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 #41 – Your baby will claw and scratch at you. Address it with skin care treatment.

The mom blogs talk about getting scratched and clawed by your baby during feeding. However, if you’re a dad, you may not actually think about the number of times that your baby will scratch your face and neck when you’re holding them.

You have spent your life hearing things like “take it like a man”, or getting bumped and bruised and letting it heal on its own. Well if I could go back to myself as a new dad and make sure I put skin care treatment, or topical ointment on those cuts, I would do it immediately. No matter how often you clip your babies nails, she can still find a way to scratch you. I was scratched by my daughter hundreds and hundreds of times (I used to wear a lot of V-Neck T-shirts while holding her, which was not only a fashion mistake, but a physical mistake that led to several scratches on my neck.) While those cuts healed, you can see the remnants of those marks on my skin because I did not address it and it truly annoys me.

As soon as I addressed the newer cuts with a mix of Neosporin and vitamin E cream, the marks did not stay and my skin healed properly. However, the older cuts have led to a minor discoloration on one spot on my neck, which is not very noticeable, but to be perfectly honest, it’s very annoying to me. This blog is not only about strategies that were successful, but also strategies that came from my mistakes. Take the few seconds to address the multitude of cuts you are likely to get while holding your child and you’ll be golden.

Good Luck Dad

Back to work! The Au Pair transition and realizing I’m definitely not an expert.

Just when you feel confident, everything changes.

The day before Thanksgiving break, I asked my students what they were thankful for… several of them thought carefully and said that they were just grateful to be alive, breathing and happy. It was profound to hear that from 10 and 11-year-old fifth graders because it’s a message that so many adults (myself included) need to be reminded of. 

Back to work:

I have not updated this blog since I started teaching again and it was weighing on me, but I am finally back with some semblance of normalcy in my schedule. To give you an idea, my day starts at 5:30 A.M. as I wake up, get ready and then arrive at school at 6:20 A.M. My day is completely focused on lesson planning, printing, teaching, grading and communicating with parents until I get home at 4:15, in which my day is completely focused on my daughter. I take a “break” when my wife gets home at 6:00 so I can go upstairs and work on more lesson plans. Then we make dinner and have family time until my daughter goes to bed at 9:00 P.M. (I know it’s late, but she sleeps through the night and often wakes up at 8:30 a.m., which is awesome on weekends.) After she goes to sleep, I usually do laundry and/or run errands while listening to podcasts… It’s a busy day but at this point in my life, waking up at 5:30 A.M. and working on tasks straight through until late night is surprisingly LESS exhausting than it was being a stay at home dad (even though I got more sleep when I was at home with my daughter.)

I don’t know how it’s possible, but it means that we need to recognize and value the hard work of other stay-at-home parents. I’m so happy for my family and I want to say that it’s essential we act as a community to raise our kids and make an effort for more family-friendly activities.

The Au Pair Transition:

As I decided it would be time for me to go back to work, we decided to try the Au-Pair program and have a live-in nanny in our house. Initially, It was a strange transition to be a part of this program as we had differences in communication and expectations with our first Au-Pair, but our second Au-Pair has been amazing and is like a member of the family. The value of an Au-Pair truly comes in when you have more than one child, since the cost is per family and not per child. While there can be a transition process to have someone living with you in order to take care of your child (Au-Pairs work a maximum of 45 hours a week), However, it can be major time savings, since you do not have to transport your child to daycare and can simply leave each morning and head off to work, without making an extra stop to drop off your child. The program has been essential for my ability to return to work.

I’m definitely not an expert:

Thinking back to what my students said about being thankful reminds me of what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my family friends and for the ability to write whenever I can. As another day passes in which I fail to follow my own parenting advice (which my lovely wife always thinks is comical), I wonder every week if I’m making the right decisions and choices. I started this blog because I remember the initial weeks of being dad, where I was clueless. It seemed like I could have spent a lifetime reading mom blogs, but the rare circumstance in which I found a useful dad blog, it was often a collection of jokes or memes that were interesting but didn’t always offer useful and specific details. As I see dads navigating multiple kids and facing a variety of challenges and making it work, I recognize that I’m not an expert. I’m a dad with only one kid and I don’t face the same circumstances or challenges as everyone else. But I do know that for friends of mine who recently have had, or are having their first kid, it’s pretty fun to share advice based on what I’ve already written down.

I challenge you to do the same! 

If you’re a parent reading this, I invite you to add your thoughts and insight to others. It can seem overwhelming initially, but sometimes all you need is another person to guide you in the right direction and tell you that you’re going to be fine. I wish I had more time to dedicate to this, but I am proud of the concept of sharing thoughts and answering questions that I wish someone had told me. It’s a different world since I’ve been back to work, but it’s one that I’m thrilled to live in. 

All the best to you and yours.

– Guy

New Dad Tip #35 Turn off the colors on your phone

Babies are instantly attracted to the brightly colored, noise making devices that we always seem to be reaching for. When the baby gets a hold of your phone, they can be locked in and often fuss if you take it away. However, if you go to accessibility settings for color filters on an iPhone, you can make the phone a grayscale color that is far less appealing to baby. Accessibility shortcut also allows you to toggle colors on and off by tapping on the home screen three times. If you use android, go to Developer options and select “Simulate color space” to enable “Monochromacy”. Grayscale also saves battery life and when you’re not around baby, feel free to switch it back to normal

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 #27 – Learn to swaddle

If you aren’t familiar with the calming influence of swaddling, please review one of the many how-to videos online or ask family or friends how it’s done. I was thankful enough to learn during a get together with some other new dads from my Church and it changed so much of my early experience.

It’s essential for many babies during the first few months, because it simulates the environment of the womb and it’s a tremendous help for many new parents.

Dad Tip #26 Do exercises to strengthen your back and hip flexors

Image of weights
Strong Dad!

Lifting things is an absolute certainly in Dad life. Whether you are picking up the car seat, reaching down to grab dropped items or holding baby in one arm, strengthening your back and hips will provide you with critical support for these everyday activities and reduce back pain. If you can’t make the gym, consider resistance bands, dumbbells or doing at home exercises like side planks. Consult a doctor, trainer or medical professional before trying new workout routines.

Dad tip 24 – When you buy a stroller, practice opening and closing it at least three times

Picture of a stroller

Strollers seem simple to open and close until you’re hauling groceries, boarding a plane, or in a hurry. When things are chaotic, it’s not always easy to identify the latch that activates the locking mechanism if you haven’t practiced. Open and close the stroller when you first get it to avoid the judgement of going out in public and being the dad who can’t close a stroller.

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