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June 29, 2022

Broke Dad’s Guide to Cheap Yet Educational Games After Divorce

At one point in my life, I had little money to spend. But I still had the responsibility to make sure that my daughters enjoyed their time with me. And that brought out my creative juices.
Apart from the need to have fun, they were at an age where play was necessary for them to learn a few things about life.
At that time, I ended up inventing a game or two that cost little to no money. More importantly, I realized what my kids actually needed.
Watch today’s video where I talk about how the simplest of games made some of the best days I've had with my kids.

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My daughters learning to hula hoop:

Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

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After divorcing my daughters' mother, I was pretty broke. I had very little money to my name. And when I walked out, all I left with was my laptop, my clothes, and my books. Felt that with those, I could build a new life 'cause that's essentially what I was going to do. But I had no money. So, it made it really complicated trying to be there for my daughters in a way that mattered because essentially, in life, you need money. However, the point of this video is to let you know that you don't. You don't need a lot of money. In fact, even if you have all the money in the world, you probably shouldn't be spending it on toys and gifts, but instead, focus on giving your kids the attention, love, and affection that they really want. For context, let me let you know just how broke I was. There were many nights where I would personally go to sleep just to avoid feeding myself because I just didn't have the money to go get food. Now that sounds really crazy, but it's true. And if you've ever been in some level of poverty, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. My ego took an even bigger hit because there were weekends where I had to ask the mom to keep them on my weekends because I knew that I didn't have enough money to feed them for that weekend. And that broke my heart because the whole reason for divorcing is so I could spend more time with them, and then I couldn't. And then an even bigger hit to that was I was living at my mom's at one point for a couple of years. As I was rebuilding my life and was starting a business because I quit my job. So you can see, I made a series of decisions back then that, at that point, put me in a position where I had very little money. But I still wanted to give them everything that I could and make it last and make it mean something. So, let's talk about what I was able to do, what games we were able to play that cost little to nothing, and to this day, have impacted them, and they tell great stories about those moments that we played. Let's go. And before we get started, I wanted to make this quick note, and this might be slightly controversial. Children, when they're young, don't know what "expensive" anything means. Maybe when they're teenagers, they may start wanting brand-named stuff and big gaming systems. But when they're little, they have no comprehension or understanding as to what expensive really is. It is us as parents that decided that we wanted to buy our kids expensive gifts because we felt like it would be a good way to show just how much we love them. A lot of us probably do that because we didn't get those toys, and we didn't get those games. So we feel like doing that for our children will demonstrate that we love them. When in fact, it's not necessary. And you might be even doing yourself a disservice by doing that because you're not spending the time. They will be so distracted in whatever game that doesn't involve you, and then that doesn't serve anyone. So, that is the premise for this. Yes, I was broke, but it made it really clear to me that none of that mattered. I just needed to show up, be present, and we could just play with each other and wrestle if we had to. And we did sometimes. We could just play like that. At the end of the day, it's just about playing and being present and that will mean much more than any gift you could get them. But let's get started with the games that I did give them. Number one, Hula Hoops. I'll include a link in the show notes and in the description for this video, depending on where you're watching or listening to this podcast or video, of a video that I created years ago. In one of my first edited videos where I showed us playing with Hula Hoops. Hula Hoops are relatively easy. I still don't know how to Hula Hoop, but they do. But in the video, you'll see them struggling, especially my youngest, she struggled, but she was having so much fun. It forced her to try to figure out how to move her body, both of them, it forces all of us really, to figure out how to move our bodies and keep that Hula Hoop up. That must've been cool. So it's that mind-body connection to be able to do that. It's rhythmic. It's fun. It's engaging. And although they struggled with it at the beginning, both of them went on to win different competitions at school. It's something that they were very proud of being able to do and do well. And it was just because we played it. It was something distracting. It forced them to stop and really try to get it just right. Because there is a rhythm. There's a way to do it. It's a technique, everything involves technique. And that was probably one of the big lessons that I captured, which carries on today.

