From grocery stores to poker games, dads can make anything fun! Get some great ideas for daddy dates your little one is sure to love.
Dads do things differently—there’s no doubt about it! When my husband pleaded to take our toddler to a Yankees game, I figured she wouldn’t even last an inning. How could she when I could barely get her to sit still for me to do ponytails? Three innings into the game my husband called, delighted to tell me that we had a budding sports enthusiast in our midst. Not only did my daughter sit through nine innings in the nosebleed section of Yankee Stadium, I had three hours of peace and quiet at home.
Daddy dates don’t have to be as dramatic as a trip to Yankee Stadium—they don’t even have to cost a dime. Here are some simple ideas for daddy dates that will keep your child and his or her daddy enthralled.
When it comes to taking his three kids to sporting events, Scott Mactavish bypasses professional leagues in favor of collegiate games. “My kids are way too amped to sit through an event of more than thirty minutes without some sort of change of scenery.”
Mactavish, author of The New Dad’s Survival Guide, looks for events in stadiums with open space. “I can lay out a blanket and let the boys go nuts without disturbing the other soccer fans in the area,” he says. “Even the littlest ones love this idea because they can role play without being stuck in a stroller or backpack.”
Gary Greenberg knows how to entertain babies. Father of a six-year-old and a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live, Greenberg used his comic talent to captivate his daughter when she was still in diapers. In Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads, Greenberg suggests a deck of cards as a great way stimulate a newborn’s vision. Spread several cards out and hold them to your baby’s face and fan her with them. Babies will enjoy looking at the contrasting colors. (Just don’t let the other players see your hand.)
Every child loves the zoo, but dads can make it more exciting by putting their own spin on it. Where else can you marvel at a camel’s ability to spit long distances? Your own drooler may be jealous. “It’s fun to hold the baby at eye-level and watch your baby’s reaction to the baboons throwing poo at each other,” adds Mactavish. And you can be happy it’s one mess you won’t have to clean up.
For a cheap, convenient alternative to the zoo, Greenberg suggests you take your little one to your local pet store. With many stores allowing owners to bring their own dogs, pet stores can be an exciting place on the weekends.
Look for local concerts in your area for a casual date. “This is a great place to let your toddler burn off sugar and dance with other two-feet-tall people,” says Mactavish, who rocks his children back and forth in the stroller to the music or dances with them while they’re carried in a baby backpack.
Skip the fine art museum and head to a local museum instead. Local museums are often inexpensive or even free, and you probably won’t get the same sideways glares you would at the art museum when your toddler gives an occasional scream. For example, try your local children’s museum or nature center. Both often have hands-on areas geared toward children—and curious dads. The possibilities are endless. In our area, the local hospital has a free health museum in the basement where children and parents can learn more about how their bodies work by walking through the digestive tract.
A baby backpack, fishing rods, a chair, and some nightcrawlers can make for a relaxing morning for Dad and Junior. My husband has taken our daughter on fishing expeditions since she was an infant. She loves spending one-on-one time with her dad in the great outdoors—she also likes putting the wiggle worm on the hook (definitely not something Mom will do).
Sporting goods stores and home improvement superstores—dads could probably spend hours here even without a baby in tow. Give dads the excuse to check out the latest riding lawnmower, and I’m sure your little one will enjoy the trip, too. “The bright lights and the high ceilings are hypnotizing,” points out Mactavish. Plus, some stores have special carts for children—some with racecar fronts and steering wheels. Just remember, no speeding in the paint section!
Babies love sounds and movement—so why not a date to the carwash? “Before you enter, give her cues that this is going to be a safe, fun experience for the both of you,” says Greenberg. Explain that the car has to take a bath. Better yet, bring some lollipops and go to a drive-up oil change place. You can have your oil changed while you and your charge enjoy the candy, then watch the sprayers and brushes in the carwash. Now that’s multitasking to make a mother proud.
Daddy dates don’t have to be dramatic; even the grocery store can hold excitement. Like the home improvement center, look for racecar carts and let your toddler have fun pretending to drive you around. Greenberg adds that you shouldn’t miss shower time in the produce section—whether your store has automated misters or the producer workers spray the vegetables by hand, it’s fun for kids of all ages.
Cautions from the Expert Dads
Remember that the date should be enjoyable for both of you. If your child seems squeamish or downright miserable, “Be prepared to bail,” advises Mactavish. Not every event that’s fun for Dad will translate into a hit with your baby or toddler. “Do what you like to do and the baby will sense your enthusiasm. Be judicious, however. If you enjoy Jello wrestling or cockfights, you may want to leave Junior at home with Mommy.”