How to Be an Awesome Uncle

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 14, 2012 · 77 comments

in Relationships & Family

Psychologists tell us that one of the most, if not the most important factor in our happiness is the number of quality relationships in our lives. Decades ago, such relationships were easy to come by. You were very likely to be surrounded by extended family who all got together often for loud and boisterous celebrations. As you grew up, you got to know your cousins, and your aunts and uncles as well.

These days, many families live far apart, and family reunions are few and far between — often non-existent, it seems. But everybody still wants to feel part of a clan, and family ties are just as important as they ever were.

In the role of uncle, you have a chance to forge those ties in positive ways with your nieces and nephews.

Uncles have a unique and important role to play in families. They’re older than their nieces and nephews, and so can be positive male mentors. But they’re younger than Gramps, and can be up for goofy fun. They’re also different than their siblings, providing nieces and nephews a look at life through the eyes of someone who branched off the same family tree, but may have a very different lifestyle than their parents. Siblings can have widely varying personalities and interests, and the best kind of uncle is often one who can share a different world with his nieces and nephews than the one they’re growing up in at home.

For example, Kate’s uncle Buzz lives in Vermont, and when she would visit him while she was a kid (and still today), he showed her things foreign to her suburban upbringing — going for hikes in the mountains, taking canoe trips, and shooting the BB gun in the backyard. Kate grew up fairly idolizing Buzz, and he sparked in her an interest in the outdoors and a love for all things Vermont.

The uncle role is especially important for men who are unmarried and don’t have kids of their own. Not only do bachelor uncles have more time to spend with their nieces and nephews, they also bring another varied influence into kids’ lives. It’s hard to describe, but “undomesticated masculine energy” is the closest I’ve got. Kids naturally gravitate to bachelor uncles, and see them as seriously cool dudes.

Whether he was married or single, most of us can remember that cool uncle in our lives that we looked up to. As you get older, and your siblings have kids, it’s time to become that cool uncle yourself. I have admittedly not always taken on the mantle as fully as I should have, but below are the things I’ve done, and am trying to do better, in my pursuit of awesome uncle-dom.

How to Be an Awesome Uncle

Interact with them. At a family gathering, it’s tempting to stick with the adults and let the kids do their thing. But take the time to talk and goof around with your nieces and nephews. Ask them about what’s been going on in their lives. Have trouble talking to kids? Ask what their favorite subject is in school, what they’re going to be for Halloween, what they’re hoping to get for Christmas, etc. It doesn’t have to be much, but I know I always felt important when an uncle or aunt seemed sincerely interested in me. Plus, kids want to play more than talk, so just get down there and play along with them.

Offer to babysit if you live nearby. If you live close to your nieces and nephews, offer to take the rugrats off their parents’ hands for a couple hours or an entire evening. Your siblings (or sibling-in-laws) will appreciate it, it gives you a chance to bond with the kiddos, and it’s practice for when you have kids of your own. Babysitting will be a bit more involved when your nieces and nephews are actually babies. I offered to watch my sister’s two kids when I was in college — my niece was four and my nephew was just a few months old. The niece was easy to watch. The nephew, not so much. I had to change my first diaper during that babysitting experience and he screamed the entire time his parents were away. I was a little shell-shocked, but little did I know that that two-hour babysitting experience would prepare me for those first days home with Gus when all he did was scream and poop his diaper.

As the kids get older, watching them becomes less of a hassle and actually enjoyable. Show them how to do and make neat things, introduce them to your favorite childhood cartoons and movies, and amaze them with magic tricks (see below).

Bone-up on the jokes, riddles, and magic tricks you knew as a kid. Will Murray, author of the Definitive Guide for Becoming the World’s Greatest Aunt or Uncle, says one of the most important jobs of an uncle is to teach kids how to be children. I think he’s on to something. My favorite uncles were the ones who went out of their way to teach me all the cool stuff kids are supposed to know. Many of the silly jokes, riddles, and magic tricks that I know, I picked up from uncles. One uncle taught me how to make a trumpet noise that I used to annoy my family with; another taught me how to do the famous “pull your thumb apart” magic trick; and my cowboy uncle imparted lots of great jokes that I still use today and get laughs from.

Last time I was with my nephew I showed him how to “levitate” and make it sound and appear like he was breaking his nose. He thought that was pretty awesome. My brother and I passed the time with both my niece and nephew telling riddles. I even learned some new ones myself.

One of these days we’re going to do a post showcasing how to do a bunch of great uncle tricks. So if you have one in your repertoire that you think should be included, leave a comment!