Which is:

you virtually can learn almost anything in the world as long as you learn the technique to it. Now, will you be the world's greatest? Probably not, but you can be good and you can do it competently. So, Hula Hoops is one of those games that we use to start indoctrinating them on that idea. Two. And, probably one of my favorites, is chalk. We love chalk. To this day, I think we have some somewhere. Back then, we were living in my parents' house, as I mentioned earlier, and we grabbed the chalk and go outside. They had a big driveway. The chalk allowed us to play, to paint all over it. And within a few days, maybe it got rained away or we would just wash it down with some water, no big deal. But we would paint. I say paint, but we chalk. We write all over the floor, the concrete. It was cool, colorful, all types of things. But the thing that I learned at that time was "The best way to learn is to make sure that you involve as many of the senses as possible." Seeing, touching, feeling— all the senses that you can possibly involve in the learning process will help ensure that it sticks. And I've tested this idea with the chalk. I did basically this big adventure through the entire driveway. Just a big squiggly line. But along the path of the driveway.

I did different shapes:

square, rectangle, circle, triangle. Did them all. Did multiple ones. Like a dozen, let's just say. Each one got a number. So various numbers, 1, 2, 3. And they were all colored in different colors. Then what I would have them do is jump into each shape, from one to another and kind of like hopscotch, I guess. You would jump into it. And they had to verbally say what shape it is, what color, and what number. My older one, she got it quickly because she was a little older. My younger one was five. So she struggled a little more. She was still learning all these concepts, but through the process of the chalk and the game that we drew up, she would get it quickly. She got it quickly. And it was the coolest, neatest thing because she jumped into each square. Square, red, five, and then the next one and the next one, and it was a physical act and she had to verbally announce it and she had to see everything, and it really stuck. And, to me, it was one of those really cool games that allowed us to learn other things. And that's what you're gonna find in several of these games that I talk about is that there are lessons. And here's the big thing that has become very clear to me. We all need play in our lives, not just as children, but throughout our life. But as children, we essentially learn just through play. It is an absolute fact. So even when your kids are acting up, especially at an early age, they think they're playing a game. And they have yet to really pick up that they're breaking some rule or they're doing something that you specifically told them not to do, but they're playing. And what I'm doing here is creating game opportunities. And to this day, we try to find opportunities to play. Been reading a book, which I'll include in the show notes, that shows and proves scientifically that as human beings, it's intrinsic in us to play. One, to want to play. And two, that it's in all animals. That it's something that we all want to do as creatures. It's fascinating to understand and to really start to wrap your head around, but knowing that, you should consider doing this, even when they're older. I'll leave you with that and continue. Next. Three. Paper planes. You could probably get paper that was sent to you in the mail. You even don't need to buy paper. It's just grabbing a piece of paper and creating a plane out of it. Folding it into a plane that goes across the air. First time I did this, I actually couldn't recall how to do a paper plane, so I had to Google it. It's all out there. And I got a simple little template for a paper plane. Put it together, showed it to my girls. Oh boy. So fascinated. They were just so happy because the idea of this piece of paper being folded in a certain way and flying across the sky has to be the most fascinating thing for a child. Imagine that. Imagine not knowing that this is possible, and you show it to them. It would take up an entire day worth of play because once you show them that, then they will start tinkering with it and creating their own planes. And that's the fun. The idea of creativity around it and making it a bigger game than it originally started. They will have an evening full of experiences and just a bunch of fun to be had. Paper planes. Four. Frisbees. Frisbees are relatively affordable. You could probably find one for under five bucks. I think the one that I have, still have now and I carry in the car all the time, must've been a little more expensive 'cause it's a better material. It's better made. This particular one I've had for over 10 years This one is going to take a little more time to teach them because not only do you have to teach them how to throw it properly, but you also have to teach them how to catch it. Those are two very different concepts. So this game is going to take up a lot more patience and a lot more practice from you. This is where you, as a parent, as a father, will have to learn how to be patient with your child and break down the elements, the actual technique, and throwing it properly and catching it. This is fundamental, as a father, to make sure you understand because teaching is one and then giving them feedback on how they may be doing it wrong. Picking up on those little things that they're doing with their hand because what's normal is that they'll throw it all crooked. And although funny, they know that they want to get it from themselves to the next person, and this isn't working. So there's some frustration there. There's going to be a lot to manage, but once you break it all down and make it easy, I call it chunking it down. Chunk it down to the most simple, little elements. Like, I would stand one foot away