Historically, entertainment was not part of the child-parent contract. It was strictly protection and provision: clothing, food, and maybe a trip to Disney World. Now parents are Disney World. You owe it to yourself to enjoy the experience of hanging out with these undeveloped humans you had the arrogance to help create.
1.Transpose your hobbies
If you’re enthusiastic, they will be too. Do you golf? Set up a few cups around the room and laugh at their short game while getting in a little practice yourself.
2. Hit the blocks
If you don’t have a set of Legos, then we don’t understand each other and you should stop reading. Legos are the best toy ever invented. Get some and build some shit.
3. Play “let’s get lost”
I drive around and my kids take turns telling me to take a left or a right until we are “lost.” Then they take turns trying to get us home. They understand what a GPS is now, but somehow this still manages to be fun.
4. Learn to tell a story
You don’t have to study the Hero’s Journey. Have a middle and an end in mind before you begin, and make it ongoing. Connect a few dots between your story and their lives. Then scoop their brains up, because you blew their minds.
5. Teach them gambling
Substitute poker chips with candy, pennies, rocks, their allowance, college tuition, etc. If gambling conflicts with your religious beliefs, then, well . . .
6. Break out the weird goop
Slime has enjoyed a sort of renaissance as of late. But will slime transfer a comic strip backward? Nope. Will slime bounce if rolled into a ball? Stupid question. Guess what will do both of those things. Silly Putty.
7. How many marshmallows can you fit in your mouth?
However many it is, it’s fewer than I can. I’m the king. Fitting an impossible number of marshmallows in my mouth is my only real God-given gift.
8. Send them away
Try playing a round or two of “Find Some Stuff.” I’ll hide a bunch of my daughters’ My Little Pony dolls, stashing a third of them in impossible places so I have time to sit my ass on the couch and enjoy their frustration.
9. Turn to television
Poor TV! She had a glorious run for some time, and oblivious parents reaped dividends. Then our generation came to power and ruined everything about the tube. But let’s be clear: TV should be respected. My wife and I starve our kids of video entertainment until we’re on a plane and need them to shut the hell up. Or when Daddy’s coming up empty.
10. Navigate the playground
Tell your kids that adults haven’t been allowed to ride anything since Capturing the Friedmans.One note: Deal with playground squabbles in a dignified and respectful manner. Let the kids work it out before you huff and puff on over to the other dad. Chances are that he’s just trying to get some sit-down time on a long Saturday just like you.
11. Take them camping (sort of)
Pitch a tent in the backyard and spend the night out there with your kids. Shine flashlights, tell scary stories—build a fire for all I care! When the kids are asleep, do what you did at your own childhood camp: Sneak out, swim (quietly walk) over to the girls’ camp (your bedroom) to meet that girl you like (your wife), and maybe even get to second base!
12. Do science!
Take them into the kitchen and mix a bunch of crap together. You’ll love it. They will too, but who cares?
13. Enjoy a drink
When your day is coming to an end and your kids are worshipping you like you’re the God of Good Times, pour yourself a cocktail. Of course, I hear drunk driving is illegal in some states, and you will have to drive them to the ER at some point during their childhood. So keep it cool. Or get bombed and take an Uber. On your way to the hospital with them, have a sing-along but substitute some of the words in the song with “poo” or “pee” or “toilet.” Man, you’re good at this!
The worst thing you can do to entertain children:
Avoid “playing pretend.” Kids are awful at improvisation. They’ll talk more about what they’re going to pretend than actually get down to the business of pretending. And they will shoot down every eager initiation you make. An example . . .
You: I’ve finally got you in my clutches, Wonder Girl!
Them: No, Daddy! You’re a good guy, not a bad guy. And my name is Super Wonder Girl. And you’re my butler! And you’re a girl! And so on and so on and so on.