Do fun (and slightly dangerous) stuff with them. This bit of advice is related to the above one. Besides jokes, riddles, and magic tricks, make it your duty to teach your nieces and nephews all the fun and slightly dangerous stuff their parents won’t let them do at home. When my extended family would get together for Thanksgiving at my grandpa’s place in New Mexico, my cowboy uncle would make me and my cousins hay forts in my grandpa’s barn. He’d also make a big pile of hay for us to jump into from the barn’s loft. We didn’t tell our moms about that stunt. This same uncle would let me ride a horse by myself instead of being guided around the corral by a leader rope. As an eight-year-old suburban kid, that made my week.

My brother and I have tried to continue the timeless uncle tradition of making moms worry. I’ve shown my nieces and nephews how to shoot a sling shot and my brother has taught them the finer points of Fourth of July firecrackers. Besides the dangerous stuff, we just try to teach them the fun things we did as kids. For example, when my brother and I were in elementary and middle school, we made obstacle courses in our backyard and we’d pretend we were training for the Navy SEALs. A few summers ago my sister and her family were visiting my folks’ place and the kids were bored. My brother and I put on our uncle hats and saved the day by building one of our old obstacle courses. The kids loved it and we all had a blast racing each other through it.

Also, don’t forget to roughhouse! It’s not just for dads. Do Superman, play horsey, and hang them upside down. Playful noogies are okay occasionally; wedgies never.

Send a birthday card stuffed with a little moola on your nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays. You were a kid once. How did you feel when you got a birthday card from an aunt and uncle, eagerly ripped it open, and found nothing inside? Probably pretty crestfallen. Conversely, how did it feel to open the card and find a little green? Like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his pool of coins and cash? Okay, maybe that was just me. But you probably felt awesome. Make your nieces and nephews feel awesome, too, by remembering to send a card with a bit of lettuce tucked inside. If you’re the kid’s godfather, send a little extra as a reminder of your special bond. It doesn’t have to be much. Just the fact that you remembered it was their birthday will mean a lot.

I’m admittedly pretty bad when it comes to sending cards to my nieces and nephews. I usually remember on the day of their birthday, so I have to send a belated birthday card like a chump uncle. But I’m working on getting better. I finally got all my nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays in my Google Calendar, and I try to send a card at least a day or two in advance.

Remember important events. Besides birthdays, keep tabs on other important life events in your nieces’ and nephews’ lives. Religious rites of passage like First Communions, bar and bat mitzvahs, or baptisms deserve a card. Better yet, try to be there to witness it if you can. As the kids get older, graduations, college acceptances, first jobs, marriages, and first kids (Congrats! You’re a great-uncle, a Grunkle!) will deserve recognition as well. Don’t hesitate to give kudos to your nieces and nephews for seemingly smaller achievements. My family has a private Facebook group that we use to keep up with each other. If my sister reports that one of her kids did well at a dance recital or pinewood derby, we send our digital high-five their way.

Bring a small gift whenever you see them. I’m terrible about this, but I’m trying to get better about it. Kids love getting surprises. They don’t have to be anything fancy, either. Something they can play with straightaway is always a hit. (See the Christmas gift section below for suggestions.) If there’s a snack that can only be found in your region, pick some up and bring it to the kiddos. (Uncle Buzz once brought a bag of these special, freshly made, apple cider donuts that you can only get at this apple cider mill in VT, on the plane with him to give to us when he came for a visit. Scored some major uncle points there.) Old fashioned candy always goes over well, too – especially when it’s bubble gum cigarettes that blow “smoke.” Corporate swag that you have piling up in your junk drawer can provide lots of small gifts as well. Little ones are surprisingly impressed with seemingly banal knickknacks.

Dispense advice when appropriate. When you’re not teaching them how to shoot a BB gun, don’t be afraid to offer uncle-y advice to your nieces and nephews. Kids usually don’t see uncles as just another annoying adult, so they’ll sometimes take your advice more seriously than if it came from their lame-o parents. If you know your niece or nephew is having trouble with something in their life, reach out and dispense some friendly suggestions. You’d be surprised how much it could help.

Get them cool Christmas presents. And by cool, I don’t mean expensive. Think back to when you were a kid. Remember the neat, but inexpensive toys and games you loved playing with? Get your nieces and nephews those. Things they never knew they wanted until they started playing with them.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Spy reflector sunglasses
  • Horseshoe puzzle (I got one of these from an uncle one year and loved showing off to the kids at school how I could solve it)
  • Rubik’s Cube
  • Balsa wood planes
  • Plastic parachute men
  • Silly Putty
  • Shrinky Dinks
  • Yo-yos
  • Magic 8 Ball
  • Those capsules you put in water to reveal a giant sponge dinosaur
  • Whoopee cushions
  • Homemade slingshot
  • Prank gum that snaps its victim
  • Magnet Space Wheel
  • Slinky
  • Disappearing ink
  • ‘How to Draw Cartoons’ book, or something similar
  • Dinosaur Discovery Kit

Let them rummage through your treasure box. Give them an item from it. If you haven’t started yet, begin your box of manly treasures. Kids love rummaging through them and hearing the stories about all the items in it. Just letting your nieces and nephews look through your treasure box will make you a cool uncle. To upgrade to coolest uncle of all time, give them an item from your box. Just make sure it’s something that doesn’t mean that much to you, but will mean the world to them. If necessary, plant stuff in your box to give the kiddos. Bullet pencils, crappy baseball cards, or old, worthless, but cool-looking coins are good freebies.

