5 Dad-Approved Vacation Activities You Can Do At Home

Vacations, for the time being, are… different. We’ve had to change our plans for family gatherings, vacations and trips to our favorite destinations. If you had to scrap your family Florida road trip or getaway, and haven’t yet rescheduled, don’t worry: staying home doesn’t have to mean sticking to the status quo. 

To help you bring a little bit of that Florida spirit to a stay-cation, here are five Dad-Approved Florida activities you can do without leaving your house.

Miniature Golf 

What you need: one putter, wiffle golf balls, an understanding spouse.

It doesn’t matter what vacation spot you hit with your family, there’s almost definitely a mini-golf course nearby. To recreate this essential vacation experience, use paper towel tubes, cereal boxes, etc. to create – right in your home – anything from a basic putting green to an elaborate 9-hole escape throughout your home.  Bonus points if you spruce it up with some drawings and artwork beforehand.

Note: Definitely get the wiffle golf balls if your kids are…let’s say “enthusiastic.” 

DIY Disney 

What you need: a TV, some big boxes or a laundry hamper, and some Disney memories

Doing Disney at home is doable. In fact, there’s already a blueprint on how to do it. 

You can easily find first-person videos of your favorite Disney attractions online. And, with a cardboard box, a little muscle, and maybe some well-timed water splashes, you can recreate the magic for your toddler – without the height restrictions. 

Ocean Soak 

What you need: a kiddie pool, sunglasses, a phone with a white noise app

This one’s maybe more for you and Mom. Soaking in the ocean has a healing property, spiritually if not actually medicinally, and you can come *this close* to replicating it at home. Fill up a kiddie pool, throw some shades on, crank up the volume of your Ocean Waves #7 on your favorite white noise app, and  let your troubles float away.  Want it even more authentic? All it takes is a little yacht rock and some cold beverages to make any backyard a beach party. 

DIY Daytona International Speedway 

What you need: those boxes/laundry baskets from #2, lower body strength, and a checkered flag…. or, like, a flannel shirt, even.

The thrill of being at Daytona is hard to match, but what if instead of watching a race, you could get into the action? Bring back the giant boxes or laundry baskets from DIY Disney, and add some construction paper coloring/graphics to spruce up your race cars. 

Go the extra mile by moving some furniture to the center of the room to create a true “speedway.”

Bathtub Shark Fishing 

What you need: magnets, towels, string, and a broom or other rod. 

You might not be able to hit the ocean for quality bonding time, but that doesn’t mean your kid can’t bring in a great  catch.

Use your arts and crafts skills to create a variety of toothy terrors, affixed with some magnets you can find at any hardware store. Place more magnets on the end of the string attached to your makeshift rod. After you cast your line comes the best part of teaching your kid to fish: “resting” your eyes and saying “it’s all about patience.”

The past year has changed the way we relax, but it’s not permanent. But what doesn’t change is the ability to make fun memories with your kids. You don’t have to go to Florida to be in that sunshine state of mind. Find ways to bring your staycation to the next level at VISITFLORIDA.com.

This post was sponsored by:
VISIT FLORIDA

Peter Dinklage Is Becoming a Superhero in ‘The Toxic Avenger’ Reboot

Peter Dinklage Toxic Avenger
(Getty/Jeff Kravitz/Troma)

‘Game of Thrones’ star Peter Dinklage is slated to star in the ‘The Toxic Avenger’ reboot that was recently announced. It won’t be Dinklage’s first appearance in a comic book movie, naturally, as he did guest star in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ as Eitri, the Dwarf King who helps Thor make his battle axe. This time, though, Dinklage will be the star.

Dinklage is a gem of an actor. He was truly terrific in Game of Thrones as Tyrion Lannister (no matter how you feel about that final season), and also in just about everything else he’s ever done (even his Entourage cameo!). While we’d love to see Dinklage do even more movies with Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa (they do have one coming!), this sounds like a great role for him.

For those unaware, ‘The Toxic Avenger’ is neither a Marvel nor a DC superhero, which makes it unique just for that. The 1984 movie was closer to a B-movie than high art and that was sort of the point. It was a superhero parody, and went heavy on the common tropes, while also integrating some themes about environmental issues.

The backstory is pretty basic; a physically unimpressive janitor falls into toxic waste and emerges disfigured but with super strength. Then there’s the requisite crime-fighting, big boss battle, etc etc. While not Earth-shattering at the time of its release, the Toxic Avenger did go on to become something of a cult classic, with several sequels.

Some have described Toxic Avenger as a cross between Deadpool and Spider-Man and while that sounds like wishful thinking, Dinklage is an outstanding choice for a role like that.

It’s not the Avengers we know and love, but all it needs to be a hit is Dinklage and Avenger.

These Health Kits Help You Get Your Groove Back

vault
Vault

Remember when we used to wake up and get out of bed and our body didn’t mysteriously hurt for no reason whatsoever? Or when we could stay energized all day long with just one cup of coffee? (#tbt) We could go on, but you get it, and probably don’t need to relive it. As we get older, life gets…more rickety. But luckily, there’s a solution. Multiple solutions, actually, based on your concerns.

Vault Health offers health kits that can help with energy, focus, fitness, and libido. The Brain, Body, and Sex Kits provide personalized health and wellbeing care that actually works.

