A playground can be a scary place. And we don’t mean in the sense of children falling off monkey bars or sliding down hot metal slides. No, we suggest that a playground can be an intimidating place as a dad.
In the past decades, it has been more socially acceptable for moms to take their kids over to the playground for playtime. Nowadays, more and more dads are staying home with their children or sharing the out-of-home workload and the at-home workload with the mom. Because of this, dads are most likely taking their kids to a park to play.
Are you a nervous, lonely dad who stands on the fringes at the playground while your kids play and the moms around you talk and laugh with each other? You don’t have to be that dad. You’re not the only dad at the playground. But perhaps you’ve just been focused on the weirdness of being there, and not knowing what to do, you haven’t even looked around to see the dads. They are there, though. And they probably feel similarly.
We’re here to help all you dads with that awkwardness. Here are a few things you can do to better connect with the other dads at the playground:
Easy Steps to Connect
Introduce yourself: That sounds super simple, we know. However, in our busy society today, people are prone to keeping to themselves. And with the invention of the phone many moons ago, it’s super easy to be amidst people but not interacting with them, unless you are familiar with the other person, of course.
If you happen to see another male figure standing there awkwardly at the playground while his kids play with their friends, be brave, and go up to meet him. It might be a tad awkward at first, but you’ll be glad you did it, and he will probably be happy you did it too.
By introducing yourself, you not only will make friends, but you’ll also be showing your children a great example of how to make friends. Sometimes youngsters, especially shy ones, can struggle with finding out how to join a group of kids and get to know them. However, if your child watches you introduce yourself and shake the hand of another father, they could quite possibly start mimicking you.
Ask Questions: Sometimes, you don’t even have to introduce yourself before a conversation can begin. An excellent method of connecting with an individual is by asking questions.
Some people tend to be full of themselves. Those types of people aren’t the greatest for communication. Don’t be that person. A dad will want to engage in a conversation with you if you ask friendly questions. That will show him that you genuinely want to get to know him, not just talk about yourself. Plan ahead with a few good questions like the following:
- How many kids do you have?
- How long have you lived in the area?
- Are you a stay at home dad or here on your day off?
- What other activities do you like to do with your kids?
Create or Join a Playgroup
Now we know what you’re thinking: What kind of father is part of a playgroup? How unmanly can you get?
Humble yourself. Let go of that ego that says joining a playgroup is not for men. It will be worth it. Trust us. Playgroups, even play dates, are not just for mothers. They’re for both parents. It’s pretty common.
How to find one, you may ask? Look online, on apps, and in your phonebook. Playgroups are all over the place. We’re huge fans of City Dads Group. With this organization, you’ll be sure to find a playground in your area. If there isn’t one to be a part of, why not make one yourself?
Once you’ve created it or joined it, go out and find other fathers, a coworker or other dad you know, to participate and be a part of your group. Remember how you felt being the loner dad. Take a day with your kids and find other dads. Post about it on social media, a flyer or billboard; whatever it takes to get other dads connected.
Translation: bring your own food! Most likely, the dads at the playground were rushing to get their kids ready and forgot to eat before leaving. And a way to a man’s heart is definitely food.
Whether you bring snacks like chips and salsa or a full meal to grill at the nearby pavilion, food is a great way to connect with other dads. The smell of grilled hot dogs or recently purchased pizza will bring all the starving dads your way. They’re probably tired of Cheerios and pretzels anyway.
Be a Gamer
Dads sometimes get bored at playgrounds if their kids are old enough to play on their own. Bring a game of sorts (frisbee, soccer, corn hole) to play on the grass next to the play equipment and invite some dads to play with you. If you’re on the more nerdy side, you could even bring a board game to play at a picnic table.
Another great idea is to play a game with your kids, like football or kickball, and invite dads AND their kids to come join in on the fun. That connects the whole family (minus the moms who are working or getting a well-deserved break, thanks to you, awesome dad).
Being a father isn’t an easy task. The best aid in fatherhood is a support system around you. This community of friendships and adult interaction is essential, and there should be no guilt in wanting that connection with other fathers.
It might seem more natural to stay by yourself at the playground while your kids play rather than trying to connect with other dads, but in the long run, connecting with other dads is genuinely vital. Being part of a dad’s group will help you feel human again.
We hope that we’ve taken some of your fear and apprehension away from being a playground dad. Take our advice and use our steps and you’ll be sure to start connecting with other dads at the playground very quickly.