Keep the relationship going as your nieces and nephews get older. Most of this advice is geared towards when your nieces and nephews are young. That’s because in my experience it seems you see your nieces and nephews more when they’re younger, but as they get older and get busy with other activities, the visits become less and less frequent. It will take a bit more work, but you can definitely keep the relationship going even as they get older; you’ll know you were successful in achieving awesome uncle status if your adult nieces and nephews want to visit and keep in touch with you of their own volition.

In their tween and teen years, let a niece or nephew that you really like stay with you for a week away from their parents. Once they’re college age, make an effort to keep in touch. My uncles and aunts check in with me on Facebook. Kate’s Uncle Buzz has kept the uncle/niece relationship going by writing her real letters and sending her a good book he’s read.

Something that I appreciate about Buzz’s uncle-dom is that once Kate and I married, he really incorporated me into the family. He shoots me emails and sends me interesting manly knickknacks that he’s found at garage sales in VT.

Be a good example. Your nieces and nephews probably think you’re one of the coolest dudes alive. Whether you like it or not, they’re looking up to you. Do your best to provide a positive male role model for them. Show them how a good man behaves and comports himself. Don’t do anything that would let them down. As uncles, we have great power in the molding of our nieces and nephews, but as Spiderman’s wise Uncle Ben noted, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Use your uncle power for good.

 What are your tips on being an awesome uncle? Have any uncle memories? Share them with us in the comments! 

{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Matt November 14, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Great article…just became an uncle to my wife’s 3 young neices for the first time…and my brother announced his wife becoming pregnant last week…been trying to bone up on how to be an important but fun figure in their lives!

2 Michael November 14, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I just found out that I’m going to be an uncle in about 9 months, so perfect timing. Thanks for sharing, Brett!

3 Tanner November 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm

There’s a lot of good advice in here.

Having just had my first child it’s easy for me to get focused on how to be a good father. That being said, there are certain roles and obligations that come from being an uncle that are very different from those that come with fatherhood.

I like the idea of encouraging and teaching them to do things that their moms would hesitate about. Part of being a kid is learning to navigate the world on your own and oftentimes you need a mentor who isn’t as naturally protective as a parent to help kickstart and facilitate that growth.

4 Joey November 14, 2012 at 6:58 pm

I like to refer to myself as a “PUNK”: Professional Uncle, No Kids.

5 Jason November 14, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I stopped giving my nieces presents for holidays and birthdays a few years ago. Now they pick an activity and we go on a date. Ice skating, baseball games, pottery making, movies… So much more memorable than a gift.

6 Shannon November 14, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Loved this article, Brett! Our kids are SO lucky to have you and Larry for their uncles!

7 Dan November 14, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Since I really don’t have any nieces or nephews I find I’m doing all that with my friend’s kids.

8 Pete November 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I’ve taken my nephew shooting many times (https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc6/229931_10151457517822586_308778701_n.jpg). His aunt joins in the fun too, dressed up and took him to the Austin Zombie Walk a few years ago (https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/4864_110286512585_5571582_n.jpg)

9 Grey D November 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Thanks for the post. I usually spend time with my sisters kids; however, these pointers will help me become a lot more fun and memorable. Looks like I have overlooked a lot. Trying to be a better uncle in this way will make family get togethers more fun for me too.

10 Brent November 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Great article. Prior to this summer, we had Camp Shock ( Shock is our last name) where we had our nephews and our niece each spend a few days with us. We planned and saved to do one big ticket item with them (amusement park, water park, Cincinnati Reds game, etc) but the rest of our time was filled with playing catch, hiking, rough housing or shooting off model rockets.

This summer I became a new father (to twins) and we haven’t had much time for our niece and nephews. My wife and I agreed that while we were excited to start a family of our own, there was a hole in our hearts this summer as we had to cancel Camp Shock.

11 Matt November 14, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Great article! I have 8 nieces and nephews and always have a blast with them when we’re both at my moms!

12 ced November 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm

2 years ago i got my niece a $50 gift card for piercing (her ear) made her christmas and ticked off the rest lol dont care she loved it and her joy was worth it

13 Jon November 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Great article. I’m an uncle to my sister’s three daughters, ages 5, 2 and a half, and 2 months. I find it pretty awesome to actually get down on the floor and playing with them (well the oldest and middle child), while the other adults do their thing. It ‘s always nice when you arrive at their house, and they’re calling your name.