The Brain Kit

If you find yourself losing focus, easily getting anxious, or forgetting simple tasks or details, the Brain Kit is designed to combat all of the above problems. It includes a vital peptide called semax (which has been shown to fight cognitive decline, dementia, and sometimes even brain injury), which increases production of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), and that amplifies brain cell production and creates a barrier to keep brain cells from dying. It also includes other natural supplements such as Ashwagandha and Schisandra will help keep stress and anxiety at bay. The Brain Kit can help with overall focus, mood, and creativity. 

Get your work done, hang with the kids, and still have brain power left at the end of the day to actually stay up (!!!) and do date night with your partner, or even get through a few chapters. Like ye olde days.

The Body Kit

It used to be that dragging our limbs to the gym was the problem. Now it’s finding the energy and stamina to just get out of our office chair. With the stresses of 2020, you’re not the only one who’s deprioritized gym time, and maybe you’re really starting to feel that difference. The Vault’s Body Kit will help by providing you with science-backed growth hormone-releasing peptides CJC-1295 and Ipamorelin at-home injections. The process is super safe, physician-approved, and effective. You’ll get the energy you used to have to go for a run, do weight training, and this kit will also help increase muscle mass and lose body fat.

The Sex Kit

If you’re overhearing, “It’s okay, it happens,” we have a solution for you: The Vault’s Sex Kit. The Vault’s medical team created this kit to solve super common issues in the bedroom; the two treatments include oral supplements containing tadalafil and apomorphine. Tadalafil increases blood flow, and apomorphine helps the brain stimulation of erections. The second treatment is a dose of oxytocin, which is a bonding hormone. Basically, it’ll get you in the mood and ready to perform and help you stay in the mood. Great success!

**If you have any of the following conditions, we don’t recommend you try these supplements and treatments, or see your healthcare provider before starting**

-Diabetes

-Active cancer (i.e. cancer that has not been cured yet or is in remission)

-Congestive heart failure or poorly controlled hypertension

Some side effects include:

-With CJC-1295, some people can experience joint pains, increased intensity of dreams, numbness or tingling in extremities.

-Ipamorelin can cause headaches, nausea or aches and pains in the joints.

-Ibutamoren can cause an increase in appetite.

Scientific studies have shown the efficacy of these medications for the indications we recommend them for, however every individual is different and may not be an appropriate candidate for every treatment. That is why at Vault, we have you speak with a men’s health specialist before confirming your order.

After receiving your kit, Vault clinicians are available to you with questions or concerns. If you feel the medication isn’t working, your Vault provider may recommend you try them multiple times or adjust your dose or try taking them at different times.

Check out more at Vault Health.

Why Dads Are Awesome at Playing with Dolls

©2020 Mattel
Post written in partnership with Barbie®

Not all dads grew up playing with dolls, but it’s never too late to start an activity that offers them a chance to bond with their little ones in fun, creative ways that can aid their child’s development. According to an October 2020 study from Cardiff University in collaboration with Barbie®, doll play activates brain regions that allow children to develop social processing skills like empathy. These findings show us that doll play can enable children to rehearse, use and perform these skills, which are not only going to benefit them now, but also helps to set them up for future success. Every parent wants their child to grow up to be the best version of themselves they can be, and it all starts with empathy. By playing with Barbie dolls with their kids, dads can help foster this development in their children and have a whole lot of fun doing it. Let’s take a look at some of the ways dads are amazing at playing with dolls.

You’re Already an Expert

Many dads spent their childhoods involved in the same kind of imaginative play as doll play, just with soldiers, action figures, or miniature cars. Playing dolls with kids uses the same creativity and imagination, and you can even incorporate lasers and dinosaurs.

Fresh Perspectives

You’re never too old to try something new. Playing with your child and Barbie dolls offers dads a fun way to bond and create fun adventures! Go on an intergalactic space journey with mermaid Barbie on her magical DreamCamper™, while making friends with space aliens who only eat marshmallows! Let your imagination run wild, and sit back and observe where your child’s mind goes. This experience gives you a glimpse into how they think, and you’ll create goofy memories that will last a lifetime as your child’s brain enjoys the benefits of doll play.

Teachable Moments

Playtime can be a great way for dads to instill some life lessons in your little one. Ask your child if you can join in and let them take the lead. As you role-play with your assigned Barbie doll, infuse some parenting into doll play. For example, if you and your child are pretending you’re at the beach and it suddenly starts to rain, suggest a fun way to make the most of it! Since doll play can help foster empathy, using dolls to overcome adversity and setbacks can become a valuable tool in your child’s development.

All the Feels

Playing with Barbie dolls can be a great way for kids to express their feelings which is pivotal to developing empathy. Sometimes, it may be challenging for children to verbalize how they’re feeling. However, through doll play, they’re able to act it out and work through the different emotions, allowing you to assist them in the process. By playing together, dads and kids can explore their feelings through role-playing exercises where everyone feels safe and secure.

Exploring New Horizons

Parents desire for their children to grow up in a world built on kindness and compassion, and Barbie dolls can be a great tool to start fostering that from an early age. According to Dr. Sarah Gerson, the neuroscientist who led the study at Cardiff University, “Dolls like Barbie offer a wide expanse of diverse characters and add-ons like professional roles and uniforms (a judge, a football player, or a doll in a wheelchair), that can help children identify with and imagine an infinite range of scenarios.” Introducing new dolls to playtime with different skin tones, genders, and abilities, exposes children at an early age to diversity, and teaches them about inclusivity in an age-appropriate way they can understand. Since doll play activates the brain region related to empathy even when kids play by themselves, dads can help children develop better versions of themselves even when they’re not actively playing together.

