I’m sure I’m just one of the many parents who hugged their kids a little closer on Friday night after hearing about the horror at an elementary school in Connecticut. Perhaps this horrible tragedy will serve as a reminder to cherish the time we have with our children.

During the holiday season, we’re tempted to spend too much time on our iPhones, on the computer, or watching television. Following our example, our kids isolate themselves too. We’re together physically, but no one is having fun. No wonder by New Year’s everyone is ready to get back into the normal routine.

Can I challenge you, parents? Don’t let this holiday season go by without spending time just having fun with your kids. No agenda. Just fun.

My friend, Zach Nielsen, sees in a parent playing with their kids a picture of the gospel. He writes:

I am continually reminded how much our kids need our undivided attention, on their terms, and not ours.  This communicates volumes in terms of humble service which is the essence of the Gospel.

You want your kids to understand the Gospel?  Get on the floor and play with them.  Then when you speak of God coming down and condescending to our weakness they’ll have a picture of loving service to equate it to.

Likewise, Michael Kelley writes about the surprising side effect of playing with your kids:

Who would have ever thought that the main way to mortify my flesh today was playing with my kids?

I play with my kids, and hopefully then have a small notion of the great willingness and desire of God to be with His people. And as for me, playing with them – really playing with them – is another means by which God uses to pry my white-knuckled fingers off my idol of self.

So, dads, can I encourage you with this today? Play with your kids – not only for their sake, but also for yours.

Here are some creative options for playing with your kids this holiday season:

1. Instead of watching a movie, create your own movie story.

In five minutes, organize the toys with your child. Pick out two or three main characters. Always have a superhero waiting in the wings. Use a toy house, a toy jungle, or some lego castle as a backdrop for the action. Have a plane, a rocket, or some mode of transportation. If you need a flood, have blue sheets nearby. Just look at what you’ve got and get ready for a Story. You don’t have to plan the whole story out.

Then, create an iTunes playlist with movie music that you can play in the background. Here’s our favorite five-song playlist for a twenty-minute story:

  1. “The Wardrobe” – from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  2. “Prince Caspian Flees” – from Prince Caspian
  3. “The Aslan’s Camp” – from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
  4. “Battle at Aslan’s How” – from Prince Caspian
  5. Return of the Lion” – from Prince Caspian

The more you use the same playlist, the more familiar you will be with the music. You can anticipate the musical cues, and begin to play with the toys accordingly.

Some of the music is mysterious and filled with wonder. Other parts sound suspenseful and would make good background music to a thrilling chase or battle. The beginning of “Aslan’s Camp” right after “Prince Caspian Flees” is perfect for a stunning entrance from a super-hero to save the day.

My son and I have made these playlists from more than a dozen movies. The music makes the playing much more exciting, and it gives you a creative way of adding drama to the story. Try it. It’s fun.

2. Instead of playing Mario, let your child be Mario.

Set up an obstacle course in your living room. Tell your child the carpet is fire that he can’t touch. Take washcloths and place them in strategic places until there is a path of stones that the child has to jump on as he makes his way through the course. (Ask Mom first, of course.)

Lob plastic balls at him as if they were fire balls keeping him from getting to the end. At the end, give him three pillows, and be the big Bowser that is trying to stop him. He has to hit you three times. You have ammo (pillows) to throw at him too. It’s fun to do this on the sidewalk too, using chalk to create an obstacle course.

3. Build a fort around the couch and chairs in the living room.

Find the best sheets, towels, and pillows you can. Transform your sofa and chairs into a cave. Spend some time underneath the sheets with a flashlight telling ghost stories.

4. Play Hide-and-Go-Seek.

I’m not going to give away my favorite hiding spots in our house, because my son Timothy could stumble upon this blog and discover where they are! I recommend two variations of this game.

In the classic version, more than one person hides at a time. Those hiding can run back to “base” before getting caught.

If you are worried about too much running in the house, you can use the second option – “Sardines.” One person hides and everyone else is on the search team.Whenever someone finds the person hiding, they hide with them and remain quiet. The last person to find the growing number of kids crammed into a closet or hiding behind the couch becomes “it” for the next round.

5. Play Card Games.

Our favorites? In no particular order:

  • Speed
  • Hearts
  • Monopoly Deal
  • Uno
  • I Spy Snap


– Play Board Games.

Some of our favorites:

  • Stratego
  • Battleship
  • The Settlers of Catan (3 or more player)
  • Catan Card Game (2 player)

– Have a Tea Party

Nothing wins a little girl’s heart like a pretend tea party with dear old Dad. Especially if the tea cups have pictures of Disney princesses on them. If you make some real tea afterwards and let her have some with you, she’ll be even happier.

– Falling Off the Boat

Place pillows and bed sheets all around the biggest bed in the house. Then climb on the mattress with your kids and pretend the bed is a big boat. If you want to make it exciting, pretend there are alligators trying to drag you off the bed. The real fun starts when you’re sliding off the bed and grabbing onto your kids’ feet and arms as they try to keep you on board. Next switch places and try to save them as they slide off. Simple, I know. But oh so fun!

What about you?

Let me know some of the ways you play with your kids, and we’ll add them to our list this Christmas!