14 Anne Ollamha November 15, 2012 at 12:06 am

My uncle Chuck was awesome, and always had time for us kids. He’d always ask one of the younger ones (5 or 6 years old), “How old are you now?”, and whatever the reply, he’d shake his head seriously, and say, “No kidding, When I was your age, I was ten!”

15 Jack November 15, 2012 at 1:32 am

When I was a kid hanging out with my Uncle Hank was the best. He is a true child at heart and was always fun to play with and hang out with. As I grew up he introduced me to scary movies, travelling (vacation was never big with my parents) and girls. Now that I’m older we still hang out, which usually involves the nudie bar. But the best part is he has a young son and I get to play the uncle role with him, bringing him through all the rites of passages my uncle took me through. It’s hilarious to watch Hank squirm only for me to remind him he showed me the same gory movie when I was that age.

I don’t have much in the way of family or sentimental memories so I cherish this.

16 Britt November 15, 2012 at 1:36 am

I’m 20 years old and my Aunt and Uncle are more important to me than my Mum and Dad, we have a better relationship and we have a lot more memories. Last year we went trekking through Nepal and travelled part of India. I’m so lucky to have them and I try to be the best Aunt I can be to my Boyfriend’s nephews because of them.

17 Ben November 15, 2012 at 2:56 am

I’m an uncle to my sisters three beautiful children, aged between 6 and 1 and I absolutely love it. I don’t get to see them a lot as I live in another country but whenever we get together I just adore them. Watching my sister have and build her family really puts things into perspective for a single man like me. For instance, I don’t drive like I used to and also tend to watch my language more especially when the kids are present. Watching them grow also reminds you of your youth and eventual mortality.
I totally agree that uncles must be the fun, outgoing and approachable role model in any child’s life.
.

18 Daniel B November 15, 2012 at 2:59 am

Aww… Now I feel terrible. Time to stop being just another uncle, and become THE uncle!

19 Michael November 15, 2012 at 5:13 am

Nicely written.
My Uncles
Danny, Herb, Jim, Frank, all made a very positive impact in my life.
If you can’t be there in person then snail mail (it’s physical) video, txt and emails all help build and nurture that relationship.
Great article.

20 John Phung November 15, 2012 at 7:08 am

Thanks, now I have some great ideas for Christmas gifts for my nephews & niece!

21 Simon J. November 15, 2012 at 7:33 am

Thanks Brett & Kate! I’m 17 and my big brother is about to get married in the spring. I thought last night how it would be strange to be an uncle some day. This article did wonders for my paradigm of uncledom. I knew, though, how great a good relationship with an uncle can be. Our family went to a reunion once and my already favorite uncle was not there, but halfway through the party he showed up with a six point deer. He also brought me a stick. Not just an ordinary stick, but one with my name carved in it in Japanese! He made my hall of fame that day. And he is an inspiration to me, today, to become a better man. Great article, and thanks again!

22 Bear November 15, 2012 at 7:53 am

A few years ago my job required a move from the Southwest US to the East Coast. I have moved all over since I left my parents home with both the Military and my current career in Law Enforcement. I grew up in NE Ohio so this was my first time living back on the East Coast in almost 20 years. I missed much of the growing up years of my 12 neices and nephews. I would go home on leave from time to time and we would all get together and I got to be the cool uncle that always had tales of adventures to distant parts of the world. My youngest sister has a son whose father left her and was never involved in his life. My father has been the stand in, but when he started looking toward the military as an option out of high school my parents steered him straight to me. When this move came up he happened to be in his senior year, and just so happened that his spring break coincided with my travel time. I had a car that needed to get to my destination as well as my truck and horse trailer so I flew him out and let him drive across country with his uncle. I drove the truck and he drove my commuter car. He found the freedom of just driving and seeing that there is a great big world outside the little town he and I grew up in. He also got the chance to meet friends of mine that I still have from my time in the Navy that live all across the country as we stopped and visited along our way. He got to meet one of my best friends from those days and privately asked me later when the last time was that I had seen him. I told him 3 years prior at his retirement from the Navy. He said it was like we had just seen each other the day before. I told him that those are the bonds that you build with each other when you serve. He still believes he had the best senior year spring break adventure story of any of his friends.

