As a dad, I try to spend as much quality time with my little daughter as I can; play with her, read books, watch cartoons and learn new things together.
Every time I come home after a hard day at work, I know that she can hear me even before I touch the door handle. As soon as I open the front door she runs to hug me, saying “Daddy, daddy, daddy”! I kneel, put my arms around her and kiss her. It’s a moment I’m waiting for every day. One of the best things ever in my life. I’m sure many fathers would agree. My Mina is almost two, she can say only a few words (dad, mom, grandma, grandpa, “ba” for ball, “ma” for small babies and dolls, and similar things), but her eyes, her small hands around my neck and her smile mean to me more than anything in this world. All of a sudden I’m not tired and worried anymore. My little angel makes all the problems go away. So, when we get together in the afternoon, “Dad and daughter” time starts
Unfortunately, I have only a few hours in the morning and in the evening to spend with Mina. The time flies so quickly, I can tell you that. Still, I try to use these precious moments in the best possible way so that we can play, learn, read, have fun and laugh together.
When I was a kid, children spent most of their time outside, playing with ball, dolls or just running around. However, the situation has drastically changed nowadays, since modern technology has become inevitable part of our lives and lives of our children. Today’s kids are fast learners and their technological know-how very quickly outstrips our own. They are becoming computer-literate before they have even started primary school. Not to mention “techno-babies” who can handle an iPad before they’ve mastered how to tie their shoes. This is the case with my daughter as well, though I can’t stop wondering how a 20-month old child could have learned to use my Windows phone so quickly. She knows how to switch it on, find the folder with the videos, and press the PLAY button. So, we often take a seat in our cozy brown armchair and enjoy watching the clips from the New Year performance when we were waiting for Santa to show up and bring her presents. We also watch videos of us playing in the park, swinging, kicking the ball, etc. In time I got used to the fact that we have to watch the same video for six or seven times in a row.
Toddlers love repetition because that’s the way they learn best. Listening or watching something many times helps them remember information and it improves their memory. Toddlers also repeat activities for the sheer joy of mastering something. Once they have learned to put a puzzle together, for example, they may want to do it over and over just to enjoy their new skill. Repetition is their way of reminding themselves of what they can do and enjoying that excitement of completion all over again. Finally, they love repetition because it brings familiar and comforting things.
One of our top father-daughter activities is reading books together. We have already built a library of beautifully illustrated titles for children, and we are constantly adding new ones to it, though we are running out of shelves to place all these books. Currently we read various picture books with short stories about animals, boys and girls and their families, such as “Open the Little Windows”, a book series by Emanuela Busollati, or “I Love You Little One”, by Marco Campanella.
“Once upon a time, there was a little ostrich who loved playing ball games in the garden. However, one day, he broke his grandmother’s window, because he kicked the ball too hard. His grandma reproached him, saying that he should be more careful next time when playing outside”. This is the story we enjoy reading at least four times every day. In fact, we read and act out the story simultaneously. We do the same things as the main characters, sympathize with them if they are sad, or share their happiness. We repeat their hand-waving, telling “No, no, you should not be doing that”, or “Bravo, that’s my girl, you did a great job”. Sometimes, it’s pretty hard for me to concentrate and read with the same enthusiasm the same story for so many times in a row. However, seeing happy face of my little one, eagerly waiting to see what will come next, as if she is not familiar with the plot, gives me the energy. More importantly, I believe every parent should try to instill love of reading in their children, as they can only benefit from it later in life. I was shocked when I heard that, according to a recent survey, less than two percent of people in Serbia read books.
The benefits of reading start with the first book a baby sees and hears, it continues into childhood and throughout the child’s life. There are many reasons why reading is so important. In the first place, reading improves concentration and teaches children about the world around them. It enriches a child’s vocabulary and leads to more highly-developed language skills. In addition, reading helps them develop their imagination. Parents have the power to boost children’s learning potential by simply making books an integral part of their lives. Finally, reading will bring you and your child closer together.
We love to dance, chase each other around the flat and play peek-a-boo as well. My daughter is also very fond of music. She often takes a small plastic microphone and performs her “latest hits”. In addition, she adores songs for children and nursery rhymes on Baby TV. We often search for them on Youtube, where we can listen to our favourite ones more than once. The top 2 are “Kalinka Dancing Animals”, and “Greek Dancing Rabbit and Squirrel”, which make her dance just like the animals from the songs. Most of the songs we listen are in English, which is not our mother tongue. Therefore, getting exposed to other languages is beneficial, just as reading. Mina also likes spinning in circles and playing “Ring around the Rosy”. I wonder how so much spinning doesn’t make her dizzy. I can’t stand such activity for too long and usually after two circles I have to sit down. However, I’ve heard that parents should encourage their children to spin, as spinning enhances memory, restores self-regulation and improves focus.
At some point of our “daddy-daughter time”, we travel into the world of toys. She is the captain of that boat, while I’m more than glad to fulfill all the tasks of a sailor. We dress her numerous Barbie dolls in shiny dresses and there are plenty of high-heel shoes, boots and other accessories to go with. However, this is just the beginning. We move on to play with Maya the Bee, her friends (it took us months to collect them all), and her Bee-hive with mini slides and mini swing. We try to make all the characters stand still next to each other (and Paul is always the clumsiest one who crushes all the figures around him, making us laugh). When it’s cold outside, we are forced to play with our two favourite balls (smaller version of the Adidas Brazuca and the orange one) inside the house, careful not to break or destroy anything. We try not to restrict our child to gender oriented toys, so she is free to play with dolls as well as with balls and the construction set, toys traditionally intended for boys.
Then comes another type of play: taking a plastic dog toy on a leash for a walk, along with a ladybug wooden push toy. Mina always chooses to play with the dog, and daddy gets the ladybug (which brings a pain in my back, as it’s hard for a grown-up man to pull such a small toy. Speaking of toys, I’m not happy with the fact that our daughter already has piles of them. Â No matter how much my wife and I tried to prevent this from happening, it’s simply impossible to fight against grandparents, friends and relatives who buy her something new every time they come to visit us. Thus, we have decided to divide the toys into two large boxes and put them into different places in the flat .We replace them from time to time to make sure that the child won’t get bored playing with the same toys over and over again. We also teach her to be grateful for what she has and to enjoy playing with every single thing. Making your home into a big toy store can have negative effects. Children may become spoiled, always craving for something bigger and better which is surely not what we want for our kids.
These are just some of entertaining and educational activities we enjoy every day. How do you spend time with your little ones during the cold winter months? What do you teach your children? Share with us your stories and ideas.