Even though some dads might now have grown up playing with dolls, this research shows that it’s never been a better time to start and challenge yourself to something new. By playing with Barbie dolls, you can help your kid develop into an empathetic, kind leader as they grow older.

You can check out more findings from the Cardiff University and Barbie study here.

Study was commissioned by Barbie (2020). Study was conducted with 42 children (20 boys and 22 girls) ages 4-8 years old with full data captured from 33 children.

This post was sponsored by:
Barbie®

Why Doll Play is Better Than Screen Time for Kid Development and Parent Sanity

©2020 Mattel
Post written in partnership with Barbie®

Let’s face it: It’s really hard to limit our kids’ screen time these days. From remote learning, apps, and an endless stream of new TV shows, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens. While some screen use is certainly necessary from an educational and entertainment standpoint, taking play offline, specifically playing with dolls, like Barbie®, has been shown to have scientific benefits for childhood development that you can’t get from looking at a screen. Barbie and neuroscientists from Cardiff University have collaborated on a new study that shows how doll play activates brain regions that allow kids to develop social skills like empathy, indicating that doll play enables children to rehearse, use and perform these skills. Additionally, the findings also show that doll play allows children to develop empathy and social processing skills more so than solo tablet play, even when playing by themselves. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why doll play beats the screen when it comes to your child’s development. Oh, and you know, keeping your own sanity because that’s important too.

Doll Play Helps Develop Conflict Resolution Skills

You may have noticed that with everyone home all the time, things can sometimes get a bit testy. Shows and games can provide a welcome distraction, but in most cases, they don’t teach us much. However, by playing with dolls like Barbie, kids can develop empathy that serves them not only in these uncertain times, but also helps to set them up for future success as they grow and develop in life. For example, if your child isn’t getting along with one of their siblings, they can use dolls to role-play and figure out a fun, playful way to work out their problems. So when Mom and Dad don’t have the bandwidth to settle another dispute, see if Barbie dolls can help your kids come to an agreement through the power of play!

Dolls Help Kids Feel Connected

Recess and playdates have certainly taken on a different form in 2020 and for kids that can be a major bummer. When your kid is feeling isolated, the whole family feels the strain. Barbie dolls can be a great tool to replicate real-world play patterns when the option of doing it in-person isn’t always on the table. According to Dr. Sarah Gerson, the neuroscientist who led the study at Cardiff University, “This play allows them to think about how their friend could be feeling (perhaps sad they can’t see each other) and how they might react (comforting that friend).” In the age of social distancing, Barbie dolls can help kids develop key skills they could be missing out on.

Dolls Can Give Parents A Welcome Break Too!

Who said kids should have all the fun? Parenting is a constant juggling act these days, and sometimes you just need to feel like a kid again. When you’re sick of virtual meetings and tired of having your work face on all day, take a play break with your little one. Get down on the floor, get creative, and let your imagination run free! Doll play is an especially fun way for parents and kids to bond because so much of it is created by the two of you in the moment: You and your kid can steer the session towards the interests and inside jokes that are most important to the two of you.

Did Somebody Say No Buttons and Passwords?

Even with parental controls, there’s no surefire way to make sure your screens are totally kid-proof. Doll play, however, is totally offline and carries no risk of your child ordering 100 packs of crayons with the click of a button. Your credit score will certainly be happy. Seriously though, by playing with Barbie dolls, young ones can unplug and let their inner kid run wild as they activate the regions in their developing minds that develop empathy.

Dolls Give Us A Look Inside Our Child’s Mind

The brain region related to empathy development is even activated when kids play with dolls by themselves, so encourage kids to play solo too! When kids play by themselves, they often voice different characters in role-play scenarios. We’re not saying you should spy on your kids, but listen in a little bit and see what kinds of things they like (or dislike) when their mind roams free with Barbie dolls. Staring at a screen is a passive activity, but doll play is the opposite. It can give parents valuable insight into the minds of their kids.

Whether it’s working on more serious matters like conflict resolution or just taking a play break yourself, doll play carries numerous benefits that you can’t get when the screen is shining bright in your kid’s face. By playing with Barbie dolls, kids can become even more empathetic than previous generations and that might just be the biggest benefit of all.

You can check out more findings from the Cardiff University and Barbie study here.

Study was commissioned by Barbie (2020). Study was conducted with 42 children (20 boys and 22 girls) ages 4-8 years old with full data captured from 33 children.

This post was sponsored by:
Barbie®

Mario Kart Event Recap: The Dad Gaming League, Sponsored By Planters

(The Dad Gaming League)

Hey gamers. We did it. AGAIN. We’ve completed the second event for The Dad Gaming League, which we couldn’t have done without our sponsor, Planters.

We had 200+ people sign up for the Mario Kart event, which is outstanding!

Thank you to all the racers who showed up to the track, and shout out to our streaming hosts, Joel and Bayesic.

On September 18, we ran private tournaments for three categories. Battle Mode (6 battles), 150cc (12 races at high speed), and 200cc (12 races at ludicrous speed), streamed on The Dad Gaming’s Twitch channel.

We invited the top 12 of both the 150cc and 200cc categories back for the Grand Finals and the results were decisive, to say the least! Your 2020 The Dad Gaming League champion Mario Kart-er is: Mc (Brad McCaffrey).