23 Jeff November 15, 2012 at 8:35 am

I have 5 Nephews! They are wonderful. I’ve spent countless hours with them all – babysitting, sleepovers, community events, and just hanging out. That only slowed some when I had a boy of my own and then some of them grew up and the rest moved out of state.
I miss those boys but still talk to them or see them as often as I can.
Being an Uncle is great because you can be fun and aren’t their Dad.SHould you offer advice they listen (because you aren’t their Dad) and on the occasion that their parents aren’t around and you have to dole out a little discipline they again listen – because Uncle doesn’t have to do that very often – so when he does he must mean it.
I love being an Uncle – I was 17 when I first became an Uncle and that was really really cool – plus I had a lot of experience by the time my son came around. Great article – thanks!

24 Andrew November 15, 2012 at 8:46 am

Great Article. I can’t wait till I’m an Uncle.

25 Jared November 15, 2012 at 9:04 am

great and fun article. i will have to try harder on a few of these myself!

26 m. November 15, 2012 at 9:38 am

..one of the best article I did read here at art of manliness..uncles can have a real deep influence on their nephews& nieces in which they take the uncles as a real role models and an example to follow and mimic..

..Deep thanks for the writer of this article.

27 Todd November 15, 2012 at 9:56 am

Thanks for this article. Such a great topic.

28 Uncle Miles November 15, 2012 at 10:16 am

Great article. I have 10 nieces and nephews ranging in age from 7 to 21, and I will always treasure the time I spend with them.

We joke, goof around, cook, play army, throw the baseball, and while they have a good time with me, they help me keep perspective and to remember what’s really imporant in life.

Cheers.

29 Klutch November 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

I bought a house on 10 acres, with a HUGE pile of old tires left by the previous owner. I’m taking some of them still in good condition and making tire swings for my nephews and godsons. Even a couple of racing tires and going to paint Lightning McQueen on them. All kids love tire swings!

30 Joshua November 15, 2012 at 11:11 am

I am soon new be a new uncle, and can’t wait! Growing up I had uncles on both sides of the family who loved to take us Nephews out on wild adventures, and teach us amazing tricks for life. Like how to turn an acorn into a whistle:

http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/acorn/assembl.html

Or how to tie our shoes faster than anyone:

http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/ianknot.htm

I have fond memories of growing up around my uncles, and plan on being that “cool” uncle for my new Nephew (or Niece).

31 Brützi November 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm

A great article. I have been thinking about this topic for several weeks. As always, perfect time.

32 Uncle Jon November 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I was pleased to see that the things I’m doing with my nephews is along these lines, and also to get a few more ideas. Last year, I bought one of them The Dangerous Book for Boys. I’m planning on spending some time camping with them so we can all do some of the cool stuff found in that book.

With my niece, I took her to several local classical music concerts after she told me she was part of the school’s band. It only lasted a couple of years, but I like to think I expanded her taste in music beyond the stuff her peer group likes.

33 Ben November 15, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Being the ‘awesome’ uncle is a rare and fine privilege, never squander it. My nieces, nephews, and mom come over every wednesday to have dinner and hang out with my daughters. For us, it’s fun, but for the kids I think it’ll be priceless in retrospect.

34 Kevin November 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Great timing guys!! We are leaving in a couple days to visit my wife’s family and meet our first nephew!

35 Kurt Jacobson November 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Great topic. I held my uncles in high esteem growing up and aspire to play an important role in the lives of my nephews and niece.

36 John November 15, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Another great article!!

37 Tom Perna November 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Such a great article! Going to post it on my Facebook and Twitter pages. I am a recent new uncle and love the role I have with my niece who is also my goddaughter. It’s truly a blessing!

38 Ed Sumerdon November 15, 2012 at 4:56 pm

My nephew and nieces are all adults. But, for the most part, I’m still the one they look to for approval. My best friend honored me w/ being a Godfather to her daughter. Her son just loves me too. They are 3 and 1, respectively. Just last week I brought her a deck of cards to play with. When I told her I was giving her a deck of cards she was so exuberant, as only a 3y/o can be and exclaimed “FOR ME?”
I was the greatest uncle for my sisters’ kids. I have a whole new set of kids to be a great uncle too. I can’t wait.

39 Kelvin November 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm

My uncle was a bad man.

40 Martijn November 15, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I’ve got one uncle that lives in a different country, which we barely see. He lives pretty rural, and the last time we went there I got to drive his tractor through the forest. That was an awesome experience.

41 Emmanuel M'M November 15, 2012 at 11:45 pm

This article has come as a very unwelcome but needed wake up call for me. I am an uncle to almost 5 immediate nieces and that which I missed by not having an uncle around, I vow to be and do to them.

Thank you for always challenging us men to be the best we can be (even in our 20s). God bless

42 RobSanDiego November 16, 2012 at 2:15 am

You’ll never know what nieces and nephews will remember about get togethers. After a week of Legoland, Sea World, and beach parties my 4 year old niece really liked riding in my pickup truck best, My 10 year old nephew liked “where we climbed up all the ladders to the little room to drink free sodas” on the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, not the airplanes I help restore there!. I’ll never know what’s important to them, so I hope to make every minute with them great.

