Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Episode Twelve: Share Their Hobby

Two weeks ago we talked about sharing your hobby with your children and how it gives them an insight into you as a person and what you do when the cats away. This week we are looking at sharing their hobby but with a totally different aim.

This week I got my children to share one of their interests with me. I had a bit of a head start with this idea because I already knew what hobby this would be and I knew that this idea would make their day. This week I learnt about a game called 'Minecraft'. A game that my two sons are absolutely obsessed with and that I have tried very hard to avoid.

Just a quick run down: Minecraft is a game my sons have on their iPods played in a world where you need to build structures, or dig holes, fight zombies and try not to get killed. It sounds like my worst nightmare but they love it. They know I'm not a huge gamer so I've managed to avoid playing it and avoid getting involved in any discussions about the finer details of the game. This has suited me. But, it also provided itself with the perfect Idea for Dads.

To begin with, I explained to them that I shared my hobby with one of them and that I would like them to share one of their hobbies with me. This got a lukewarm response. When I said, "I would like you to teach me about Minecraft", they went nuts. So that was that.

The aim is not really to become a Minecraft addict like them, but rather for them to share their passion with their Dad. There was a big focus on explaining the game, giving an overview, teaching me and then letting me have my own go. It turns out the game is a lot harder than I thought it was. I didn't enjoy it but I got a great deal of satisfaction from their teaching me.

I don't know how successful I was, but the aim behind this idea was to teach them how to teach other people; To teach them how to explain something to another person. I have started a new job and have had a lot of days where different people in the business have taught me things. I've noticed that some people are great teachers and some are not. I began to wonder whether this is a natural occurrence or whether it comes with experience. So, why not start that experience early?

While my sons were explaining the game, I gave them prompts, things they could tell me. I asked them the right questions to move the conversation along. At the end of it I learnt a lot and they really revelled in the idea that they were experts and could teach their Dad a thing or two.

If your children aren't game-obsessed you could ask them to explain their favourite TV program. Or get them to tell you about their favourite toy. Or even get them to show you around their kindergarten. The possibilities are endless. The aim remains the same: Teach them to share their knowledge and their wisdom and who knows what you're setting up to do in later life.

Have fun!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Dadism: What Can I Do With My Baby?

Babies are hard work. If you've only had one or only having one I guess I should say right now, it gets better. Not only the sleepless nights, the teething and your house turning into a war-zone but the frustration that, as a Dad, there isn't a whole lot you can do for these little creatures at the beginning. Babies need their Mothers and for the first few weeks you'll merely be someone who walks up and down the hallway with them trying to get them to sleep.

But slowly they will develop and all of a sudden they notice you're there. It's pretty awesome. You'll get a smile and a bit of interaction and all of a sudden the fun begins.

It's often frustrating when they are so young because you can't take them fly-fishing or teach them how to use a chainsaw, so some of your skills might be lost on them. When they are at this stage it's hard to know what you should be doing with them. How do you entertain them? How can you build a relationship with these little creatures?

The number one thing I have found is: talking to them works wonders. Sit in front of them, or hold them and talk to your baby. Not only are you getting them used to your voice, you're getting them used to your presence. Provided you're not doing your best Pinhead impression, they will start to associate your voice (and face) with security. If Dad is there talking to me, I know things will be alright. It's pretty simple stuff.

Once they get older and start to sit upright and hold on to things, they aren't quite at the teaching them your golf swing stage, but they're certainly a lot more interactive than those first few months. This is a cool time. This is when you can do things like passing them objects and saying 'ta'. This is the most basic game but you could do this all day and your baby will love it. Babies love repetition.

I find once you get to about 10-11 months you can start doing things like sitting them on your knee and holding them under the armpits and pretending they are slipping off your knee and then 'rescuing' them back on to your knee. I don't know why, but all my children have found this to be hilarious. Or pretending to drop them but actually having a firm grip on them. With the right voice and mock surprise, they love it. I imagine as well as being a pretty entertaining game, you're teaching them to trust you. If Dad is holding on to me, he'll protect me and stop me from falling. I have no doubt that this lesson carries on to later life.

Needless to say, please be careful with your baby. Writing about pretending to drop your baby is probably courting controversy but I trust that you are sensible enough to know what is right and what will cause brain damage.

The take away lesson from all of this is that having a presence is the best thing you can do with your baby. Talk to them, smile at them, sing to them, hold them and dance with them. Act the fool and laugh with them. It all adds up to them hearing your voice, seeing your face, smelling your smell and learning that Dad is fun and safe and makes me feel happy.