We gave away prizes for the top three racers in ALL categories. As always, in the spirit of casual dad gaming, we also gave away a handful of random prizes, prizes to the first and last place racer in the first race with Joel (in both 150cc and 200cc), and possibly even some other surprise winners!

Prize winners are getting an epic loot box, with an official The Dad Gaming esports jersey and delicious Planters snacks. (First and second place in the Grand Finals also get $100!)

Congratulations to the champ, Mc, and all of the prize winners!

This was so much fun, everyone brought their A game and we saw some fantastic racers out there on the track.

Our next event is Super Smash Bros on October 9. Sign up now at thedadgaming.com. Then we have Rocket League (November, go here for a great Rocket League primer!), Apex Legends (December), and more!

If you have suggestions or ideas on how we can continue making these events better, we’d love to hear them. Email [email protected]. The Dad Gaming community is the best.

Squad up. Join The Dad Gaming FB group and Discord. Follow The Dad Gaming on Twitch, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Mario Kart Results

Battles:

12. 1genxer

11. TootLaRoo

10. M.A.T.

9. Solace

8. TJ

7. Matthew

6. Bayesic

5. MickyWinz

4. ElRey

3. SharkBait

2. Kaokoo333

1. Mc

 

150cc:

12. MickyWinz

11. Snock73

10. Kristie517

9. TootsLaRoo

8. Hunna

7. Josh

6. CampBean

5. SharkBait

4. GmrDad

3. Bayesic

2. MrTeets

1. Mc

 

200cc:

12. TootsLaRoo

11. Hunna

10. ElRey

9. Trey

8. thedadJOEL

7. Rhino

6. Kristie517

5. GmrDad

4. Bayesic

3. SharkBait

2. Mc

1. MickyWinz

 

Grand Finals – 150cc:

12. Ruben

11. CampBean

10. Snock73

9. GmrDad

8. MrTeets

7. TootsLaRoo

6. SharkBait

5. Hunna

4. Kristie517

3. MickyWinz

2. Bayesic

1. Mc

 

Grand Finals – 200cc:

12. Ryan’s Dad

11. GmrDad

10. ElRey

9. thedadJOEL

8. Hunna

7. TootsLaRoo

6. Kristie517

5. Rhino

4. MickyWinz

3. SharkBait

2. Bayesic

1. Mc

This post was sponsored by:
Planters

You Can Pre-Order This 1,000-Piece LEGO Version of Baby Yoda

Baby Yoda LEGO
(LEGO Group)

We are a little more than a month away from The Mandalorian returning gracing our beloved screens. But if that’s not enough for you, LEGO Star Wars has announced a special set featuring the true star of the show. That’s right, you’ll be able to build your own LEGO Baby Yoda and it gets released on October 21st (a week prior to the season 2 debut.)

Season 2 of the blockbuster hit for Disney already looks to be pretty badass, and we know much of the season will revolve around Din finding The Child’s home planet. Yes, this is the part where we say he’s not really a baby version of Yoda, but he is “The Child,” a young version of whatever the heck Yoda’s species is. Some people can be really annoying about this distinction, but come on, everyone knows what you’re talking about when you say Baby Yoda.

And just look at how adorable this LEGO creation is.

The 1,073 piece set known as the LEGO Star Wars “The Child” construction set is available for pre-order now. Like the show about our favorite bounty hunter, the playset won’t be released until October 30th. The Baby Yoda set has a posable head, movable ears, and an adjustable mouth, which means it is a must-have for all Mando fans.

A design manager at LEGO Star Wars said they aimed to “capture the charm, and above all, the cuteness of the character.” Nailed it. The set also comes with a miniature toy version of The Child.

You can pre-order it now, right here.

Awkward Pics Make Better Memories: A Defense Of School Picture Day

A Series of Pictures of the writer, from early school pics to today.

I am going to share with you something that is deeply, profoundly personal. It’s something I had buried years ago in my mind. I wanted to physically bury all copies of this relic at one point, but my mom wouldn’t allow it. Long story short: I’d forgotten about this, but in the days of social media, none of us are safe from our parents finding dark artifacts from the past and sharing them with the world. Brace yourself. Here is what I saw when I checked my notifications this morning.

Awkward School Pic of kid with glasses in front of a digital star field

….Oh….oh Jared…What happened here? Well, the year was 199…1(?), and it was school picture day. Now, there’s plenty to dissect here – horizontal stripes, tinted glasses, jeans that are let’s say, “relaxed fit.” But those glamour stars in the background are truly the piece de resistance. 

Why would I vouch for this background that seems to be missing a unicorn or something? The early 90s was a magical time when dinosaurs came to life on the movie screen and your school pictures could look like they were taken in front of a space-laser battle. So what I expected when I checked the “starfield” box as my preferred background while standing in line in the Bartow Elementary gymnasium was something closer to: 

Awkward School Pic With Background Replaced By Laser Grid

Aw heck yeah. Once digital editing became commonplace, most kids my age ended up with pictures where the background was replaced with what I would today describe as a screen-saver sorta deal. But back then it was freakin’ awesome.

But school picture day, like life itself, doesn’t always go as planned. I remember being so embarrassed weeks later when the prints came back. What was I going to do with these freaking glamour shots? Nevermind that there wasn’t much for an eight-year-old to do with pictures, regardless of how they came out. 