43 Jeff Rogers November 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm

My name is Jeff but when my first sister had her first baby I told her to tell her kids that I was “Uncle Pedro.” It’s 16 years later and now all 21 of my nieces and nephews refer to me with this Mexican term of endearment. Whenever I go over to my siblings houses, I follow a little tradition, or “tradicion,” as the Spanish would say… I use my special uncle knock on their door (the theme to Mario) so they know it’s me coming. All the kids hear it and swarm to the door. Then when I take my first step inside, I say “Who’s here?!” to which they scream, “UNCLE PEDRO’S HERE!” I then reach in my pockets and throw fistfuls of candy in the air. They run around and fight each other to get it and scream like crazy. It’s awesome- their parents all hate it because it makes a mess, knocks lamps off their end tables, and their kids are on a sugar rush for the next 4 hours, but I take the cake as “Coolest Uncle” easily. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I have classically conditioned them to get excited whenever I show up.

Sometimes I use bouncy balls, army men, stickers, or other small pocket stuff. They get even more excited wondering what I’m going to throw. Sometimes I’ll steal the candy back so I can do it again. Kids are weak and simple, they hardly put up a fight.

Being the cool uncle means doing all the things a 10-year-old boy would do if he was bigger, had money, and could drive a car. It’s being mischievous with more resources.

44 Cody November 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I’m subscribed to the auto update so each time a great article like this is posted I get it sent to my inbox. I received this update about five hours before I became an uncle for the first time yesterday! It was very timely for me and I’m already taking mental notes for the future to guarantee I’ll be the favorite uncle.

45 Matt B November 17, 2012 at 12:04 am

AoM really has such great timing!

My sister-in-law is due with my first nephew in May and I’m so excited! I certainly hope to be a great uncle though there’s a possibility that I might switch to being a father while the kid is still a bit young.

Looking back on my childhood and even today to some extent, my single aunts and uncles were amazing! My siblings and I got fireworks from Missouri (much better than the Nebraska ones), candy, a Nintendo-64, wrestling time, wheelbarrow rides and a bunch more love from my uncles (aunts too) that I still cherish.

46 Bryce November 17, 2012 at 2:39 am

Great article. I have 10 nieces and nephews ranging from 2 years old to 22 years old (and no kids of my own), so I really appreciate the role of an uncle. I would, however, add one thing to the list: As an uncle, you always have your niece/nephew’s back! Even if they are wrong and especially if they are up-against their parental units. Granted that you do not want to undermine parental’s right to teach/raise their children, but being an uncle also means you’ll defend them and “ease” their fall. Truth is, they are probably caught, they are in trouble with their parents, they are wrong…but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them out a little bit by letting them know they are not alone.

47 Jerome November 19, 2012 at 9:54 am

As a child , when I’d get asked what I wanted to become when I grew up , my answer would be to become an uncle. I had the chance to realize this dream 2 years ago and learned yesterday that there’s another little one on the way. My nephew is already asking me to fix is toys when I’m over and they break and this brings me an extreme joy as he was scared of me for the first few years. I remember being also intimidated by my uncles but when I grew up this feeling changed into a great sense of admiration. Great article. Keep it up. I’m a new fan.

48 Joe November 19, 2012 at 7:59 pm

So, this suggestion probably falls under teaching your nieces and nephews jokes, but it requires that you use a bit of discretion. I call it “kid approved swearing.” I don’t advocate using profanity around little ones, and am certainly not suggesting that you teach little johnny to drop the f-bomb. Rather, there are certain things you can teach a kid to say that would fall under the “little rascal” end of the scale. For instance, I took my nieces to the zoo and they got freaked out by the monkeys. To ease their anxiety I taught them to say “monkey butts,” which they busted a gut laughing about. Their parents weren’t exactly thrilled that I taught them to say something about butts, however it has now become a favorite joke between all of us. They even found the girls pants with a monkey face on the butt. Again, know your place and never teach them anything that would put you on the black- sheep -uncle list, but have a little fun and teach em something their parents wouldn’t.

49 gary November 21, 2012 at 11:03 am

Being in my early forties and having 25+ nieces/nephews (including greats) I guess you could say I have full slate! My oldest is in his late 30s, I have no kids of my own and was an early adopter of the “it takes a villiage” theory. Outside of my family I’m “Uncle Gary” to a least double that number (hell I have their parents call me Uncle Gary!) I can whole heartedly agree with the article and the important role that aunts/uncles can provide in the lives of kids! I’ve had on more than one occasion questions asked in confidence that they probably never would have ask their parents! I can say without a doubt being an uncle is the best gig ever!!

50 Megan November 21, 2012 at 11:50 am

Great article. I’m from a small family, so I have just one uncle. I remember when I was younger and getting to play with his LEGOs. Now that I’m older we still like to hang out, talk about Star Wars and joke around.

51 Nathon November 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm

This April my niece turns 13. My wife will take her to buy a fancy dress, and then I’ll take her on a fancy date.

52 L. Tomlin November 22, 2012 at 11:25 am

Some of my fondest memories of early childhood were those of my uncles on my mother’s side. She was the oldest of six and I had four uncles on her side alone.

From memory, these are just a few of the activities we engaged in, much to the chagrin of my parents and grandparents:

Firecracker/bottle rocket wars, rope swings, shooting cowboy .22 revolvers, driving tractors, driving semi trucks, go karts that were souped up, mini bikes, hunting, fishing, chasing water moccasins, camping, etc. I can remember doing all of these things at a very young age……by second grade I had done them all.

And humor….they were all hilarious to be around and had different senses of humor, unique in their own ways. That is probably the most important thing that they taught me: life is better if you laugh, make others laugh, and try to do both as often as possible.

I was lucky to grow up like that……and for that, on this Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful for such a wonderful childhood.

Regards.

53 Waywiser Tundish November 23, 2012 at 12:28 am

There are some fun ideas at: http://www.backyard-ballistics.com/index.php

The little ones will like the fire kite and water rocket; the older ones will beg to shoot the potato cannon every time they visit.

54 Oddball November 23, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Most kids in the West are so coddled and wrapped in cotton wool by their parents that they risk becoming pussified adults.

My role as an adult is to make sure that they see things a little differently every time I visit.

I drag them away, kicking and screaming from the TV and playstation and outside, summer or winter.

I go smashing through the trees like an out of control tarzan (most are banned from climbing trees by their parents, or are afraid to).

I teach them all kinds of useful urban warfare tricks, or which plants in the garden are edible, or how to deal with confrontations. Basically the kind of skills that even their parents don’t have.

The kids love me for it. The proof is in their requests to have me represent them at all manner of school functions. Nothing sucks more than dull adult relatives. There’s too many of them out there.

55 ari-free November 23, 2012 at 1:01 pm

“Get them cool Christmas presents. And by cool, I don’t mean expensive. Think back to when you were a kid. Remember the neat, but inexpensive toys and games you loved playing with? ”

Exactly. Exactly. Don’t give them the same kind of stuff their parents or grandparents will spoil them with.

56 Jim Herold November 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm

I was the awesome uncle by teaching my niece Kat how to drive stick in my Jeep on Thanksgiving – I even showed her how to shift into 4wd.

57 Red December 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I hate to say this but growing up my “cool” uncle use to let me watch dirty movies on VHS. After my mom found out she no longer let us go over there.

58 Taylor December 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I’m going to be an uncle officially in 4 days but it could be as early as tonight. I cannot wait! This article is awesome and I am starting my manly things box tonight because of it!

59 Fran December 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I am an uncle of 2 nieces and a nephew , they live in London , I just don’t get to se them enough .
Great advice and I feel inspired to work on developing a good relationship with them . Thanks

60 Adam December 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm

As a 24 year old uncle with a 7 year old nephew, I can honestly say that the most fun him and I have had together was outside in the woods building forts. After 5 years away from home in the Marines, I’ve had a lot of time to make up and he holds me to it. The rough housing is an absolute MUST. It builds resiliency and kids love to have that physical contact, (not to mention it toughens them up) Keep it simple, fix their toys, build things with them, keep them active and set a great example of what kind of person they should grow up to be!

61 Andrew December 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I married into 9 nephews and one niece, so, I try to be a good uncle. Usually, at family get-togethers, I wrangle the kids, wrestling and what not. We also took our lone niece on a zombie walk Halloween before last
[IMG]http://i98.photobucket.com/albums/l277/asrich06/aubreyzombie_zps35ae64ed.jpg[/IMG]

62 Jake December 27, 2012 at 10:24 pm

I find this website very awesome and enjoyable! This article particularly got my attention as I am a new uncle to an 8 month old boy. I plan on becoming very close with my nephew regardless that I am 18 and in college.

63 Nathan February 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm

I love being an uncle! I have two nieces. Yesterday, I took them to lunch. Then, on the way back to their house, we got “lost” and ended up at Toys R Us. I’m a couple of hundred dollars poorer, but it was a blast. It is awesome being an uncle.

64 David March 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm

A lot of bad stuff happens in this world, and sometimes it’s difficult not to become despondent. But there ARE good things and good people.

As an uncle, I want to help my neice and nephews have happy childhoods, so that they have the confidence and emotional strengh to deal with the world when they’re adults. To be decent people and to be able to see beyond the beyond the bad stuff.

