July 5, 2013 at 10:38 AM ET
Statistic: While home with my kids, 70 percent of my time is spent telling them that they just ate or to go play outside.
Being a stay-at-home dad is much more than just sitting around the house playing Call of Duty while the kids run amuck. There’s also a lot of chores and self-deprecation involved. Summer break for any parent feels like a monumental challenge to keep your children engaged and entertained for the next one million days or however long this “vacation” lasts. Planned play dates, sleepovers, sports camps and gymnastics lessons help fill the empty days, but my family still has plenty of unscheduled downtime.
Quickly, the days can become a dystopia of boredom and restlessness. To avoid that, I try to stockpile ideas that I can use to amuse my kids over summer break. And what do you know? I’ve become a Pinterest Dad. Thanks to the online social pinboard, I have found so many great projects, games, recipes and tips that I feel armed for the days ahead. Here are 9 of my favorites.
1. Exciting Food. The only thing more aggravating than picky eaters are picky eaters who never stop demanding more food. But even the pickiest stop complaining when you suggest making ice cream in a bag. Not all recipes are as simple as they seem. We once attempted to tackle a pasta pie we found but after meticulously standing up each rigatoni and baking to perfection, the entire dish fell to pieces at the mere sight of my kitchen knife. Other times, my kids find recipes that look amazing but ask that I omit undesired ingredients. So, after removing the walnuts, sliced bananas, and cinnamon sticks, I realize I’m just making regular ol’ pancakes. However, the kids are amused and that’s the point!
2. Getting Dirty. It isn’t enough to tell my kids to “go play outside.” There’s only so much that can be accomplished with a sprinkler. Instead, I’ve got a few outside projects planned that will require some work, creativity, and of course, getting dirty (more reasons to use the sprinkler!). This homemade pond will be simple enough to maintain my kids’ attention and when finished, will provide more entertainment throughout summer. Fun fact: adding goldfish to the pond will protect against mosquitos!
3. Discipline. Disciplining my kids doesn’t always have to be a miserable experience. A practice I’ve decided to implement for the summer is the “Toy Jail,” with a few minor adjustments. Rather than allocating a Tupperware container to store any stray toys my kids have left lying around the house, I’ve chosen an out-of-reach cabinet in my room. There’s no way an unlocked Tupperware lid is going to deter my kids while I’m napping.
4.Rainy Day Crafts. We live in the Pacific Northwest so it’s important to have indoor activities planned in case of rain. The most anticipated so far by the kids is the plan to make homemade slime. With just two basic ingredients, not only can my kids handle making this slime with minimal supervision, but it will provide hours of messy fun and clean up opportunities for me!
5.A big mess is no fun! Do your kids hate cleaning their room during summer break? That’s a trick question, of course they do, because summer break takes place during childhood. With the help of one pinner’s room cleaning relay chart, we’re going to turn our chores into games complete with fun and prizes!
6. Traveling. Inevitably, a long drive or two is coming our way and it’s great to be prepared. Bringing along a fully charged laptop loaded with movies is a good start, but I also plan to try out some of these DIY Road Trip Activities.
7.Education. After spending all school year helping my kids excel in reading and writing, don’t think for a second that I’m about to let them squander those new abilities away over the course of this summer. Thankfully, I’ve got a few pins set aside for great learning websites and apps for kids.
8. Science!The Density Tower takes a bit of finesse but I think I’m looking forward to this more than my kids will. By layering liquids of varying density along with small objects of differing mass, you end up with a rainbow beaker of brilliant science! A fun, informative experiment that my kids will be able to show off and talk about at length to every visitor in our home all summer.
9. Free choice. It feels good to have planned so many amazing and fun things for my kids to do with their time. It is equally important for me to let them make up their own minds (scary, I know!). I’m also going to let them browse through Pinterest and point out things that interest them. It’s a great way for me to further understand my kids’ personalities, bond with them, and pass the time.
Most of the pins I have found were created initially by very creative and ambitious parents. I like to think of myself as creative but not in an artsy-crafty way. Truthfully, I feel that I’m giving my kids the kind of summer break they deserve thanks to the amazing work of others who were willing to share. I guess what I’m saying is, Pinterest is helping me be a better stay-at-home dad and I think I’m OK with that.
Chase Roper is a stay at home dad, podcaster, writer, and comedian. His podcast can be heard at Stay at Home Dadcast, and he's a contributing writer for the podcasting network Earwolf and Laughspin.com.