Many Dads are at a loss with what to do with their baby. The truth is, the cool things like playing pinball with them or staying up to watch the All Blacks doesn't happen for quite a few years. So lay those foundations and get in while their brains are soaking up all this new information. Make sure they associate Dad with fun times and you'll be away laughing.

Have fun!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Episode Eleven: Take A Nostalgia Trip

I had hoped to offer you a sequel to the 'Share Your Hobby' post this week, but we've had a nasty bout of stomach bug which made things difficult. In the mean time, enjoy...

If there is one thing I remember about my Dad when I was growing up, it was that he loved to tell stories about when he was growing up. To hear the sort of fun he got up to and the inventiveness of what they did was fascinating. It sounded like a different world where 50c got you a ride to town on the tram, two movie tickets and a bag full of Goofy Gums. In hearing these stories, I wished there was a way I could relive those times with him.

I find myself telling my son my own stories about what I did growing up. The fun I had, the mischief I got up to and the lessons I learnt. The interesting thing about my generation is that technology and computers snuck in pretty early and some of my favourite memories of being a pre-teen involve computer games.

I was trying to explain to my eldest son about a strategy war game we used to play called 'Command & Conquer: Red Alert'. It involved defence, offence, construction and finance. The best thing about the game is that it was a multi-player game allowing you to compete over the Internet with different people. It was, in it's time, pretty high-tech, but these days sounds as primitive as my Dad's tram rides and 7c movie tickets. The cool thing about the time my son is growing up in, is that I can show him these old games first hand.

I'm not a huge gamer; I like one or two games and play them until I get sick of them. Then a few years later I get back into them. So, I feel like I have a handle on them and hopefully can pass that approach on to my son (not winning so far, he is game crazy).

Anyhow, we had a great time reliving my early years showing him my strategies and having a friendly competition. Who could outwit who? He's still got a bit to learn, but it's nice to share that little slice of my childhood with him. He probably looks at this game like I look at drawings on cave walls by primitive men, but still.

Apart from being a good excuse to sit inside on a sunny day and play games, the take away lesson is that sharing your experiences with your children is invaluable. If you can relive them, or at least demonstrate those experiences to them, even better. Being able to put those stories into context and letting them see what you got up to as a snot nose will give them an insight into what makes you tick. Those shared experiences will bring you closer together.

Over the last eleven weeks of sharing these ideas with you, I've noticed two things: One, the activity doesn't matter, the time you spend does. I eluded to that earlier but it really is true. Two, a lot of these ideas are humanising us as Dads. I think that is one of the single most important lessons that helped me with my own parenting journey: realising that my Dad was just a regular guy, trying his best. If you can break down that barrier with your children, I think you'll both reap the benefits down the road (I'd like to write more on this if anyone is interested?).

Have fun!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Friday, Funday V

OK Team, I've been scouring the web for some holiday videos. Check these out:

Awesome look at what it takes to make a Formula One car from scratch. Very, very cool (and expensive)!

They're making a Lego movie! The possibilities are endless!

How to moonwalk. As a kid I always wanted to know how to do this, now I know!

Sticking with dance for a second, you might remember this video which features some awesome break dancing.

Happy school holidays everyone.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Episode Ten: Share Your Hobby

Whether it's fly fishing, portrait painting or stamp collecting most Dads have hobbies that often get attention on their days off or at the end of a long day. Some times these are the things that keep us sane, that little part of our life that gives us a break from being a Dad, an employee, a boyfriend or husband.

What if you were to share that hobby and let your children understand what you do when you're away from it all?

One of my hobbies is making music using samples off records. It's something I started doing well before I was a Dad. My equipment and creative space is well away from little fingers and so, it's almost off limits. I decided to change that for an afternoon.

I tried this as a one-on-one idea with my middle son and brought all the equipment out on to the kitchen table. I gave him and overview of what it was I do and showed him the end product. Then, I explained the individual steps I took to get that finished product.

We chose a record off the record shelf, listened to the record for a part we liked and then recorded it into the sampler. From there we put some drum sounds on top. After a bit of finishing touches, we had our finished product, a beat that he decided to call 'Otto'.

Often we will share our interests and get our children involved in the things we like doing. But these are usually things that we think will benefit them: bush walking, cricket etc. This is fantastic. It gives you the chance to teach your children skills that they can use in the real world. The difference between this idea and those types of activities is that this is a little bit of yourself that you're sharing with your children.