from them and show them how to toss it in a way, with their hand flat for example 'cause the problem inevitably becomes that their wrist is crooked so the Frisbee itself is crooked. But flattening it, tossing it just a foot away, and then building the confidence and getting further and further out. And then also as a dad and as an observer, being able to say, "Oh, the reason that happened, it flew this way is because you released it too late. You released it out here instead of right here." These are really, really important lessons for everyone involved as the parent-teacher, as a thrower, and as the receiver. And then obviously switching roles. But once they get it, over time, because they're not going to get it the first time or the second time, it doesn't matter. It's just fun. They will be frustrated, but they will enjoy it. It starts to become really fun. They start to really understand how to catch things, how to grip, how to time it. It's all like little fundamental motor skills. Right? It's really fun. And take that out, pull that out even further. I've included football. I have two daughters, so I grabbed a football, and I started tossing it with them. And my older one can really throw well. I've written about this in the past. She can throw a really tight spiral, and she surprises the boys all the time because she knows, and she loves football, too. My younger one doesn't really care for it, but what's impressive and surprising even to her is that when the football is thrown at her, and there's been a couple of times we've gone out and she forgets, she doesn't really want to play anymore. She's older. She's like, "I don't want wanna play football. I don't want to toss around the football." However, when we throw the football at her, she would catch it. Oh! And it was the neatest thing to watch because she swears that she doesn't even realize how she was doing it. But it's because Frisbee started to teach her how to time things and how to use her hands and gave her those motor skills and the confidence. To me that's what it's all about. It's building confidence in multiple different contexts that allow them to continue to grow and not feel intimidated around boy things in this example. Throwing the Frisbee is something that allowed us to create those opportunities and create those learnings that to this day still benefit them. So somebody throws something at them, chances are they're gonna be able to catch it or at least move out of the way because they understand catching, throwing, being mobile, and being able to use their hands to keep things from hitting them in the face. All right. Number five. This one is one that... it's timeless. It's so cheap, and we can do it without even buying any, right? Bubbles. Give a kid bubbles, and they will be entertained for hours. Give a bunch of kids bubbles, and they will be entertained for hours, as well. Give it to their friends. And they're gone. I used to buy big bubbles, little bubbles. Right now. I have these, I still have them. And I'll tell you why in a second. Bubbles, there's no real learning lesson, they're just fun, entertaining, and they will be distracted for hours if you let them. And the funniest thing about it is that regardless of any age, people will be entertained. Let me tell you what I mean. My oldest daughter just graduated last year. We threw a party, and I insisted that we had to have bubbles at every table. 'Cause that's what Dad wanted. And it was the coolest feeling to look up and see everyone playing with them throughout the night. Obviously, the kids were having a blast, but so were the adults. Bubbles are just fun, and it's an easy way to really just keep people engaged. Keep them distracted. A little bit. And just have fun. So if you're ever in a pinch and don't know what to do with kids or at a party, and you just want to keep them entertained, give them bubbles. Now there is a chance that they're probably going to spill it. So that's going to happen, but whatever, it's not a big deal, just have fun with it. Actually looking back and thinking like, in the bathroom, as a kid, I would like make bubbles and blow them. Like that's, I think part of the subconscious thing that goes on is that we've always played with bubbles, and you don't need to buy these. You can do it with just some simple soap. But it is cool when you get these or you can get those really big ones and you run around and create these big bubbles. Kids love that. It's just so neat to think that out of, I guess this is what it is, right? It's that you're creating this bubble out of whatever water is there. As you run through the air, you blow in it. Bubbles are a really, really cool game. These are some of the games that we played. Being poor forced me to look for these types of games and has paid dividends to this day. You don't have to be poor. Frankly, even if I had more money then, I hope that I would have discovered that wasn't going to be the way to actually keep my kids engaged and entertained. If you strip away the various toys and games that you could get them, even at a really cheap cost. Almost some of them are nothing. You will find the common denominator is you. You as a parent. You being present, you being involved and giving them the attention that they desire and playing with them. That to me is the most important element of all this. Even when playing with bubbles, which can keep them distracted, it's going to mean so much more if you're there with them blowing bubbles. It's that time, affection, and attention that they need from you that will make the most significance and will have the most impact on their lives. Thank you for listening to my latest podcast. Really appreciate you taking the time. Hopefully, you're able to get some things out of this that could benefit you as a father, as a parent. Make sure that you leave us a review or subscribe on whatever channel that you may be listening on. And until next time, buh-bye.