Are your kids going stir-crazy like mine? I feel ya. I have some thoughts. Especially for the dads among us. A simple way to extract some of their excess energy while making up for the fact that your gym is closed. It’s time-tested wisdom, passed down from one generation to the next, starting with that one time that God tackled Adam in the garden of Eden.
One hot summer day, when neighbors were still allowed to stand within six feet of each other, I rummaged through the garage and found the slip ’n slide. You know the one. Yellow. Thin plastic. About 15 feet long. Lame.
My neighbor and I looked at each other and frowned. A trip to Lowe’s, a 100-foot-long roll of industrial plastic, a “gentle” sloping hill, a hose, and some dish soap transformed a backyard yawn-fest into a do-it-yourself water park.
Between the shouts of ecstatic joy by every single kid in the neighborhood, my nature-loving brother-in-law snorted, pushed up his glasses, and commented: “Won’t that giant strip of plastic kill the grass?”
My dad slowly lowered his pipe, adjusted his monocle, and stroked his long, gray beard. In a moment of sage wisdom to be chiseled on the tablets of family lore, he spoke the seven words that I will never forget:
And I quote: “He’s not growing grass. He’s growing kids.”
I’m a big fan of play. I suspect God’s a fan as well. One of His top 10 rules is to take an entire day every week and do nothing but play. (When’s the last time you took that seriously?) When it comes to raising kids, I believe play is downright critical. If you’re thinking, “I suck at play,” fear not.
I will now give you some pure solid-gold ideas for kid play. These are perfect for kids ages one to 12ish. You’re welcome.
- Move anything fragile out of the immediate area where gameplay will take place. (You’re not having company anyway.)
- Pick an area about the size of a rug where you, dad (AKA Monster), are unable to leave. (A rug works perfectly for this.)
- The Monster shall remain on his knees at all times.
- The goal of this game is simple. Any kid who steps onto the designated rug area gets tackled.
ADDED FEATURES: If your couch is anything like mine, it has 14 blankets and 37 decorative pillows. In Monster Rug, these are known as “ammo.” A well-thrown couch pillow can fold a 3-year-old in half like a flip phone, and it’s glorious. A blanket can lure a kid onto the rug where they get wrapped like a burrito and rolled across the room.
- My kids outlawed tickling. But Monsters are notorious for not following strict rules.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes. It will feel more like four hours to you, but it will also be one heck of a core workout.
- Make sure the wife is OK with pillow throwing and kid tackling.
- Once the kids get older than about 12, they start winning. That sucks.
- Setup is very similar to Monster Rug, only now the Monster is rolled up in a blanket and lying on their stomach.
- Kids have to run back and forth across the rug area and jump over the Monster (AKA Steamroller).
- The Steamroller rolls back and forth in an effort to trip a kid and then roll over them and flatten them like a pancake.
- I tip the scales at about 210, and all three of my kids survived being rolled over, even when they were two years old. - If you thought Monster Rug was a good workout, just wait for this one. Gyms are closed, but you’ll soon find you don’t need them.
- Dad starts on all fours. He is the bull.
- One rider at a time gets the chance for the ultimate glory of staying on dad-bull for eight seconds.
- No kid should ever feel that glory. You’re better than that, Dad.
- Dad starts flat on his stomach. He is the snake.
- One rider at a time will attempt to tame the snake without being thrown off.
- Snake-dad squirms and twists until the kid is thrown. (Note to snake-dad: This one is much trickier than the bull and feels like a Tabata training at the end of a Crossfit class.)
These games may seem overly simplistic, but they have three very important characteristics. Make them your own, but consider the following:
- They have a name. You can always play “wrestle on the floor with dad,” but as soon as you name it, you’ve given it a personality. My kids would ask for these games by name all of the time. My oldest snake rider is now 17, but he remembers Monster Rug like it was yesterday.
- They’re highly physical. In this age of endless screentime, kids long for a good ol’ fashioned physical fight. Where else will they get it if not from their dad?
- They’re “dangerous.” Throwing the pillows might as well have been swinging from the ceiling fan for my kids. They couldn’t believe dad would allow it. Showing your kids that they are worth more than the house sends a loud signal. (Besides, they’re called “throw pillows” for crying out loud!)
Play on, dads. You won’t hurt your kids. The best way to do that is to NOT play with them. You got this. Have fun!
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...
What stands out to you most in this article? A certain line, an emotion, a thought? Why do you think it did?
How do you feel playing with your kids? Intimidated? Awkward? Nervous? Why?
How would you feel if you knew—you (pretty much) can’t do it wrong? Any play from you is a BLAST to them.
Take a second to pray a simple prayer like, “God, help our home be more FUN. Show me how to play with my kids and LOVE our time together.” Then, go tackle them.
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