Playing with my daughter is pure pleasure, sometimes. When she dubs me Princess Daddy, whips out her spot-on Captain Hook impression, or announces her dinosaur needs our help, it’s easy to ditch my desk and act like an attentive dad without a pile of work to do.
But sometimes she makes me all-time seeker and keeps hiding behind the same transparent curtains. Other times she wants to ride her tricycle but she can’t pedal yet, which leaves me pushing her around the park like I’m lining a new soccer field. Much more often, she invites me to tea parties devoid of snacks, interesting gossip, or tea.
Thankfully, I’m a dad in the digital age. Here are three apps that have significantly increased my playtime endurance.
When the little one approaches my desk in full princess gear and asks me to dance, obviously I’m headed to the ball. My to-write list is long, though, and stopping midway through a task is jarring. I worry that when the carriage turns back into a pumpkin and I sit back down to work, something important will have escaped me.
Any.DO is my safeguard. It keeps my tasks organized by type and priority, which is nice. What really helps, though, are the Any.DO moments. The screen goes blank, I hear four warm notes, and then one at a time, the app shows me every task I have for the day. With two taps I can set a timed reminder, or kick the task down the list to tomorrow, two days from now, next week, or even to a nice vague someday. When that’s done, the app says something motivating and I can hit the kitchen dance floor with peace of mind.
Intense as the feud between plastic Superman and Captain America may be, toy time can feel long. Often I find myself wiping my brow, wondering if we’ve played right through lunch and dinner. Then I check the time and realize we’ve only been at this for four minutes.
Forest helps me soldier on. I start each day with my own square of digital earth, and then I plant a digital tree. If I can leave my phone alone and focus on my kid for the set amount of time, the tree will take root and the garden will grow. If I fail, the tree dies. Killing something fake bothers me much more than it should. Just imagine how my focus improved when I realized I can earn enough points in this app to get real trees planted in India or Zambia. Forget Captain America; we’re saving the world with playtime.
Since I’m not an amateur boxer or addicted to cocaine, the only way I’m anything like Sherlock Holmes is the way my mind rebels in stagnation. In high school I spent my train commutes simultaneously listening to old radio mysteries, people-watching, and knocking out homework. No wonder pushing my daughter on the swing while she silently considers the oak branches for half an hour makes me reconsider clean living.
Enter Audible. If I’ve got a thespian reading Bleak House, Bossypants, or The Magicians into my ear, I can push as long as any toddler can swing.
Of course just this morning, for the first time, my daughter paused our tea party to tell me it’d be nice if I took my headphones off. They were just around my neck, not even over my ears, but I took the point. Sometimes you've got to unplug and devote yourself entirely to the role of Princess Daddy.