If you love the TV show Mythbusters, RPGs (role-playing games), video games, and LEGOs, chances are you’re a GeekDad. “Being a GeekDad means understanding science, and when possible, incorporating that understanding into everyday teachable moments,” says Ken Denmean, whose new book, GeekDad is a blast. Fun is his mission.
That sense that a good parent is only the one out throwing a ball with his kid is the standard Denmead hopes to redress. “I'm trying to highlight a different model,” he says. “Some parents are much more technically inclined — but we're all going through the same things. I'm suggesting that we all bring our strengths to the job. It's the interaction, the sense of partnership and finishing an activity together, that's the ultimate goal. It doesn't matter if it's an outdoor project or an indoor project. The 'quality time' is doing whatever it is together.”
Like Father Like Son
Denmead's own dad wasn't the ball-throwing sort. “His thing was fixing up cars or building his own looms. We'd have a Morris Minor or a Triumph in parts in the carport, or he'd be out in the workshop working on a loom. I got to help with the cars — it fueled my future passion for English sports cars.”
The Casual Approach
Now Denmead has two boys (and a wife who is a 4th grade teacher) of his own, and he too is passing on his passions. His older son is 11 and leans toward the jock side. Denmead hadn't been able to interest him in the role-playing games that he loves. “I quickly realized you can't pull someone into an activity kicking and screaming. The secret is to leave it lying around and show the fun you're having doing it — that will lure them in.” So he picked up the latest handbook of Dungeons and Dragons and left it on the kitchen counter. Now his athlete son can't wait to play the game on weekends!
From among the dozens of activities Denmead includes in his book, he suggests one activity in particular to get kids engaged in his parent/child Geek concept. “For the most immediate play experience I'd try turning outdoor play ideas into offshoots of video games kids love to play. Make it Halo — your kid is the Master Chief, and you're the Alien!” Outfit players with a necklace of Alka Seltzer beads, and arm them with water guns. On a hot summer day, when you score a direct necklace hit, nothing is cooler! If you want to go Geekier, Denmead suggests a project that launches a video camera (tethered to a bundle of helium balloons) into the sky to get a birds-eye view of your surroundings. “It takes only an hour to set up and has lots of gee-whiz factor. But it requires a really good calm day
In addition to his projects, GeekDad includes tried-and-true parenting advice that benefits non-Geeks too, such as the problem of overselling what’s “fun.” And in one particularly useful sidebar, Denmead offers this tip for wrangling all of those LEGOs: “If you’re like most GeekDads, your shop is equipped with a Shop-Vac, making cleanup of all those miniscule pieces a breeze.” Thank you GeekDad!