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 #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.

Dad Tip #29 – Use Alexa “Drop-in” or Google Home Broadcast to communicate with your partner

Image of a Google Mini
These devices can work like a Walkie Talkie

While a large number of people have mixed feelings about these smart speakers, I find that they can help play a critical role in the process of communication with your partner. Imagine this. You’re in the baby’s room playing with toys and the baby is smiling and laughing. All of a sudden, you discover a poopy diaper. As the baby is laying on the changing pad, with diaper open and poop bordering the edges of the diaper core, you find out you are down to your last wipe. You call your partner to bring you the spare wipes, but she may not be able to hear you in the other room. When you’re stuck in place or not able to freely move, you can use smart speakers like a walkie talkie throughout the house. It’s a great option when your hands are full of spit up, poop or other baby fluids and you may not want to text or make a call on your phone to reach out to someone.

Tip #16 When you read to your child, make them a part of the story.

Children’s books feature imaginative adventures with a variety of characters. When reading to your child, ask them what they see and if they know what the main character is going to do next. Say your child’s name early and often and feel free to add words about heroes or royalty or their favorite animal or toy. Hearing their name peaks their interest in the book and teaches them to respond to your voice. 

Dad Tip #13 – Lay out your baby’s outfit the night before

You’ve got it new dad! You’ve picked out the perfect outfit, carefully moved your child’s arms through the sleeves (in the midst of major arm flailing), only to realize the outfit is too small and the buttons at the bottom do not clasp. This can be a stressful moment if you are headed to an appointment or to meet family and friends. Now you have to look for another outfit, only to discover that the matching bottoms are nowhere to be found.

Babies grow super fast and their clothing is always getting messy and rotating in and out of the laundry bin. It can be a challenge to hold your child in one arm and find a perfectly matching outfit with the other, especially if you are in a time crunch.

If you are expecting to leave the house, always plan your child’s outfit in advance and lay out two options in a specific location to save you time and stress prior to your departure.