It doesn't mean it's no longer your 'thing', like me, you can still move all the equipment back in to your hideaway. It's just a chance to share a little bit of what makes your tick and give them an understanding of what it is you do once they go to sleep.

If you do do this idea, I'm really interested to see what it is your hobby is and how you shared it with your children so please leave a comment. Also, next week, we're going to reverse it: we're going to encourage our children to share their idea with us.

Have fun!


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Episode Nine: Make A Hut

Whether big or small, this easy idea wins every time.

This weekend we made a hut. Interestingly enough, two weeks ago I made another using old forklift pallets from my work (more on this in coming weeks). But this weekend we kept it simple with four chairs with a blanket draped over them.

There's something about being cooped under a blanket that kids love. I guess it's the whole 'Wendy House' mentality. It's their own world where they rule the roost and make the space their own. I can see the appeal. For this simplified hut I arranged the chairs then asked my helpful middle boy to hold one side of the blanket while I arranged it. "Are we making a hut?!", was his reply. He was hooked.

With that done, it was just a matter of laying a nice blanket underneath, throwing a few cushions in there and some toys that I knew would entice my baby girl. She immediately crawled into the hut and put her head down on the cushion. Mission accomplished.

In the hut we shared imaginary cups of tea, pretended a ball was an apple and did some karaoke with the echo microphone. I don't think it matters what toys or activities you put in there, everything is better under a blanket.

A good hut doesn't have to be made out of some four-by-two and plywood up in a tree, although that certainly sounds cool. It could simply be a fort made out of couch cushions or a bivouac made by flinging a tarpaulin over your washing line. It could be blankets over chairs like we did. However you tackle it, getting your children involved in the construction of their own little space will give them a sense of ownership, not to mention pride.

Once the construction is complete, make sure you pay them a visit and stay a while. Be their guest, engage with them and give them a sense of being the boss of their own little house. Seriously, they will love it. If you don't have spare timber or you don't own your own place, a temporary indoor hut like the ones described will do the trick.

Have fun!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Friday, Funday IV

Hey team!

Lots of cool things to show you this week.

A talented illustrator and animator creates planets and their inhabitants throughout the month. Planet Six is full of warring creatures.

Really enjoyed the animation on this clip. A town made of paper appears before your eyes.

How big is the ocean? It's huge!

Physics is fun. This video shows how the gravity and momentum make this ball-bearing chain seemingly float in mid-air.

My cousin showed me this once and it's very cool.

These videos and many more can be found at the fantastic blog: The Kids Should See This.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Episode Eight: Looking Through Photo Albums

Over a year ago we had our third child, a girl. With that arrival we also had a new addition to our house: The middle child.

For this idea you will need old photos of your children and a captive audience.

Being a middle child looks like a tough gig. I am the youngest of three so couldn't tell you what it's like. From what I see of my middle boy and thinking of my sister when we were growing up, it doesn't look like an enviable position. In our house there are two parents and if each parent is looking after one child, whoever is left over out of the three either roams free or gets left out.

One thing that constantly pops up with our family is that the eldest boy is allowed to do a lot of things that the middle boy wishes he could do (go and stay with friends, stay up later some times). Also my baby girl gets away with a lot more than the middle boy could too. I constantly find myself either saying, "One day you'll be old enough to..." or, "When you were a baby you used to always...".

One evening I had a thought: Instead of repeating those same old lines to him I would show him. So, we looked through our old photo albums - particularly the one filled with photos of him as a baby. It was great. Not only did I get to show him that, yes, he was once a baby who got away with not tidying up after himself or making fart noises at the table but I also got to show him that his older brother was about the same age that he is now. That way he could really see that he would in fact grow up to be big like his brother one day.

It probably seems like such a simple idea but I didn't realise how much a bit of nostalgia and reminicsing could help out our inter-sibling relations. We had a great time going through each of the photos, talking about how cute everyone was and how Dad had more hair back then. Or pointing out old toys that are now gone or looking at our old house and remembering what we miss about it.

It was also a really good chance for the kids and I to just lay on the floor and take some time out. A nice quiet activity that all of us got involved with. It was the perfect way to reinforce that concept to the middle boy that life is tough, but hopefully it won't always be.

Have fun!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Dadism: Being Interested

Sometimes inspiration comes from interesting places. This is Pio Terei talking to Mike King, two great New Zealand comedians.

Pio's story about talking with his son is a great, great example of being interested in what our children have to say and what they do. There will be an idea expanding on this in the near future.

In the mean time, enjoy the video: