There are so many ways to be involved with your kids. As a Baba/Dad (and even a mom), we don’t always take the time to find ways to create a memory for them and with them. Creating opportunities for happiness and learning takes place in those extra minutes that you can choose to do whatever ‘floats your boat’ (thats the wife talking again!)
Share your ideas!
- Baba/Kid ‘dates’: You may think it sounds funny. But, I’ve had the best conversations with my 6 year old when I take her for a drive and we just go somewhere and sit and have coffee and juice (no phones, no iPad, just us). Especially if it’s a surprise or very spontaneous – I announce to her momma and her that Saffiya and I are going on a ‘Baba/Monkey date’. There is no one else but us. Because she’s 6 now, I’m thinking of doing an actual dinner date with her (linen napkins and all). Mom can hang with the little one for a bit!
2. Breakfast in Bed: We met some friends of my wife for brunch and we all ended up checking in with the kids into one of the hotels as a treat and had fun swimming and running around. The next morning, I went down with them for breakfast and the wife ordered room service breakfast just her and the girls. They sat and watched cartoons together and at breakfast (in her case, she wanted spaghetti!) and just enjoyed. And, what we thought was a fun weekend for all – the next day when she went to school and her teacher asked her what the best part of her weekend was (what her teacher told us) was ordering breakfast on the bed with mom and watching cartoons.
3. Drop/Pickup from School (regularly): It was just last Thursday I was dropping off Saffiya and some of her friends and moms kept looking at me and smiling (refreshing – finally!). One came over to say hi with her daughter and told her daughter “Wouldn’t it be nice if Daddy brought you to school each day like Saffiyas daddy?” and she answered “Oh please mummy, please ask him.”. Made me feel so good for doing something so small (I thought) and it made Saffiya smile so big and could tell she felt proud!. That made the traffic morning worth it for me. Baba’s, plan to do it one day a week – tell your kids and stick to it. It’s a great feeling!
4) Build a Fort/Tent: One of the things my oldest was learning about was the history or Dubai (“Dubai in the Past”). After explaining about he Bedouin people, their challenges and living in the desert. She decides that building a tent is the best option to explain it to me. We built this tent together – a few chairs, big blankets, carpet, cheese and crackers and her little sister. This few minutes gave her and her sister 2 hours of laughs and a way for her to recap her day at school in a way that worked for her instead of the traditional “how was school today, habibty? ” Have a few minutes to build a tent tonight? #Tod_kids #Gems_me
5) Create a Chore Jar: Our oldest is all about new things. She is spoiled, I give you that. But, she is also being reigned in a bit to understand the value of money. We created a chore jar for her. It’s one of those old glass jars with the suction top. Inside, we put things in there such as : Pickup toys / Write your numbers / Write your alphabet (capital and small) / Play a game with your sister / Put clothes in laundry bin and other little items that were small that she also agreed on and created. With each chore successfully completed, she gets 2aed. She gets to do whatever she wants with that money. There are some days that she does 4 or 5 and some where she does 1. But she knows that if she has her eye on something, she pushes herself (and us) for more chores. What I enjoy about this is that more recently, she has used some of her coins to buy little things from the vending machine at the mall (those little ones that takes coins and you get these cheap little balls and such). It makes her sister so happy and I find that her generosity is genuine. I know it sounds a bit old fashioned but she determines what she wants to make and when. Ofcourse, she still has to do the normal ‘help the family’ kind of stuff. But, she controls her destiny a bit when she gets to control what she makes. The next focus is understanding saving!
6) Take a Drive: Pick a kid (any kid) if you have one old enough to chat with (I find that about 3 is a good age to start) and take that one out for a drive. This isn’t just any drive and it doesn’t cost you any more than the gas you use to drive your car. Let him/her know it’s your time and “Let’s go check out the city (or village, or town, or wherever).” Buckle up and just start driving. No iPad, no music, no headrest-dvd players. Start talking about things like cars, the road, the different signs. In Dubai, we talk about the buildings we can see and how many floors are in the Burj Khalifa or the shape they see of the Burj al Arab. We talk about the metro or the planes passing over head. The topics are endless. And, the great thing is what ends up coming out of it when they start looking and asking questions, “Baba, why is there a metro?”, “Baba, how do people get up in the building so high?”, “What does that sign say?” “Why was my teacher not nice to me today?” “Why does momma pay so much attention to my little sister?” “Why do I have to go to school everyday?” Those first questions lead into things that kids are really thinking about. And if yours are like my oldest, sometimes it takes a lot to ‘peel the onion’ (as my lovely wife would say) to get out what needs to be said. I’ve learned a lot just driving around for half an hour with no errands to run – just driving. You’d be surprised what you will get out of yours.
7) Cafe Ceramique (Jumeirah): Yes, I know it’s something that just about everyone in Dubai does with their kids at some point. But it is a lot of fun. And if you are a Baba, why not let the wife head off shopping and you take the little one(s) and sit and have coffee and share some painting time? It doesn’t take a lot of your time (or your cash/’faloos’). Don’t let your pride take the best of you – there is nothing better than showing up as a Baba with the kids and doing this. The respect you get is there, trust me! And the memory you just created for your kids (because they are going to tell their friends and family that they spent time painting with their Baba) is worth more than the 100dhs you are going to spend. Drop the tech-time and join in the fun!
8) Brunch Anyone? : Now, I know that the infamous Dubai Friday Brunches have a different frame of thought when it comes to spending that Friday afternoon. But, if you are like my wife and I, we do value our time alone but also want our daughters to experience fun as well and they deserve to go out just as much as we do. Friday Brunches don’t need to cost a fortune and they certainly don’t need to mean you are stuck not enjoying yourselves because you are chasing kids. We have found a few great hotels that do awesome brunches and let them ‘roam freely’ or in the case of our 18 month old – they play and watch her like a hawk in the kids area. They have their own kids food section, jumpy castles, pool fun, music and all within close proximity to parents. There are a lot of places more ritzy to go – especially if you have visitors – that have a whole package to watch the kids and keep them busy for 4 hours and you don’t see them at all – or you can go to closer ‘inland’ places like Movenpick Bur Dubai or Grand Millennium and you are always within meters of your kids, they can come back and forth freely, have their own food stations and for once, don’t necessarily need to just sit at the dinner table the whole time – They get some freedom for their own weekend, too! We like both hotels (and no, we aren’t being paid to say this) but we do have an attachment to Movenpick because its closer to us, they handle our 6 year old and 18 month old with great care – and we never spend more than 450dhs for all 4 of us and they have such a great time. What a great way to spend a family day together (especially when it’s hot outside). Go and have brunch!
9) Plan a Science Project (or any project for fun): Work with your kids on how things work. It can be a simple project like we did here with my daughter – What things can float in water? Her toy dinosaur, a rock, a flower, a coin and oil. The conversation was great. The planning of her investigation and what we needed were all things that she planned. And, with the weather becoming better and better in Dubai, sitting outside made it even more fun. It costs almost nothing (the little containers you can pickup at LuLu for around 1AED) and then just get creative. Buy some glitter, let them paint a bit and have enjoy. And don’t forget to capture the pics. Make a collage on their wall to remember what they did.
10) Head off to Cheeky Monkey: We know we’ve all done it in Dubai (especially during the summer or just to get energy out of the kids and give us some peace). But, these places are pretty cool. We like it because it is great for our 6 year old and our 22 month old. This day just happened to be a day she wasn’t in nursery so we had some one to one time together and she was in heaven. The balls and the little mini-city they have for toddlers is great. We like Cheeky Monkey at Etihad Mall – especially during the day in the middle of the week. It’s quiet and not running around like crazy (especially for a small one). It’s not expensive and for 50AED for an hour, it was money well spent for that hour.
11) Go to the park: Dubai has a great variety of parks all over the place. A lot of them are just small ones that people only know about that live around there or by word of mouth. The cool thing is it costs nothing. Running around with the kids on the grass, the good quality of kids equipment and lots of places to just sit and watch them. Whether its a picnic or just a time to relax, it’s great. One of our favourites is making the trek out to the park behind Uptown Mall in Mirdif (attached to Ontario Intl School). It’s so clean, plenty of trees and shade and a ton of grass that they kids can run around in. I also like they have separate playground sections for older ones and smaller ones (great for safety). Again, costs nothing and virtually no effort but creates a great memory for them.
12) Talk about the cost of money: We all go to the store (and you Babas out there – we know you go to the shops – take the kids next time!). Give your kids 20AED. Tell them something that you need to get (in the case of today, we needed a pack of berries). Spinney’s is a cool place because its not as crowded as other groceries but they also have different types of the same thing. In our situation, it varied between organic or regular or from egypt or from the US. She only had 20AED and we had to talk about which one’s she would be able to afford to buy (works well because the 5+ year old kids are working on number lines and more-or-less in school and some berries are more and some are less). This pic was taken by one of the shop guys at Spinneys who thought it was kind of funny seeing the ‘cost’ conversation coming up. It doesn’t take any time and you are there anyway. Start the conversation with them. Next time, we will continue with using their own money to work on costs again (a sore subject with my oldest).
13) Le Petit Palais Dubai Mall: This was a fun day. And because it was a Sunday and seemingly slow for them, a nice offer of 50dhs for the hour which is perfect for a 22 month old. She can wander around the made up french town and buy groceries, look at costumes, have her own house and even do some karaoke. The wife was quite the princess when she saw the pic of our little one pumping her own gas (clearly lived in Dubai long enough!). @LePetitDubai is cleverly situated on the 2nd floor of Dubai Mall and if you go during the week, definitely do it. It was so much watching her go off and do her own thing. Really enjoyed it.
14) Have a BBQ: Whether you grab a few friends, bring their kids or just enjoy with your own kids – we all have to eat. So why not get the family together and have a bbq (or ‘braai’ as my crazy wife likes to call it) and sit around the table and chat. The weather in Dubai is getting better from October in the evenings. As a Baba you can use your ‘fire skills’ and talk to the kids about fire safety, how food cooks, how your ancestors may have cooked food like this or just hang out and talk about nothing and roast a few marshmallows. Another low cost idea to spend time with your kids and still keep up your macho attitude 😉
15) Read a Book: Sounds simple, right? But I can bet that a lot of parents, especially if they are both working, are barely able to get dinner on the table, get through some homework and pop the kids in the shower and bed. Those extra 10 minutes (even 5) just don’t seem to be there. But, when you break it up into bits like 5 minutes – it can mean the difference between loving to read and using their imagination for a lifetime or simply sliding by with the basics and spending more time interested in the iPad than real life. 5 minutes can be all it takes. You don’t need to read and entire book. In fact, small little books for the little ones or like we do with our oldest, its 2 pages (depending on the book) and then lights out knowing that the next night we will continue that story. Hit up some Dr Seuss or the newest trend in books to get kids to sleep “The Rabbit Who Wants to Sleep”. It also starts a conversation about what will happen next. All of us have 5 minutes and if it means 5 less minutes just sitting on the couch, then let it be. You have an opportunity to change your child – you!
16) What is something exciting that will happen to you today?: Seems like a simple question. But have you ever asked your child? Ever realised that their little minds dream and think and wonder? Well, my nutty wife (who I love with everything I am by the way) started asking my daughter this a couple of years ago, every morning, as she was getting her ready for school. Sometimes it was nothing more than “I will see my friend” or “It’s pizza thursday and I’m order pepperoni”. I would listen to them everyday over the last almost 2 years as I was getting our youngest ready and it started to hit me. It was turning into things like “I am going to beat my spelling test!” or “I want to colour the biggest rainbow ever”. In fact, yesterday, she said “When I come home we will all play bingo together, thats exciting, right?”. I realised it was to her. And I liked listening to these conversations. So, I started doing the reverse. When I picked her up from school, I would ask her “What was the most exciting thing that happened to you today?” and it started conversations – sometimes it depended on her mood but everyday, there was something. It didn’t cost me anything more than time doing what my wife and I were already doing. In fact, Friday mornings she would bound into our room as we are trying to get a bit more of a sleep in and she is the one asking us “What is something exciting that will happen to us today?”
17) Leave a message: My wife has always been in charge of making lunches for the kids (and yes, I do help) but she wants that little bit of control :). One thing that she has done from day 1 (coming for her mom in her childhood) is puts notes in the girls’ lunch boxes. Everyday it’s something new. And even when they couldn’t read yet, the post-its were put in hoping the teacher would read it. I now do the same thing (especially if she is out late – I will write in Arabic). If my wife travels, she writes the post-its in advance and leaves them very personalized (“Momma misses you. 2 more sleeps.”). I just simply stick them in each evening. These notes say something different every day from “We love you”, “You are the best!”, “Do great on your test, baby”, “Create a great day!” to a whole list of things to let them know we are thinking of them. When I realized how important these notes were to our daughter was first, year ago, when she came home sad and when I asked her what was wrong, she said “momma forgot my note today”. This tore at my wife because she was travelling and it was all I could do to not have her hopping the next flight back to comfort our daughter. The next was when she came home and asked “Baba, my friends want to know u will write the Arabic lunchie note again”. Well that settled it. Something so simple and took no time at all made a difference to her. Something that anyone can do -make a tradition -put it in lunches, put it on their pillow when they wake up, in their school bag to find it. But make a difference.