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Five Cheap and Easy Ways For Dad to Bond With Kids

Posted Jan 08 2009 4:21pm

cute little girl

There is a plethora of information and recent studies supporting the positive impact of an active father figure. I will point out that “father figure” can be a dad, an uncle, a grandfather, a family friend or guardian who has a major influence on a child’s life.

A major impact on developing boys and girls, arguably more than what you say is what you do and how you do it. It happens to every parent at some point, your kid does or says something exactly the way you do it. They are using mimicry or modeling to develop social cues and understand this complex world that they’re in. Yes, they’re watching you and taking notes, they look to us to see how we deal with things, how we express ourselves and how we show (or not show) our emotions.

I’m not saying that these activities are explicitly about modeling, but I want to frame this list with the idea of how your kids pay attention to you and your actions and maybe plant a seed about how dads can have fun with their kids, get to know them and potentially have a positive impact on their development.

1. Learn to Cook with them.
If you have never cooked in the kitchen, you are the best candidate for this activity. You can use this as an opportunity to show your kids how to learn, how to take on challenges, how to take yourself lightly. And if you do know you way around the food processor, pick up a new recipe but keep it simple. Understand, in their eyes you are The Man with all the answers, showing that you don’t know anything - is a good thing. I am willing to bet, you will see them bond with you quickly as you both try and figure things out. Just think of the fond memories they will have “that time Dad and I tried to make pancakes!”
2. Play Sports or Activity with them.
Much like the cooking lesson scenario, try choosing something you have never done. Be playful about it and play on their terms. Most of their life is spent wading through lots of rules, rules at school, mom and dad’s rules, etc. Guide them with love and affection and let them call the shots within the framework of the sport or activity, and listen to what they’re saying. This is really an opportunity to shower them with your attention. Choose something age appropriate and something that does not necessarily give you a natural advantage and with young kids - the sillier the better! See who can hop the longest, this kind of thing. And lastly, whatever the sport is - suck at it! Let them win! Show them how to lose properly, not to take it too seriously and to have a sense of humor.
3. Learn a Hobby Together.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn chess, or how to play the guitar, or maybe find time to plant that herb garden, there are a ton of things that you can do, but make sure you choose something that your child is enthusiastic about. Remember, it’s not about spending money on the kid, it is about spending time. If you have multiple kids, I suggest choosing different hobbies for each kid. Again, this is their hobby, something that you can both plan on and look forward to doing.
4. Include Them in the Things You Love.
Chances are if you are a jogger, your son or daughter may express some type of curiosity/interest in it at some point, if they’re young enough - through them in a jogging stroller (don’t have one, find a neighbor with one and take it for a test ride). Maybe you like to work on the house, car, motorcycle or even garden on the weekends. Make them your helper. I got my oldest son (he’s 4 yrs.) a tool belt and toolbox filled with toy tools, he “helps” me on the weekend whenever I have a “project”. He takes it very seriously, and I love him for it.
5. Take a Trip Together.
This sounds like a big ticket item, but it doesn’t have to be. When I was a kid, I used to go grocery shopping (I was in charge of the coupons) with my mother and afterward we would go someplace for dinner, good memories. Younger kids are easy in this department, taking them to a car wash can be a super adventure. It can also be as simple as including them in one of your weekly rituals - maybe it is that weekly trip to get those good bagels on Saturday morning (maybe the best part of the trip is letting them place the order when you finally get to the front of the line). One of my favorite things to do with the kids is stop at the grocery store and by a cheap loaf of bread and either go to the park and feed the ducks or go to the beach and feed the birds. No need to mention the look on their face when they go to their first ball game and stuff their face with hot dogs and ice cream bars.

Whatever you do, remember you are helping to build positive memories with them. Take a backwards approach, and think of how you would want to remember these moments (”dad would always let me eat the first hot bagel on the way home”) and most importantly have fun with them.

Related Links:
Suite 101 | Activities to Help Preschoolers Bond With Dad

Family Corner | Importance of the Father/Child Bond
Texas A&M University | 20 Reasons Why Your Child Needs You to Be an Active Father

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