When I first got divorced, I felt lost. With my parenting time and money now limited, I had no idea how I was going to be the “everyday dad” I had been to my sons now that we had a visitation schedule. Over the years I have come up with some creative ideas to maximize visitation time with my boys that will work for you, too!
Maximizing Visitation Doesn’t Take Big Bucks
I didn’t want to lose the connection with them just because we weren’t under the same roof. I found some great ways to make the time with my kids count. The best part is none of these will cost you very much. All you need is time and a little bit of imagination. So, here are a few ideas for maximizing visitation with fun and easy activities.
Turn Movie Night Into A Real Theater Experience At Home
In our house, Friday night means movie night. On my weekend with the boys, I pick them up from school, we order pizza and we drink root beer. The boys call it grog (look it up) because of their love of pirates. After the pizza is consumed and the last drop of grog has been slurped down, we begin setting up for movie night.
The key here is to have the kids help set up. Interaction is an important part of maximizing visitation. Assign a kid to set up the seating and another to pop the popcorn and pull out any other special snacks. A few years back I found some cool popcorn containers for a dollar each at a local store. We only use them for movie night.
Creating the Atmosphere
For seating, we like to get all of the pillows and blankets from our beds and lay them on the living room floor. The kids always want it to be as dark as possible, “like a real movie theatre” they say. If you want to go the extra mile with your set up, check out these ideas: How to Make Movie Night More Fun.
Once we’ve all agreed on a movie, I settle down on the floor, right there with the kids. I love being down there and having the kids look for my reaction to a scene or a funny part in the movie. Sometimes we will replay funny parts a couple times, just to laugh again.
Movie night has become something the kids look forward to all week. The boys ask about it as soon as I pick them up.
Try A Backyard Camping Adventure
This is something I did for the first time last summer. We had been talking about camping a lot. They boys really wanted to get outdoors. I didn’t really have the time or resources to get away for a real camping trip. I also wasn’t sure if my youngest son was up for the task.
Remember that maximizing visitation just takes some imagination!
So, I pulled out a large tent and told the boys we were camping in the back yard. Their faces lit up! I had my oldest son help me set up the tent. Something that I admittedly have only done one other time alone. We looked at the directions and talked through the process together. He watched me struggle and make a few mistakes, but eventually we got it together.
It’s really easy to overlook this part of being a dad. Even on a visitation schedule you can find teachable moments. When your kids see you mess up, and see you handle it and not give up, it teaches them a lesson that no lecture could.
When your kids see you mess up, and see you handle it and not give up, it teaches them a lesson that no lecture could.
While we were working on the tent, little brother was searching the yard for sticks to get our fire going. We used a lighter and a store bought bundle of wood to start the fire in our fire pit. I’ve already hinted at the fact that I’m no seasoned outdoorsman. No flint and tinder here!
We roasted hot dogs on the open flames for dinner and had s’mores for dessert. Oh, and of course there was grog!
Stay Up Late Talking
Before it got too dark, I brought the boys’ mattresses from their bunk beds out, for a little extra comfort in the tents. That night we stayed up late and talked about the stars and different constellations.
I told them made up pirate tales which featured the two of them as the heroes. When they finally dozed off, I just watched them sleep for a while. I didn’t sleep well and I woke up with a back ache. But hearing my boys describe the night as “EPIC” to their friends made it all worth it. They can’t wait to do it again.
Let The Kids Design A Menu And Help You Cook
I was talking with my wife (I’m remarried) last week when this idea hit me. The kids are always buzzing around the kitchen whenever we’re cooking. Normally we shoo them away or tell them to go play. I think we’ve missed some opportunities there.
We are going to make up for that! Why don’t we let the kids create a menu made up of all the meals we make regularly? They can design it and take turns choosing what they would like to have for dinner.
This accomplishes a few things. First there’s an art component. My oldest loves to draw, and what kid doesn’t like to color? The bigger payoff with this one is their involvement in family decisions. When they have to think about each meal, it changes their attitude towards dinner time.
I plan to have them help cook the meals they pick too. This way, they will learn what ingredients are involved and they will start to develop valuable life skills. Fun and learning = maximizing visitation!
I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the menu. Stay tuned!
Have A Family Dance Party
In our house we LOVE music. I’m always singing and making up my own lyrics to popular songs. On random nights when I have the boys, we like to have a dance party.
This usually happens when the kids are hyper and it’s too dark or cold for them to play outside. All you need is a Bluetooth speaker, smartphone, and YouTube.
Dad Can Bust a Move!
I have the kids take turns picking songs. My oldest is only 9, but he likes Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5. My youngest likes rap and driving beats. I always have to be careful with those songs, to make sure they are appropriate! Their stepsister loves pop and girl power songs. The youngest, my stepson, is just happy to be bouncing around with the other kids.
Next time we do this, I’m going to take it up a notch and have each of the kids do a lip sync performance of their favorite song. I can hear the laughter now!
Build Your Own Memories and Traditions
These are ideas that suit my family. You might also take some ideas from this article, 10 Creative Ways to Make Time for Your Kids. You will likely come up with your own twist, or even completely unique ideas.
The specific activity isn’t really the important thing. What you want to do is build memories and start your own traditions. Creating these fun times helps to ease the sting of divorce and it gives your kids something to look forward to. Letting the kids help you do everyday tasks like cooking will build their confidence and teach them life skills. Plus, it makes them feel important.
Can you remember a time when you felt like you helped your mom or dad as a kid? It’s a powerful feeling. Maximizing visitation doesn’t have to mean big elaborate plans or expensive trips. You have everything you need right at home. So, start building those memories and watch your kids change right before your eyes.
Have you found affordable ways to maximize visitation? Would you like to see more Dad Can Do ideas? Let us know in the comments below!
For more divorced dad info, be sure to check out Understanding Visitation Rights for Fathers – The Ultimate Guyvorce Guide.
G.D. Wessel hast tips and ideas for the newly divorced dad on things to do with his kids when he’s light in the wallet with When the Kids Are There and Money Is Tight .