the kids up into the mountains for a summer hike or winter snowshoeing. Making one on one time doing something both dads and kids enjoy is an enormously fun activity, and better if you do it one on one with each of the kids regularly.
The Importance of Being at Their Level. Sometimes dads want to push kids to grow up faster than they are ready. But kids, who often enjoy being pushed a little, also like being right at the stage of life that they find themselves in. When dads show respect of their stage of life, they find a real connection to them. So, do things that kids like at their individual age and stage. Trying to help understand the intricacies of professional football at 6 might be an activity that would be better at 11 or 12. But going to a local children's museum, while perhaps a little boring for you, might be just right for a first grader.
The Vitality of Play. Quite often now, our children find themselves connecting more wiht video game characters than with real people. Making time for healthy, interactive, physical play is an important thing for fathers to do. Build a plywood castle in the backyard and then be a medieval knight or a dragon. Let your little girl be a princess and save her from evil. Have your kids pretend that you are all different zoo animals and plot an escape. Role playing opportunities like these can help kids develop good social skills, build their imaginations and create great memories for you as you interact and play together.
The Value of Shared Hobbies. Certainly every dad has some interests that might be shared with their children. For me and my dad, it was rebuilding car engines or making things for the house. For you, it might be fishing, hunting, woodworking, hiking or snowmobiling. Whatever your hobbies, find some aspects of them that will connect with your kids. Taking a child fishing early on a Saturday morning may seem like cruel and unusual punishment at first, but could also build some memorable moments and give you conversation topics for years to come.
The Experience of Coaching. More and more today, fathers find themselves in the role of youth sports coach for their children's teams. Being a dad and a coach can create good relationships if the role is played well. If you are able to coach or help coach your child's sports team, take advantage of the opportunity. You can help build skills, a sense of teamwork and sportsmanship and a feeling of connection between father and child. And you get a little needed physical activity as well, which is a plus in today's busy work and family world.
The Sacrifice of Serving. It sure seems like there are lots of opportunities for service all around us, and helping children learn the value of service is an important role for a father. We have many great family memories shoveling snow for elderly neighbors or weeding a garden for a grandparent. We have even taken the kids with us on Christmas Eve to deliver Sub for Santa presents to needy families in our community. Service warms the heart and provides amazing opportunities for teaching values. And many of those memories of community service stay with our children for years to come.
The Sense of Adventure. Fathers seem to have an inborn need for a little adventure. It can take the form of a drive together in the car with an unknown destination or hiking an unknown path. Or it may just be trying something new for the first time like an ethnic food or a new museum. Kids thrive on adventure and probably don't get enough in their daily worlds. So embrace your inner explorer and spend time in adventure with the kids. You might even find something you enjoy in the process.
The Beauty of Creation. Coming up with something new and untried can be fun in and of its own right. For me, creating in the kitchen is fun and my kids have loved helping me craft a new Dutch oven dish or experimenting with a new chili recipe. For some, it might be gardening, painting, upholstering or writing. But as we find ways to express creativity and enjoy the results, our children will learn what it means to make something new and add value to the world.
The Simple Pleasure of Talking. Finally, dads can all use to spend a little more time talking with our kids. That can happen in a variety of ways, and the method is less important than the outcome. Conversations can happen on hikes or walks, while driving, or just sitting together. Asking about their day at school or talking around the dinner table can start a new direction in communications. Making time to talk is an investment every father should make in his children.
Try one or more of these activities in the next week or so and start building great memories and strong emotional ties. Children learn best when they learn by doing with a parent. These behaviors can make a positive difference in the lives of your children and connect them to their father.