Rock Star Dad! – Seven Tips to make play-time fun.

When I was a stay at home dad, I made a rule that every day we would have at least one uninterrupted hour of playtime with books, toys and no screens. During this time, we made games out of boxes, paper towel rolls, and random household items. One day I discovered how much my daughter loved to talk into the open end of a solo cup and hear the vibration of her voice echoed back to her. That birthed a modified “cup stacking” game, in which I would see how high of a tower I could build using stuffed animals, toys and any random objects I could find. Some days my daughter would smile and point at the structures and other days, she would try to knock the towers over just as fast as I built them. Eventually she even tried to stack the cups herself. The point is, I didn’t know how much fun I could have trying to build small towers out of completely random objects. Making up games allowed playtime to be something I looked forward to, even when I was tired and she was cranky.

Image of a stuffed animal stacked on top of solo cups

Seven tips for making playtime fun:

1 – Give the stuffed animals the most ridiculous voices you can think of – It really brings me joy to make a stuffed animal talk like Morgan Freeman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or a terrible Barbara Streisand impression. Make up your own voices and have some silly fun.
2 – Provide commentary like a broadcast sports announcer – While this sounds strange, I challenge you to try this. Take a ball, or create an obstacle course with soft stuffed animals and then comment on your child’s actions as if they’re in the middle of a championship game. Your child will have a unique reaction and it can be fun for you to provide a play-by play analysis of something as mundane as tummy time.
3 – Tell them inside jokes and stories – If you read the data, you’ll know that the more words your child hears by the age of 3, the better they will do in school. Theoretically, it makes sense to talk to them as much as you can, but it can be difficult to just “talk” to a person who can’t hold a conversation. Try telling them about your favorite book, movie, most interesting childhood story, or go into a deep dive about your obscure hobby or the things you are a fan of. You don’t always have to spend your time with the child doing “baby talk”.
4. Get a ball pit and teach yourself to juggle – We all know that space can be limited, but you can turn almost anything (including wicker baskets, or pack and plays) into a ball pit (make sure they are BPA free). Your kid will enjoy the home made ball pit and while you’re watching them play, teach yourself to juggle. Your child will be interested in the movement and it will be something that you’ll either get really good at or have fun trying. Just make sure your child is safely playing and you aren’t completely distracted by the juggling… keep your eyes on the kid 🙂
5. Get a Kazoo, Harmonica, or obscure instrument and try to get good at it – Don’t go out and buy a Stradivarius (yes I googled expensive violins to complete that reference), because your child will use and eventually break whatever instrument you have for playtime. However, if you get a cheap kazoo or harmonica, your child will perk up with interest when you’re playing it and with practice, you might actually get good. It allows you to provide your own custom “soundtrack” to their playtime and it gives you something interesting to do while watching your child.
6. Purchase wireless headphones and listen to music, a podcast, or an audio book during playtime – When I first started staying at home alone with my daughter, I would listen to wired headphones, which she would reach for and pull. Swapping to wireless headphones allowed me to listen to music, podcasts and audio books while holding her and playing with toys. I really recommend that you find a podcast that you can listen to straight through or set up a playlist so you aren’t constantly distracted and checking your phone. I also can’t stress this enough, try your best to talk to your child as much as possible. Even if you are listening to your favorite song, consider singing to your child. If you are learning something new from a podcast, try to summarize it in simple terms for your baby. Even if they can’t truly understand, they still learn from tone, body language and voice. Every word you share has value.
7. Make up your own game – A few months ago, my friend Adam told me that “playtime is the business of children.” By playing, they are learning about the world and creating new connections in their brain. When your child sees that you are having fun interacting with the world, it makes them smarter and more creative. When you’re a new dad, you have a great excuse to be silly, so go out there and make up your own game.

Good luck

Dad Tip #42 – Wear cargo shorts

While cargo shorts are certainly not “high fashion”, they allow new dads to hold baby related items in the side pockets when your hands are full. While it’s essential to have a fully stocked diaper bag, sometimes it’s faster to hold a small burp cloth or tissues in your side pocket to deal with spills or runny noses. Just make sure to empty your pockets before you throw the shorts in the wash.

A dad pushing a stroller wearing cargo shorts.
Side Pockets can save time when out with baby.

Photo by Jordan Foley on Reshot

Dad Tip #33 Download grocery/pharmacy and big box store apps for discounts –

Grocery store dairy section.

If you absolutely despise clipping physical coupons, remembering to bring them with you and using them before they expire, then this might be a wise strategy for you. The majority of major grocery store chains and pharmacies now have apps with keyword searchable coupons that you can add and apply automatically with one scan. You will often find multiple discounts on diapers, wipes, toiletries and other baby related items that add up to significant savings over time.

If you’re waiting in a check out line, instead of checking sports scores, texts or social media, use apps that will actually save you money.

New Dad tip #30 – Google the phrase “diaper coupon code”

There a number of diaper rewards programs with a multitude of manufacturers that are fighting for new parent loyalty. While it feels like you have a million things to do, if you take a few minutes to Join Diaper Rewards coupon clubs you’ll get savings pretty quickly.

image of dollar bills
There are tons of coupon codes for new parents.
Don’t leave money on the table.

Dad Tip #23 – Put things back where you found them

New parents spend countless hours looking for keys, toys and other items that have been moved throughout the house. Consider taking a little time to purchase and install a key holder right by your door and to find an exact place where you always put your wallet and other critical personal items. When you’re short on time, there’s nothing more frustrating than a delay because you’ve lost track of something you can’t leave the house without.

Photo by Becca Stanghelle on Reshot

Tip #8. Share the positive:

Share the positive

We have all heard stories about the blow out diaper, the endless crying, and the growing piles of clutter around the house. Talk through your challenges over a cup of coffee or tea to decompress and come up with solutions. And while you are doing that, share the fun and sweet moments of parenting.  Remember when you sang songs to your baby, and he or she smiled back. Celebrate new developmental milestones, and acknowledge the small parenting victories along the way.

And while we’re talking about celebrations, take a look at your partner. You dated her. You married her. And now you share this wonderful new human being. Maybe your relationship with your wife completely turned on its head when the new baby arrived. But by using these strategies you have a good chance of enriching the intimacy that you have with your wife—and remaining the stud she fell in love with.