The “little years” go fast. If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I mean. One day (or night) you’re changing your children’s diapers, giving them bottles, and watching them sleep (or not), and the next thing you know they are jumping off the couch, asking hard questions, and getting incredibly heavy to hold for even two minutes. Blink again and they are on the way out the door for college.
My three sons are still young, ranging from nine months to five years old. So, I don’t presume to be an expert on parenting by any means. But even in the short time thus far that I’ve been blessed by God to get to be a father, I’ve learned a few things.
And one of those things is how important it is to have fun with kids. To play with them. To laugh with them. To simply enjoy life together.
Billy Graham once encouraged parents to “Love your children — and let them know you love them. Children who experience love find it far easier to believe God loves them.”
What does it look like to let your kids know that you love them? I think one of the temptations of being a Christian parent is we think of “loving” our kids in terms of providing for them, teaching them the Bible, disciplining them as needed, etc. But how often do we stop and consider that having fun with our kids is a wonderful way to love them? Or how often do we even stop to do just that — have fun?
Let me encourage you to make an intentional effort to have fun with your kids in their formative years. Not in an “I said we are having fun, so have fun!” sort of way, but in an organic, laughter-inducing, care-forgetting fashion.
Remember: Fathers set the tone of a household. They are (or should be) the “gravity.” I know that making time to play with your kids can be a challenge for busy days, but like I said at the start — the years go fast. I firmly believe that playing with your kids should be a godly priority for Christian fathers. To that end, here are three ways that fathers can have fun with their children.
Dads, don’t ever be so preoccupied with life that you can’t make and take the time to get down on the floor and play with kids. This is especially important when they are younger. If you see them playing with blocks, or toys, or just rolling around on the carpet, pause and join in. In other words, get on their level.
Watch them close up as they explore and experience life with wonder. Pause and build a tower, and then laugh as they knock it over five times before it’s even finished, and laugh again when another big knockdown comes! Find delight in their little minds and active imagination. If all they want to do is roll a ball back and forth on the floor for 15 minutes — do it!
Never be too proud or too busy to pause and play a simple game. You won’t remember your 15th spreadsheet of the week, but you will remember (or long to remember) the time you spent having fun with your kids.
Don’t let the rigors of parenting rob you of your creativity. Lead the way in inventing new and silly games that you can play with your kids on a regular basis.
In my household, one such game is called “Pirate Monster Robot.” I couldn’t even tell you how we landed on that combination, but it was born out of me pretending to be a robot and chasing around my little boys one night before bed. I chase them, and they hide. They chase me, and I hide. I catch them in my pirate-monster-robot claws, scoop them up, and throw them on the bed. It’s a hoot — we tear the house up and my wife rolls her eyes at me in love as I wind them up, right when they should be winding down.
That’s just one example. Dig into your inner child and come up with your own. Who cares if it’s silly? Kids love silly. And silly means fun.
Finally, think ahead and plan fun family outings on a semi-regular basis. Take a look at the natural attractions around your area, pick a Saturday, load up the car, and go explore it for the morning. Stop for lunch or ice cream on the way home. We regularly go to the local zoo and/or science center. And there is no substitute for a local park where you can chase your kids all around the jungle gym and playground equipment.
These outings don’t need to be pricey or multi-day extravaganzas. They should just be an event when you are fully devoted to spending time with your children, doing something fun, and enjoying life together. Since it’s summer, make sure not to skip the pool! Seriously, how much fun is it to toss your kid into the water? Let me tell you — it’s a lot of fun.
Reflecting on the pure joy found in a child’s life, G.K. Chesterton wrote,
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon.”
If you have fun with your kids, you can bet that they will say “Do it again.” So, Dads, do it again. Laugh again. Give them a piggyback ride again. The day will come when they stop asking “again.” And when that day arrives, l hope you can look back and say, “Wow, that was really fun.”
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.