The thing is, that’s really part of the value of the whole School Picture Day tradition. In the last decade or so, we’ve become a society more obsessed with pictures than ever before, with social media making amateur photo-journalists of us all. It’s tempting to think you don’t need a “school picture” in a year where the concept of “school” is loose at best. But take it from a nerd who aimed for the laser grid and landed among the stars, having a set memento of a certain time just hits different than a regular ole’ insta post. (Even if you’re not crazy about the results at first). 

This is true for parents as much as it is kids. Take the best picture of me ever taken, for example:

A Kid Making A Goofy Grin For School Picture Day

That was my peak, it’s been downhill since. I would like to congratulate myself on somehow throwing some side-eye while still staring directly ahead. Here’s the thing, though.  My mother hated this picture. She didn’t tell me that at the time; I was a child, that would have been damaging. But growing up means if you have cool parents you get to become friends with them, and then you get to catch up on all the gossip about you from when you were a kid.

Now, I don’t know why Mom didn’t like this picture…maybe it’s ‘cause I look like a huge dork, but that’s something she always appreciated about me. Regardless, she wanted to have them retaken. Fortunately, Nana took her by the hand and said “Jan. Don’t you dare change that. One day it will be your favorite picture of him.” And Nana was right. To this day this is the pic that Mom keeps on her desk at work, and it’s her absolute favorite. My guess is that this pic is documentation of when I started becoming the guy I am today. It’s the first time my “okay, whatever” attitude really came shining through.

So don’t just take a school picture, celebrate how awkward, weird, unexpected they are. In a time when we spend twenty minutes capturing moments “for the ‘gram” it will mean more to have a memento of our kids and families as they are, not how we curate them on social. 

To celebrate National School Picture Day, Lifetouch will be creating America’s Yearbook -a digital compilation of user-submitted pictures capturing the spirit of picture day. For 84 years, Lifetouch has been shaping yearbooks featuring all the things that make school pictures so memorable, from fads to goofy expressions. You can submit your favorite throwback school pictures for a chance to be featured in America’s Yearbook on Oct. 5. Then a few select winners will receive free school pictures, yearbooks, and school supplies for the school of their choice! It’s a great way to celebrate where we’ve been, and all the goofy unexpected places we’ve yet to go.

Submit your favorite school pictures here.

 

This post was sponsored by:
Lifetouch

Playing With Dolls: It’s What Dads Do

This article is sponsored by Bitty Baby™ from American Girl

I never really planned to be a dad who played with dolls. I wasn’t against it or anything, but I grew up in locker rooms around lots of macho bull stuff, and I guess I just never saw myself in that role. Then we had a baby girl.

We worked hard to avoid gender stereotypes as she was growing up; to let her follow her own interests, but this kid just absolutely loved playing with dolls. And I loved being with her — so I quickly found myself in tiaras and tutus at tea parties, chilling with a squad of dolls consisting of floppy bunny rabbits to those American Girl Bitty Babies: Lilly, Rose, Lilly Rose, and Lillyrose. (It was much less confusing once you got to know them.)

Fast forward to today, and my daughter is a 14-year-old high schooler, who also happens to be my best bud in the world. I don’t want to jinx it and bring on our first “I HATE YOU!” moment, but I’m really proud of the bond we share — and I chalk a lot of that up to our days of playing with dolls together.

My wife was working crazy hours in those days, so a lot of the time it was just my daughter and me for hours. During make-believe, she usually ran the show in the role of a teacher, or a mom, or a boss, while the Lillies or Roses and I listened attentively…or caused the occasional ruckus.

We had so much fun, and so many laughs, and while I didn’t fully realize it at the time, I’ve come to realize we were also modeling behaviors and role-playing social interactions that are a foundation of who my daughter is. The way she learned to treat those Bitty Babies is the way she still treats people, and I was right there, in on all the action during this really formative time.

From the way she loved, nurtured, and empathized with the dolls to the way she reprimanded them (which was hysterically lifted word-for-word from my wife and I’s playbook). It was like I had a front-row seat to how she internalized and externalized the world around her. If I was acting-up and picking on one of the “girls,” she would step in and explain that “we don’t use our hands, we use our words.” Or if I started whining because she kept calling on the Bitty Baby in class instead of me, we could talk about patience and taking turns. Her imagination allowed every interaction to be an opportunity to help model different behaviors, and for her to test the waters of social interactions in a low-risk environment. 

Now, to be clear, I wasn’t thinking so deeply about it at the time. It was just fun to be silly with my daughter, and see her captivated by the world she was creating. Now with college on the horizon and I’m getting all nostalgic, I think about how our time together back then did so much to shape our relationship. We laughed like crazy, there were some blowups and tears…and sometimes she got upset, too.  But we learned to navigate emotions, create a sense of trust, and we built so many memories. 

We’ve basically never stopped playing the way we did back then. Maybe, a Bitty Baby isn’t involved anymore, but there’s still that space for us to share our thoughts and feelings. We talk about everything together (sometimes more than I’m ready to handle), and we have the kind of openness in our relationship that I always wanted to have with my kid. People tell you you can’t be a friend and a parent, but I disagree. I’m proud to be both — and really glad I decided to start playing with dolls.

Bitty Baby™ from American Girl from American Girl helps dads and daughters discover a world of make-believe together while learning the importance of love and kindness.

