Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Good Dad and the Power of Play -- Dr. Jennifer Baker


“The Power of Play” – that’s the theme for the Downtown Dads Spring Lunch Series. I’m very excited about this series for a number of reasons. Here a just a few:

1)    Dads tend to play with their children more than moms. Moms may actually spend more time with their youngsters than dads, but moms tend to be involved in activities like feeding, bathing, changing, clothing and comforting. A mother’s contribution is essential to helping a child feel safe and secure. And, of course, many dads do these things too. It’s just that dads tend to bring something to the equation.


2)   Unstructured play, essential to healthy child development, is disappearing from the American landscape.  Children still play, but today many of them engage in activities structured by a screen, designed to teach skills of some sort, or organized with rules and limits overseen by adults. The days of children making up their own games and activities with kids in the neighborhood are waning. Even if they wanted to do this, fewer opportunities exist.


3)    Play is important for developing curiosity, creativity, and imagination. According to Dr. David Elkind, author of The Power of Play, “These abilities are like muscles. If you don’t use them, you lose them.” Many of today’s toys are programmed to solicit a specific response or reaction from a child, limiting their creativity and imagination. Toys with multiple uses, e.g., blocks, Legos, etc. are good options because children use them in a variety of ways.



In the weeks to come, we’ll be exploring a number of ways dads can playfully interact with their children. Our lunches, podcasts and blog themes will all focus on this essential activity. As a way of introduction to this topic, consider the following points from The Power of Play.
·      
  • Support and encourage your child’s own self-initiated learning activities.
  • Join your child in his or her play.
  • Take care in choosing your child’s toys.
  • Encourage dramatic play, especially with preschoolers.
  • Read to your child as a way to stimulate imagination and support healthy language learning.
  • Play games with rules with your school-age child to help them learn social skills, develop strategies, take risks, and learn skills of observation and evaluation.

I hope you’ll join us in the important topic of play in one or more ways over the next five weeks. It’s bound to be a lot of fun.

Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She can be reached for question or comment at jennifer@gooddads.com.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Work Hard to Play -- Springfield Dad and Grandfather Kevin Weaver


There is hardly a person on the planet that doesn’t like the opportunity to play. Of course, the term “play” has varying meanings at varying ages. For instance, play to a two-year-old might mean whacking a bowl with a mixing spoon, while play to a 10-year-old might mean hours of meticulously building multi-thousand-piece Lego lands. A teenager? Often sports come to mind, while in the world of adults – at least for me – it has often meant long motorcycle trips or quietly fishing by the lake. To my wife? Drop her off at any local d├ęcor super store and she can happily play all day.

Just how important is play and playing with our kids? I don’t simply mean the battle over “going outside vs. staying inside game,” either. Is it about what our children are playing, or is it more about the fact they are playing and that we, as parents, are encouraging and engaging as well?  


I get being a young man who is also a young parent. In the very season of life I was trying to navigate my way through a career path, my wife and I eagerly also brought into the task of navigating the parenting path as well. The trend for “career first, family second” may be on the upswing, but that blueprint never crossed our life desks. We didn’t want to wait for kids, and the kids would have to eat . . . so, the balancing began. With long days and sometimes long nights of working, just seeing my kids, let alone playing with them, seemed a monumental feat.  I learned  playtime didn’t have to involve loading up the mini-van with a picnic basket and sports’ gear in a run for the local park for an entire afternoon. It’s a great gig if you can make it happen, but when you can’t, there’s hope.

While organized play was a huge part of our boys’ childhoods (and might I add the one non-athlete’s marching band camps and practices rivaled the rigor and fun of the two athletes baseball, basketball, and football endeavors offered), impromptu play proved to be their favorite. To this day, my grown sons rarely mention a thing about one of the many sporting activities or all-day family play outings, but rather they recall the five-minute, nightly, free-for-alls. They can give a true “play-by-play” about these encounters.

Kids are smart. Kids know. Kids are wise enough to know that sometimes dads work long hours and can’t coach their teams and can’t take an entire afternoon to go to the park. That’s when they’re smart enough to know that those minutes in which a tired, hard-working dad turns into a goofy Godzilla to make brushing teeth and going to bed more fun are some of the most meaningful play dates they will ever have.

For me, the bottom line was that I just wanted to connect with my boys whenever and however I could.  In the midst of all this, I learned something very important; the power of play can never be underestimated.  Sure, hard work is the foundation of an ethic that can move our kids to success.  If you can’t enjoy what you work for and find enjoyment in what your life has to offer, what’s the point?

So, my family and I chose to “play” and enjoy this adventure we call life.  And, more importantly . . . we do it whenever possible!  Looking back, it is one of most important ingredients to our family bond. 

Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at kweaver@network211.com

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Play with Others: The Cousins are Here!


(This post is from our archive and is shared again here with updated photos as a reminder of the joy children--and cousins--find in playing with each other. Of course, dads and moms are important in making this happen.) 

"The cousins are here! The cousins are here!" This is was what the Boy was shouting at dinner last night as my sister's family arrived. The Boy has the best time when his cousins come all the way from Missouri to Texas to visit. Since my sister also has a set of twins plus one, we have an unusual bond as parents besides being siblings. The difference is that at her house it’s all girls and at ours, it’s all boys all the time—with the exception of my lovely wife. Of course, with six children age 3 and under, bedtime was a bit more tricky then usual, but once we got everybody down the adults were able to kick back and enjoy some wine and tea to close out the evening.



Everybody, and I mean everybody, was up by 7 a.m. this morning, but in a house the size of ours that really isn't a surprise. I am just glad we made it that long.


Of course the Boy knows we have to go out and ride the bike at least once a day during the “30 Days of Biking,” even when the cousins are here. He figured the best way to accomplish this was to load up the bike trailer with all three toddlers and ride off to get some donuts. It sounded like a good idea to me, and so off we went. I am pretty sure that loading three small children into the trailer exceeded safety regulations, but they didn't seem to mind, even if the Boy was forced to sit on the floor. (It’s amazing why you’ll do when your cousins come to town.) We all had a great little ride and there was no complaining. WELL ACTUALLY, there was just a little complaining. All three passengers felt I should have been going faster when we came to an uphill section. I tried to explain to them it wasn't easy pulling 110 pounds of kids around, but this argument didn't quell their demand for greater speed.


As with all good things, the weekend finally came to an end and everybody was exhausted but very happy.  After a weekend full of fun and family, I am reminded of this Manifesto from Holstee.  "This is your LIFE.  Do what you want and do it often!"  I love spending time with family and will continue to do it as often as possible. I hope my boys will do the same.



*Minor Baker and his sister are now the parents of four children each, so there’s even more fun when all the cousins get together. This occurred a few months back when eight cousins, 20 months to 9 years of age, occupied the same house for four days. Many memories are made when the cousins visit. Minor can be reached for questions and comment at minorbaker@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Playful Dad -- Jeff Sippy, Springfield Dad in Training


I am a wack-o.  Wack-o is a layman’s term for what a professional therapist might diagnose as a bit up-tight, too anxious, overwhelmed, and sometimes controlling.  I don’t try to be.  It just happened one day or another after my first child was born, continued with the birth of my second and the third, the next 25 years, and 1,000 life events.  Trips to the ER, college tuition, sports, dating, and the death of my parents have just about done me in.  I used to be so playful and at ease about everything.  What happened?  I became a parent.  So I am a wack-o.       

It is not good to be a wack-o.  Being a wack-o is not the way to be a Good Dad, either.  Good Dads work hard and are responsible, model good behavior and character, and teach all kinds of things like right and wrong, how to drive, and how to catch a fish.  But Good Dads are not all work and no play.  Good Dads are relaxed and playful.  If you are not there yet, no worries!  Let’s help each other lighten up and brighten up.  

A playful Dad is a gracious dad.  A playful Dad understands that children make mistakes, get into trouble, go down the wrong path, are sometime ornery, anxious, and even uptight.  So are we!!

Do you ever wonder where uptight, anxious children come from?  They come from anxious, uptight Dads!  Our children learn from you and me.  Let’s teach them to be relaxed and playful rather than uptight and anxious. 
    

My three boys, Clayton, Aaron, and Jason are teaching me to lighten up and brighten up.  My boys are literally the life of my party.  They tickle me till I cannot breathe.  They pour ice water on me when I am in the shower.  They hide my dinner plate when I am not looking.  They tell me horrible, rude, offensive stories that would have made their Grandma Lita blush.  They don’t let up until I laugh out loud.   


Playful Dad goes with the flow.  They don’t try to make their children something they are not – from straight A students, to star athletes, to the best in the band.  Let them find their way on a pathway marked with playfulness, mercy, and grace.  Let your children pick the restaurant, where they want to go on vacation, and what they want to study in college.  Because of my boys, I have learned how to ice skate, play hockey, and how to sail.  We have gone white water rafting and climbed 14,000 foot mountains in Colorado. 
                                                     
                                                    

                        
I’m still a wack-o but I am less of a wack-o each day.  It is not easy being a Dad.  But it is easier, and more fun when we help each other and when we learn to lighten up, brighten up, and be a bit more playful.  If I can be a help or blessing to you I am always close by!

Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at jsippy@rlcmail.org