Come on guys, admit it: having to spend one-on-one time with your child or children scares you!
I am a father of 2 wonderful girls, and a stay-home father; and the prospect of what the school holidays bring still makes me nervous, and to some extent, dread it. How many things can I find to do with my children? How do I keep them entertained for the 12 hours they are awake and full of beans? What if they get bored of me? What if they don’t like what I want to do with them?
That fear drives us to find excuses to stay at work longer, so that we can hand over the “duty” of spending time with our children to Mum, Grandparents, or a day care program.
Research has shown the importance of Father time on both boys and girls; in both cases, the results of having quality father time bringing positive outcomes for children when they grow up.
If you have been listening to the radio in the past year, you would have heard the radio ads from the Family Peace Foundation saying that a minimum of 8 quality minutes a day is all your child needs to feel valued, needed, and loved.
That’s not a lot, but the rewards for your child and you go a long way. For me, nothing feels more heart-warming, and special then when my daughter tells me that she loves me and that I’m the best dad ever; not just because she should, but because I have done something that has made her feel special, even if I don’t know what that is.
The truth is, it is not difficult, and often it is in the smallest things that we do with our children that provides the greatest impact on them.
With that in mind, here are some activities that you can do with your children, boy or girl, during this school holidays, or for that matter any time. Remember, it is not so much the activity, but the communication and togetherness that the activity brings that counts.
1) Board Games –
Think back to the time when you were a child, and you had cousins over, or had your parents play Monopoly, or Game of Life with you. It was fun, and it always brought out the competitive streak, the off-topic discussions, and laughs from everyone.
While waiting for your turn, you usually had small chats with others in the game who are also waiting for their turn. Unlike modern computer games, board games have players sitting around a board, and looked at each other, not a computer or television screen.
Dusting off your old board games and sharing them with your children, gives you the opportunity to learn about your child as well as have fun. You can see how they behave in a competitive environment, how they deal with success and failure, and it gives you the chance to discuss these themes with them. And if nothing else, the casual conversations while waiting for your turn allows you to find out more about what your child likes or dislikes, and what drives them.
My daughter and I love playing UNO, Game of Life, Mastermind, and GoFish among others; and we can spend hours just playing these games, if I don’t put a time limit to it.
2) Cooking -
You may think that this will be tricky because not a great cook, but the thing is, even if you are not a cook, or have never touched a baking tray in your life, neither has your child.
Just remember that it is the process that is more important than the product in this case.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and showing that you may not know everything is just as important as being Daddy/Mummy know-it-all. You’ll be surprise at what children learn about resilience and courage by seeing you, their ‘hero’ or role-model fumble as well. Of course, you need to show that you do not give up that easily as well.
Will this work with boys? Yes, children don’t see activities as gender based unless they have learnt it from you. For a child, cooking is fun, because it is a chance to get their hands dirty. For boys, sometimes it is the mess that is more attractive then the final product, and sometimes, it is the objective of making something that they can give to Mum that makes cooking fun.
You can start easy by making premixed cakes, or cooking an omelette, or pancakes. That’s how I started at home, and now my daughter wants to make the pancakes by herself, and mix the cake and decorate it with icing (mostly she loves licking the icing off the spoon).
3) Do a craft or science -
The library and YouTube is a wonderful resource to find amazing yet simple craft activities or science experiments that you can do at home. Both of these activities are goal oriented, and in many cases, the results can be pretty spectacular; and I’m not just talking about science experiments.
Make it colourful, and make sure it is messy; and along the way, you will also realise that failure is usually more the norm then success with science experiments, and odd shaped craft products are the things that will make your child feel the proudest, and something you will love the most.
Even when my daughter and I play with her Lego toys or Barbie dolls, I try to make it a point to add some craft into it. We’ve made a surf board from an old tissue box for Barbie, and made a zoo by drawing the paths and enclosures on a large piece of paper we had left over from an Ikea furniture that we bought.
Making a mess and then working together to clean up increase the bonding time we have and teaches my daughter how to be responsible and help around the house. And seeing something that they have made from scratch improves self-esteem, and self-pride.
1) Picnic and Camping -
This can be done in your backyard. You don’t need to go to a park or a camping ground to have just as much fun. Of course, if your children are old enough, and are more adventurous, Picnics can be opportunities for exploring the outdoors, and Camping a chance to build resilience.
We love picnics. The whole preparation process of the food is a family activity, and when we get to the park, or on some occasions in our backyard, we love sitting out in the shade to eat our sandwiches, and just talking about… well nothing in particular. But we always have a good time.
2) Learn a new sport or skill -
The holidays is a great time to help your child learn a new skill like cycling, or playing footie, or swimming. This is gives a two fold benefit for both you and your child. Assuming that your child likes the new skill, learning it can become a regular activity throughout the week, and even beyond the school holidays (which then solves the problem of not knowing how to fill in 2 to 3 hours of time for you with your child)
Everyone knows that Learning any new skill is always great for physical and psychological development, and it is fun.
3) Make a home video or movie –
This is an activity that can take anything from a whole week to a whole year. Making a video together as a family or just you and your child/children covers so many activities that it is a great game that isn’t going to get boring quickly.
The both of you have to come up with a story, which is a great way to teach literacy skills, design costumes and props (creativity and craft), shoot a video (creativity, patience, fun, fun, fun), and then edit it together (computer skills, and understanding story structures).
What makes this a great activity is that while there is a main objective of making a video, there are several mini-objectives in between. Each mini objective provides challenges, learning points and sense of achievement when it is finished.
Shooting and editing the video can be as simple as using your mobile, and some free video editing apps on your store.
There are also many YouTube lessons on how to shoot and edit for beginners.
Again, you are not aiming to win an award, though if you do, it is a added bonus. Your main objective is to provide a fun activity that will allow you to know your children better, and for them to experience a different side of Daddy or Mummy.
The school holidays may feel long, but it doesn’t need to be a drag. Having fun with your children is one of the most precious moments you will ever have. Just as with your social life, it takes a while to get to know a new friend or colleague, getting to know your children has similar challenges, and the longer you put it off, the more awkward it gets, and the harder it will be to break the ice and get to know your own children.
This list obviously isn’t exhaustive (bonus activities: Wash your car together, or gardening together. These are all things that need to be done, so may as well make it fun and get some help along the way), and it is just some suggestions on how to start thinking about activities you and your children can do together.
Just remember the rules for activities with children: spend time with them, and when you do, be 100% with them.
Articles about the importance of Father Time:
About Francis Yim:
Francis is the owner of Proud Daddy Moments, a dedicated family videography service. He goes beyond baby or family photography by creating beautiful art documentary video keepsakes that parents can remember and share special moments of their children or family with perfect clarity for years to come.