Help I'm Alone Today: A Dad's Survival Guide

Note: I am still finishing a few of my missing persons posts (a topic that I like to start with on Monday), and hope to have at least one ready later in the week.

Until then, I offer this...


You’re a dad. Your wife is spending a well-deserved day away from home—shopping, visiting with friends or family, or just enjoying some child-free time.

Unfortunately for Dad, it is a cold and rainy day. There will be no outside activities. No park visits and your non-urban area offers little to assist fathers with kid-friendly entertainment (no mall, amusement parks, arcade, etc.).

How is a father supposed to entertain three children and still negotiate a stop at a hardware store to purchase a few odds and ends?

With a little creativity and patience, the information in this post may just turn you into a hero playmate in the eyes of your youngsters and perhaps even be considered a clever and responsible parent with respect to the Mrs.

I propose taking the kids to the giant box hardware store near you, Lowes or Home Depot, for a couple hours of directed fun for all.

How can a store containing treated lumber and hex bolts be interesting to children?

Well, here are my top 5 ways to kill 90 minutes with the family at this type of retailer:

Number 5: Cleaning Supplies
Kids can’t get enough of cleaning. I am not sure what age that this interest in scrubbing vanishes, but I say take advantage of it now. At the hardware place, the cleaning aisle is a hands-on playhouse for kids. Mops, brooms, scrub brushes, car washing accessories, and even a variety of different colored toilet brushes will keep those little ones busy for awhile.

Eventually, when the broom sword fighting becomes dangerous to innocent pedestrians, you can still buy a few additional minutes by grabbing a large yellow car wash sponge and doing your best Sponge Bob Square Pants impersonation.
Advantage: Home Depot—All this good stuff is in one place and in an area not frequented by paying customers.

Number 4: Carpets, Flooring, and Rugs
Carpet patches displayed in book-like setups at little kid eye level are a big hit. After watching them flip through 4 books of 30 carpet styles, I am even weary. Feeling the different textures on the flooring and the rug displays are also a big hit.
Advantage: Home Depot—Their rugs are hung on a vertically display and the kids can hide somewhat from their siblings.

Number 3: Toilets and Bathrooms
What can be more fun than trying a few commodes on for size? And why are children always interested in bathtubs until it is time to actually take a bath?
Advantage: Lowes—Their stylish sink displays including the metallic looks hold the children’s attention for more than a few minutes.

Number 2: Faucets
This is the favorite regular aisle for the little people. Numerous faucets, shower fixtures, and kitchen hoses, hanging at lower levels are irresistible for kids wanting to turn, push, and pull. Even displays of plumbers tape with different colored containers like red, green, and yellow have made for improvised games of matching.
Advantage: Home Depot—Lowe’s displays are all out of reach for the little ones, while HD has faucets at just the right height for a three-year old.

Number 1: Outdoor Sheds
Nothing is as close to a kid’s clubhouse as an outdoor shed on display at one of these stores. The kids take advantage of the variety of sheds and go in and out numerous times before eventually identifying a favorite.

Many of these wooden and metal structures contain display cases that always need to be rearranged according to a kid’s needs and desires. A few models even have front and side doors that allow for a guessing game of which door will the child enter through next?
Advantage: Home Depot—The sheds are lined up against a curb which means I don’t have to worry about cars on any road behind.

Seasonable Honorable Mention: Holiday Displays
If you are fortunate enough to have access to the Halloween or Christmas displays at these stores, your kids can be in for a real treat. The giant snowmen, Santa Claus on a teeter-totter, or Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer always bring a smile (pumpkins or whatever for Halloween is neat as well).

And what is better than watching little kids push the demo buttons on 26 (yes, I counted) large display snow globes so that they are all playing holiday music simultaneously?
This is not a comprehensive list of ways to play at a hardware store, and with a little creativity, I am sure you will develop other ideas for entertainment.

In sum, follow this tour guide the next time you visit your favorite box hardware store with young sons and daughters, and you’ll leave the store’s parking lot with tired children as well as the few needed parts for that home project.

Most importantly, upon her return, the Mrs. will receive glowing reports from the children regarding how great of a host Dad can be.


angelcel said...

Yes I can picture all this very clearly! Children love exploring new things, they also love buttons to push, levers to pull and places to hide - all available at Home Depot (or equivalent)!

Erin said...

Too funny. But I must admit that my love for home improvement stores was fostered by going with my dad as a kid.

terri said...

And in which store are all of these holiday snow globes? I don't have a little kid on whom to blame the button pushing though. I would just do it myself. At Fleet Farm this weekend, I wandered through the toy department. There were rows of talking Elmo dolls. Just push the tummy to hear him talk. I pushed all of the tummies as quickly as I could. My 16 year old daughter grabbed my arm, dragged me away and scolded, "Mother! Stop it. You're embarrassing me!"

He-he! Yep! That was the point.

Confessions of a Mother, Lawyer & Crazy Woman said...

Great post! Very funny!

Dan said...

But you forgot the paint aisle. No trip to the hardware store is complete without at least one incident of paint touching/spilling!

Natalie said...

What a great post! The hubs had the weekend alone with the kids, and though I came home to a clean front room, the weekend mostly consisted of being watched by Nana (his mom) and cartoons. Sigh. I'll have to share this with him the next time I'm away!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Hahahahahha! Trips with dad - never forgotten. There is a freedom that comes with those events. For mom, too!

Stephanie Faris said...

Cute ideas! Heck, I still can't figure out how a WOMAN can entertain three kids for more than five minutes!

J. J. in Phila said...

Unfortunately in my misspent youth, I tried to build an anemometer. :(

Adagio said...

Funny, with some great ideas! Still grinning.

Adagio said...

Funny! Still grinning.

stb said...

You've got a great blog here. Would visit often. Keep up the great work.

Sandra G. said...

Too funny....when our kids were small I returned home after a day out to a bashful faced husband and two beaming kids.

Seems like Hubby got in trouble from staff at Home Depot for zooming the kids around the aisles in the shopping cart.

I'm not what delighted the kids more - the cart ride or the fact dad got an earful from staff.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comments.

@ Terri: The "Snowglobe Incident" was at Lowes; though the gang has activated a dozen or so various singing Santas and musical princesses at Home Depot.

@ Dan and Sandra: I work very hard to be respectful of other shoppers and the employees at these places (that must have been funny about your husband Sandra). If the gang gets out of line, we move along quickly--as would happen in the paint area.

I am mostly motivated that we might be banned or something and then I would have to write an updated and less thrilling post involving entertaining 3 kids in the frozen food aisle for an hour.

kiwidutch said...

So true! I'm a Mama who wasn't looking for a baby sitting activity, but actually trying to buy some things for the house... and the kids were treating the place like the local playground and it was a nightmare trying to drag them away from all the distracting "toys"... But I should have known better than take the kids into the shop with me in the first place. Better to have gone another day without them.
Great post! Thanks :)

Slamdunk said...

@ KiwiDutch: Thanks for the kind words.