Fortnite Bootcamp – Impress Your Kid Or At Least Not Embarrass Yourself

The Dad Gaming League’s first event is Fortnite, on August 21. Sign up now to reserve your spot on the Battle Bus.

The first gaming event we held was a custom Fortnite match in a private lobby of about 10 dads playing. People were randomly squaded up, everyone was laughing, getting along, even making friends. It reminded me of the old days playing Goldeneye with my buddies, except these were members of our internet community who didn’t know each other, and were 100s of miles apart. That spirit of comradery is what’s behind the whole The Dad Gaming community – giving dads a fun excuse to take a break, get away, and play games with cool people.

Epic snack-makers Planters knows this better than anyone, and they love the community spirit; so we squaded up to launch a full-fledged The Dad Gaming League. This monthly competition will champion that essence of fun and “anyone can play” spirit. (So you don’t have to be good to win a prize.)

However, if you’re brand new to Fortnite and you don’t want to embarrass yourself too hard -or if you’re pretty decent and looking for a couple of areas to work on- we’ve got you covered. Any dad’s path to leveling up starts here.

These tips start for the newbiest of newbs, and gradually get more advanced. Start at the beginning. Once your eyes start to glaze over, take a break, pop some Planters, and jump onto the Battle Bus. Because the best way to get better at any game is to lose A LOT.

QUICK OVERVIEW OF HOW FORTNITE WORKS

Fortnite is a quintessential Battle Royale game. This genre of game is that a large group of online players drop into the same world, called the map, and fight it out. When someone is eliminated, they’re done. So the number of players in the game continues to drop throughout the match. To keep it interesting, there is a storm that will damage you closing in on the island, making the play area smaller and smaller as time goes on.

You drop onto the island empty-handed, so you want to immediately find some weapons, powerups and other items to help you thrive and survive. Unfortunately, there are no Planters Pop and Pours on the Battle Island.

LINGO

There is a lot of shorthand dads use when squadded up. These terms were completely lost on me when I started and it made things very confusing. So if you’re starting fresh, here’s your first real advantage:

Battle Bus – This is your entry to the island. At the top of each round, you choose when to jump off the bus and parachute to where you want to land.

Circle – The playing area. This is where the storm hasn’t closed in yet, and it shrinks every few minutes or so.

Slurp – This is the neon blue health substance found in “pots” and scattered in lakes and rivers throughout the map. It heals you over time, not all at once.

Full Pot – This is a “Large Health” item. It’s a big blue jar of “Slurp.”

Mini -This is a “Small Health” item. It’s a small vial of Slurp.

AR – Just like in real life, this is what we call those bigass fast shooting guns.

Engage – Confront another player or team in battle. It’s a big map at first, so you don’t always have to fight. Engagement is a choice…for a time.

Final Circle – This is the endgame, when the storm has zeroed in extremely tight, and all remaining players are thrown together in sweet chaos.

Bot – This is an AI enemy who appears to be another player in the game, but is basically just a dummy to fill out the map and make you feel like you actually got some kills.

Skin – This is the term for how your character looks. You can buy or earn various skins that include character designs and costumes.

Default – This is what we call the basic no-investment character mold. If you log on for the first time and hit play without swapping anything, you’re playing as Default.

TACTICS

SURVIVE
Hide!  First things first, don’t get shot right away. Hang out on the Battle Bus a little bit and then when you do jump out, land where other people don’t usually tend to go right away. It’ll take a few rounds to learn all the locations, but if it looks like a big structure or base, it probably has a lot of items to snag….but a lot of other people will be interested in trying for them.

The first time I played Fortnite was at my wife’s friend’s house. There was a 10-year-old there who was nonstop talking crap to me about how I was a “noob” and he was better than me at Fortnite. I challenged him to see who could last the longest. He landed, got some eliminations, but finished 40 or so?

On the other hand, I strategically rode the Battle Bus as long as I could, dropped far away, and proceeded to sneak around, hiding at every place I could, always searching for predators.

Eventually, someone found me, engaged, and I was quickly eliminated. But I got 6th. (Now who’s the noob?) Usually, you’ll need to be pretty decent at offense to finish in the top ten. But I’ve found for beginners, the easiest way to finish top 25 is hiding. DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS.

WATCH THE STORM
Hang out on the outer reaches of the circle. Move-in as the storm gets smaller.

When you’re on the outside of the playing area, you don’t have to watch your back as much, because you know people will be less likely to sneak up behind you.

Watch the clock, though, and be ready to move. The circle doesn’t shrink automatically, but the Storm does move faster than you do.

STAY SNACKED UP
A single Battle Royale can last about 20 minutes. As any kid who has been asked to turn off their video game mid-game will tell you, you do not want to quit during a match. Keep snacks handy. Planters Pop and Pour is ideal here. It allows one-handed snack consumption and keeps the controller clean. I kind of think it was designed with dad gamers in mind.

DON’T BE SO QUICK TO ENGAGE
Learn the “Third Party” strategy. If you see multiple players or squads, let two groups fight it out and be the third party there to clean up at the end. This was called “pickin’ cherries” back in my Halo days, but what was dishonorable for the Master Chief is a sound strategy in Fortnite.

READY TO ENGAGE? LEARN TO ATTACK BY PLAYING TEAM RUMBLE
It takes lots of battles to learn the proper way to engage and how to be more accurate. Try playing the Team Rumble game mode to get a feel for combat. Battle Royale means once your out, you’re out. In Team Rumble, when you get eliminated you automatically respawn and you’re back in the action, giving you lots more experience at eliminating (and being eliminated). It’s not the most satisfying game mode, but it helps you learn.

