There’s a lot of boring bits in being a parent. The daily grind of packing lunch boxes, being the children's personal taxi and washing their socks can easily make even the most upbeat parent feel worn out. Sometimes, watching the kids grow up it feels like time is passing too swiftly, a blur of clubs and activities and hastily eaten dinners. It’s times like those that I’m grateful for the annual milestones that come with a rush of nostalgia and a reminder of how important it is to stay connected - Christmas, birthdays and of course, Father’s day.
I’ve been a Dad for 15 years now, and I like to think I’m well into the swing of things. Looking back over the years, I can see a definite trend - most of my fondest memories of connecting with the kids are when I’ve found a way to be playful. It’s one of the great joys of being a parent that you get permission to be a big kid yourself from time to time.
With this in mind, I’ve put together my top 3 ways to bring a bit of play into your parenting that work, some even when your kids are teens!
1.) Make something
This works whether you’re making something for or with your kids!
Obviously in my line of work, creativity is my bread and butter; many of our studio designs come out of an idea for something I’d like to make for the kids. However you don’t have to be Picasso to make something your kids will love.
One summer holiday when they were younger I constructed a pirate ship from cardboard boxes, complete with a crows nest! The kids got involved by making their own tinfoil swords and raided the wardrobes for pirate wear, to imagine swashbuckling adventures. Hardly a seaworthy vessel, but because I’d made it myself, I enjoyed watching the kids play with it that much more. Unable to fit inside and join them, I resorted to pushing them across the ocean of carpet.
10 years later, buccaneering role play is a thing of the past. These days, we’re more likely to work together on creative projects - making badges with Bea for the roller derby team at Exeter pride, talking over the arrangement of Ollie’s latest classical music composition or cooking up a storm together in the kitchen.
If you aren’t the DIY type, get creative with word games or think up new ways to use the stuff in the garden for an obstacle course. Even if it feels a bit forced at first, let the kids contribute their ideas too and you’ll find the creative juices soon get going.
2.) Embrace new stuff
Planning family activities can sometimes be a thankless task. With so many people to please and a packed schedule to navigate, even picking a movie to watch together can result in bickering and short tempers.
It can feel like a real disappointment when the kids don’t want to do something I have fond memories of doing at their age. But recreating the past isn't the only way to find an activity for all ages. Letting the kids pick activities (and showing willing when they do) makes it all the more likely they’ll join in with something I want them to try another time.
Dads have a bad rep when it comes to letting the kids take the lead - remember Harry Enfield’s “you don’t want to do it like that” Dad? But we can all remember how great it feels as a kid when an adult takes you seriously, and stepping back from being in charge is a great way to reconnect with the big kid inside.
Some of the most playful days we’ve had have involved me taking a back seat and letting the kids call the shots, being willing to throw myself into whatever role they assign me. Now that they’re in their teens, this can look a bit less rough and tumble and involves a bit more technology, but the challenge to get on their level is the same. Whether I’m trying to guess the composer, time signature or key of a piece Ollie is performing or playing roller derby with Bea, the playful thread in my relationship with my children is still a strong part of our bond.
and Roller Skating in Dartmouth, 1980's style!
3.) Get outside
Okay, so we all know that getting outside is great for the kids, but exploring nature together can really help you tap into your youthful curiosity and find that playful streak that’s been buried by every day stresses.
Finding creatures in rock pools, making stick dens in the woods or racing to complete a scavenger hunt , there’s just so many opportunities to play when you’re outside. You don’t have to make elaborate plans, spontaneous park trips or garden adventures count too!
As a bonus incentive, you’re more likely to take a few snaps of the kids when you’re out of the house so you can re-live the memories later.
Whether your children are tots or teens, we hope you take the opportunity to celebrate your inner child this Father’s day and get a bit playful. Even Grandad can be a big kid with the right encouragement!