Q: I’m a stay-at-home dad, and I’m worried that my daughter will get bored at home with me and with the same toys. I want to be a great father – make sure my child is stimulated and learning new things, and is enjoying her surroundings. What do I do?
A: Wow, what a great question! You’ve really hit on an incredibly common fear-not only for dads but for stay-at-home moms too.
Rather than come up with a list of activities, the best way you can deal with your concerns is to try to think about things a little differently. First, try to remember that you’re not a walking video arcade; you do not have to entertain your child during her every waking moment. Like adults, young children need down time. They’re taking in a lot of new information and need some quiet periods every day to process it. If you and your child are together and she wants to spend some time playing by herself, consider yourself lucky rather than boring. If she wasn’t absolutely sure she could count on you to be there in an emergency, she’d never take her eyes off you. So at least once a day set your daughter up with some Duplo or a puzzle or some other favorite toy and step back.
Second, consider expanding your definition of “entertainment.” As an adult you’re well aware of the difference between work and play, but to your child everything is play. And being with you, even if you’re doing things you think are boring, can be tons of fun–and educational too. That trip to the grocery store, for example, provides a great opportunity for your child to learn about shapes and weights and textures; so let her rub a coconut and squeeze the Charmin and ask her what she thinks of the difference. Also keep in mind that your child wants to be like you and do the things you do. So let her help you wash the dishes after dinner or buff the car or pull weeds in the garden. Whatever you do, be sure to talk to her about every little detail of what’s happening.
While doing errands and chores together may not be “fun” in the traditional sense it’s a wonderful way for your daughter and you to get to know each other better and to strengthen your relationship with each other. That shows her that you love her and that’s one of the most important things a father can ever do.