LEARN THE WEAPONS, PERFECT YOUR LOADOUT
You’ll want a variety of weapon types, as well as healing items, but there are only so many item slots available. There’s also a color-coding system to how powerful each weapon is. In ascending order, they are: grey, green, blue, purple, orange.

JUMPING AS A DEFENSE MECHANISM
To avoid being sniped, some more advanced players jump all the time. They’ll jump across an open field like Mary freakin’ Poppins. I was always the type who’d rather not be so noticeable. But jumping is a great defense against attacks, especially close range. Start panicking? Start jumping. You may just make it out.

AMMO MANAGEMENT
I am a terrible shot. I can spray and spray and not land a single hit. So then when I have to reload and the opponent is engaging me, it can feel like a lifetime. One thing I started doing to help is I will take my favorite weapon choice, and put two of them right next to each other in my loadout. So if I empty one of them, instead of reloading, I just switch the other and keep firing. Essentially gives you double the ammo without reloading.

It is also possible to use this technique with Pop and Pour snack containers.

KEEP WATCHING AFTER YOU GET ELIMINATED
When you’re out, you’ll get to spectate the person who got ya. Keep watching and you might pick up on some strategies or tips. Sit back with your Pop and Pour, and watch it like a movie.

LEARN TO BUILD
You’ll notice this tip isn’t even in here until number 10. Dads notoriously don’t like Fortnite as much as other first-person shooters because of the building. A common joke is you fire a single shot and your opponent instantly has a five-star hotel. It can be frustrating when you don’t know how to do it. (Which is why we host a weekly no building event.) But you can use it to your advantage with very little effort. Simply learning to build a ramp will help you access much more loot, and it’s a simple two-button press. The same goes for building a vertical wall. If you can get used to quickly pressing those two buttons, you can throw one up as an opponent engages you. That simple wall will save a lot of damage and buy you some time.

And most importantly:

HAVE FUN, BOND WITH YOUR KID
I had a Nintendo as a kid and I loved it. But my dad never played video games with me. No big deal. But now, as a parent, the only reason I have a video game system is so I can play with my kids. It’s a bonding tool.

My son is super into Fortnite skins, while I proudly remain “a default.” But since he is so into them, I’ll gladly play with him to beat the season challenges and unlock new skins for him. We collaborate with each other as a team, we chat, we laugh, we have a blast.

Sure, he enjoys it now because he gets to unlock some new skins. I enjoy it because I’m spending quality time with my kid doing something he loves. I know it may sound far fetched to non-gamers, but I truly believe that when he is an adult, he’ll look back with fondness at the times his dad helped him beat Fortnite challenges to unlock skins. And those parent/kid moments, the unforgettable memories… that’s what it’s all about.

This article and The Dad Gaming League are sponsored by Planters. Enjoy delicious snacks without gunking up your controller with Planters Pop and Pour.

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Planters

I Thought Taking My Daughter’s Bitty Baby To The Game Was Embarrassing…Until We Won The Championship

This article is sponsored by Bitty Baby™ from American Girl

“I can explain.” Those are the words you lead with when you’re still making up an explanation in your head. For when something is a little out of whack, and you’re not quite sure how you ended up in that situation. That’s where I found myself, holding a baby doll and with my nails freshly painted pink, at a college basketball watch party full of bros.

I grew up with all brothers, so I didn’t know what to expect when I found out my firstborn was going to be a girl. I wasn’t disappointed, it’s not like I found out while holding a mini baseball glove and tiny football helmet; I just had no idea how to play with a little girl. 

At first, I didn’t have to. Most babies are the same – just little blobs of flesh designed to rob you of any sleep or sanity. When they start to grab things, playing pretty much consists of holding something colorful in front of their face until they flail around with it. Or doing voices and impressions that would otherwise have you committed to an institution. Then when they start moving, playing is just making sure they don’t die.

It’s when they get older and start developing their own interests that you can get a little lost. I tried hard not to force my stuff on her, either. Although I did show her my favorite movie once when she was still an infant. I thought I could develop her into a tiny little sci-fi fan, but she spit-up on my laptop and that was that. At age four though, she got her first “girl” toys; nail polish…and a Bitty Baby.

She’s a spring baby, so we planned her party on a March afternoon. Later that night I planned to enjoy my annual ritual of watching the basketball tournament with my brothers and friends. Play with my daughter during the day, and the night was reserved for beers, basketball, and smack talk. “Guy” stuff.

Watching my daughter play with her Bitty Baby was like watching her level up at being a kid. She’s always been creative, but her imagination ran wild with the doll.  She immediately named her Katie. A little embarrassing, considering it took us twelve weeks and a series of ballots to settle on her name. 

We spent the afternoon on adventures with Katie all over the house, from starting a nail salon to going on a couch-fort safari. It struck me that my daughter didn’t see Katie as just a play-friend, but a character in her world who needed to be cared for and nurtured. It seems obvious now, but it was extraordinary to see my four-year-old interpret and imitate my own parenting with her Bitty Baby. I thought I understood make-believe, but I wasn’t ready for what came next. 

