If you have full custody of your kids and they live with you in your home, you probably already have established routines, activities, times when you see each other, and times when you’re apart. But when your kids live with you part time or you live in distant geographical locations, it can be hard to adjust to having them around and the sudden need to plan activities for children.
Every divorced family has its own unique custody arrangement. Regardless of the amount of time your kids live with you, it’s a good idea to have activities planned in advance, both for your time spent with them and the times when you’re at work or attending to other business. If you’re lucky enough to have time off with your kids—and even if you’re going on a vacation with your kids—planned activities keep them engaged in the world and help create meaningful experiences during their time with you.
Ideas for Dads in the City
The city is loaded with activities for kids if you know where to look, and many of them are affordable or free. Check your local library or community center for a publication highlighting all the free activities offered for kids, as well as classes ranging from tumbling and dance to art, music, and crafts.
Take advantage of educational and cultural amenities such as museums, zoos, aquariums, children’s museums, performances, and exhibits. Cities are also full of parks and many have urban forest trails and gardens where you can escape for a beautiful nature walk without leaving the city. Cities have indoor playgrounds, roller skating, ice skating, climbing walls, and much more all designed for kids.
Ideas for Dads in the Country
It can be difficult to interest some older children in outdoor activities, but there are tons of recreational opportunities for kids in the country, in addition to all the local community events, performances, and other attractions small towns offer. Camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, nature walks, and country drives are all fun for kids of various ages. There may be opportunities in your area like rock climbing, rafting, canoeing, mountain biking, and skiing, ice skating, or sledding in the wintertime.
Ideas for Weekend Dads
The weekend is a short chunk of time, but if you don’t have to work and they don’t have school you can have concentrated time with your kids.
If the weather is nice you can plan a camping trip, backpacking excursion, or other overnight adventure, or you can plan a day-long activity like a trip to the beach, zoo, countryside, city, and the amusement park.
If you’re stuck indoors, try a weekend-long puzzle marathon, building a giant fort or haunted house, making a big dinner together, or ordering out for pizza and a movie.
Ideas for Summertime Dads
If you have your kids for the summer or an extended period of more than a week or two, chances are you have to work and they won’t be in school. You may have to find daycare, a nanny, day camps, babysitters, or a combination of caretakers and activities, depending on the ages of your children.
This is where helpful teenagers can be a real blessing, by providing some free babysitting and even driving themselves and the younger ones to scheduled activities, so don’t forget to reward them with some gas money and some age-appropriate activities of their own.
If you can take time off work or a paid vacation, this may be the time to cash it in and plan a trip or simply some time off with your kids. Don’t forget to find, plan, or schedule some activities for them during these times as well.
If your kids play summer sports or are involved in other local activities when they live with you, consider coaching a team, leading a group, or assisting with the activity as a way to spend more time with your kids.
Ideas for Dads of Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers
These little ones need plenty of age-appropriate activities and ideas to fall back on, but they may also spend part of the day napping or having some downtime. It’s easier to plan activities at home for younger kids, but don’t forget to get them out of the house for some playtime too, at the nearest park, playground, or simply on a walk around town.
Zoos, aquariums, children’s museums, and adult museums with children’s exhibits are all great options at this age, as is hiking with the child in a backpack. If you have a toddler or preschooler living with you over the summer, try enrolling her in a tumbling, music, or other movement or rhythm-based class, and plan get-togethers with other parents that have children the same age.
Ideas for Dads of Teenagers
Your child may want to hide away in his room or he may be easily engaged, and he may act both ways at different times! Don’t expect too much from your teenagers, as it’s natural for them to want to stay at home and avoid activities altogether. Teenagers with younger siblings may be more likely to help or engage in activities with them.
Try movies, sporting events, trips to the mall, bowling, a visit to an amusement park, or even a live show with one of their favorite bands. Invite them to participate in some of the same activities you enjoy in your free time, whether it’s golf, video gaming, or a trip to the gym. Help this age group make friends in your town or neighborhood by getting together with other fathers and teenagers and helping them connect with local kids you already know.