Shortly before I was supposed to go to the basketball party, my daughter asked to paint my nails. I caught a look of glee in my wife’s face, making me suspect it was her idea. I quickly came up with some excuse I don’t remember to get out of it. However, my daughter hit me with the look every dad knows. The one they cannot know about when they get older. The look that would’ve gotten me to do anything. I said yes, knowing the onslaught of ribbing I was going to take from my friends that night.

With my freshly-pastelled nails, I was about to leave for guy-time when my daughter pulled that puppy dog look a second time. She held up her prized possession, her new Bitty Baby, and said with the saddest voice: “Katie loves sports. Will you take her to the game?”

I instantly knew why “Katie” “loved sports.” It’s because of the Saturdays my daughter saw me on the couch, acting like a crazy person as college kids tried to put a ball in a basket. Knowing it was my daughter trying to connect two things she loved, I couldn’t say no.

And that’s how I ended up at the party with a baby doll and painted nails. Yes, there was an endless parade of jokes at my expense. Looking back, I could have left Katie in the car, but at the time it didn’t even occur to me. In some imperceptible way, her devotion to the doll got to me. My daughter asked me to bring her doll to the game, and so I did. But here’s the twist: the team we were rooting for was a gigantic underdog, expected to make a quick exit from the tournament. So the longer the game went and the closer the scoreboard was, the less focus anyone had on my new friend or pretty nails. Then the impossible happened.  The type of impossible that makes March beautiful for sports fans: our team pulled off an enormous upset!

When the final horn sounded, our group erupted into cheers and wild hugs like we were kids. Watching us, you would’ve thought we each won the lottery. As I was leaving, one of my oldest friends grabbed me into a bear hug: “We have two days before the next game. And that doll better be with you when you come back.”

And that’s how the superstition started. My daughter and I would play during the day, and then I’d ask her if I could bring “Katie” to the game party.  We transitioned seamlessly from a child’s imaginative play to a dad’s childish sports superstition. But my team kept winning, my nails kept getting pinker, and I ended up playing with Katie almost as much as my daughter.

In the end, being a #GirlDad worked out just fine.

Bitty Baby™ from American Girl helps dads and daughters discover a world of make-believe together while learning the importance of love and kindness. 

Father Figures: The Life to Strive For

“My grandfather Eddie passed away last year at 99 years old. He and my grandmother Betty were married more than 60 years, had 8 children, 20 grandchildren, and way more great-grandkids.

Eddie was a force to be reckoned with. He served more than four years in the US army during WW2 in the South Pacific. He loved to talk about his experience, even though it was difficult emotionally. He felt that the next generations needed to know what it was like so history wouldn’t repeat itself.

Throughout his life, he adored his children, then grandchildren, then great-grandchildren. He loved and cherished each and every one of them.

But the real love of his life? My grandmother Betty. She was his world. When she died in 2012, his spirit was dimmed.

During the later years, my family made an effort to have Sunday evening cocktails with Eddie. When he was in his final hours, my family continued the tradition of Sunday cocktails. We were all there. Either in person or on FaceTime.

His children placed a photo of Betty next to him and told him it was okay to go to her. Her photo was the last image he saw before closing his eyes. He died with his entire family holding him. If that’s not the life to strive for, I don’t know what is.”

– Heidi Fehring Morgan

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email [email protected]

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

The Dad Of The Month, April 2020: Joel Stetler

(Joel Stetler)

We are honored to announce The Dad of the Month for April 2020: Joel Stetler. For the past 3 years, Joel has been living with a rare incurable cancer, teaching 3rd grade, coaching football and baseball, and giving 110% as a father to his 3 kids. Read his nomination submitted by his partner, Amanda:

(Joel Stetler)

“Joel is a father of 3, living with a rare incurable cancer. His disease is active, and has never been in remission. He works as a public school 3rd grade teacher, coaching football and baseball for the school in his spare time. He makes his own 3 kiddos his priority at home, despite the cancer treatments that leave him extremely fatigued.

(Joel Stetler)

Joel was diagnosed with cancer when the youngest of our 3 children was only 3 months old.  His prognosis wasn’t good, with statistics giving him a survival rate of 3-5% beyond 5 years.  His immediate reaction to those statistics and any like it has always been, “I have to make it that far. I have to make it beyond ‘that.’ That number. I have to make it to graduations, and weddings, and everything my kids need me to see.”

(Joel Stetler)

What makes Joel such an amazing dad is that he is PRESENT. He makes the most of every second with his kids, because every second is one he was not guaranteed. Maybe it’s spent jumping on the trampoline with them (their absolute favorite dad activity) despite feeling ill because of cancer meds.  Or it’s spent going on a run with his daughter so that she is in the best shape for cross country she can be, despite the fatigue and exhaustion from chemo.  Over the last four years his kids have grown up seeing their father be brave despite facing something scary.  At times I have told him he should rest or relax more, but his answer has always been, ‘I want the kids to know their dad didn’t waste the time that he had.  I want to make sure they always remember that they were the most important priority for me.’

(Joel Stetler)

This dad is the most amazing example to his kids on how to have a positive outlook on life, even amidst the most dire circumstances. He’s always smiling and never lets his disease steal the happiness he gets from serving his community and living his best life with his family.”

(Joel Stetler)

To honor Joel’s inner and outer strength and show appreciation for all he gives to his family and everyone in his life, we are sending $500 and special edition dad gear. With his bravery and love of life, Joel sets an example not just for his kids but everyone who has the privilege of hearing his story. We salute you!

Click here to read more or nominate a special dad in your life.