65 Ty March 24, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Becoming an uncle for the first time this coming May! Pretty excited and glad I found this article. Being active duty Army I have picked up a lot of things from around the world I am excited to share with my soon to be niece / nephew. Sadly I wont get to meet him until he is almost a year old. But thank you for this article

66 Michael Mendoza May 25, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Great article! I am Uncle of three nephews. Sad to say, they are part of a broken family. The youngest lives with his gradmas (mom’s side) and the 2 boys live with his grandmas (dad’s side). They grew up without their mom and dad beside them. They are now 4, 5, and 6. Different attitudes and characters. Their dad is my brother, who is unemployed. I support the two kids, their basic needs and studies. One thing I notice is that, something is really missing with them, perhaps a family affection. I as their cannot insist of my fatherly image. Their grandmas can show love and care as mother bur it is still lacking. They are confuse I guess of the situation. Most of the times, they are irresponsible. I and their grandmas cannot discipline them. They don’t give damn attention to what we are saying. But in terms of giving gifts and playing with, I assure they love and enjoy it. The bad thing really is I miss them most of the times and there’s a feeling of hatred to their real mom. That according to them they love their mom so much even if she doesn’t give attention and not with them on special occasions. The situation is different. I as their spend more time than their parents. And what is hurting me is jealousy. I hate to hear that they love their mom more than I am. the mere fact that I am the provider of everything they need. Nevertheless, I still preferred to be single to support this kiddos until they finish college and be independent. I enjoy every moment with them. I enjoyed helping them.

67 bryan May 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

I don’t know… I mean I enjoyed the article in all; but just be yourself. Always a kid at heart and the funky uncle will always keep happy company.

Grateful Deadheads Unite. We should have another party or something…life is getting a little stale.

68 krys August 20, 2013 at 12:52 am

For far too long, I’ve been like a rowboat without a rudder when it comes to my families kids. Too much junk in the past foolishly made me think I had nothing to offer until one of my great sisters gave me a good hard reality slap. Wonderful advice here as well. Thanks a million for such priceless free advice!

69 Frank August 23, 2013 at 8:48 am

The ONIONS!!!
Seriously, great article! I did not spend much time with my aunts and uncles because they live abroad. I am the eldest of four brothers, and I am currently single with no children. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE SPENDING TIME WITH MY NIECE AND BEING AN AWESOME UNCLE. However, I am always conscious of not spoiling her.

70 Sean September 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm

My sister is about ready to have her first kid on Halloween this year. It’s crazy to think I’m going to be an uncle. Sadly I’m also going to be moving to a new state possibly before he is born. This is a great article and it has a ton of good ideas on things to do with the kid whenever I see him!

This brought back a lot of memories of thing I used to do with my uncles when I was a little kid. The best one was “cruising for chicks” haha! I can’t wait for the little guy to get here!

71 ryan November 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm

you only spend one paragraph on the most important role, providing advice…it can be invaluable, sometimes your position of uncle can be the key to changing their life. don’t neglect the point that you should be an inspiration rather than an example of what not to do. be a great role model, place yourself in a position to really make a difference in their lives.

72 Rob November 13, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I’m 37 and already a Grunkle to one grand niece (Griece?) plus an uncle to two nieces and three nephews. I’ve sadly been neglecting my uncle duties. I’ll be sure to bookmark this and make up for that.

73 PrometheanSky November 14, 2013 at 1:13 am

I’ve always maintained that it’s the parent’s job to keep the kids from getting into trouble, and it’s the uncle’s job to so them how to get out of it. Or at least keep it from blowing up in their faces too badly.

74 Dan Crowley November 14, 2013 at 5:11 am

I wish I had a family so much!
I’m 25, single and an only child to a single mother. I feel really sad that I will never have a little nephew to play silly boy games with, or a little niece to spoil. My friend has two little girls and they call me Uncle Danny, which is awesome. They always give me a big hug when they see me. There’s nothing better than a hug from a kid, they’re so affectionate.
I love children a lot because they always make me laugh and love to play. And kids love me too, they always get excited if I am coming to visit their parents, or they always come to talk and play with me before their parents shoo them away.
Being a single man, I don’t get much time to have childish fun with kids. I can just hope that one day I’ll be a great dad to some lovely children.

75 uncle michael November 14, 2013 at 8:10 am

Don’t forget adopted nieces and nephews, you know their friends and than there is the in-laws children and the list goes on! I count over 200 and love them all to death! Its just so much fun seeing them smile and laugh and call me “uncle Michael”.

76 Daniel November 14, 2013 at 9:39 am

I’m only 17, and I’m not an uncle yet, but thanks for the tips! I will try to remember these for when I am!

77 Elizabeth January 10, 2014 at 1:07 am

Hi,
I was just asked to write the Eulogy for my uncle who will be leaving us soon from cancer. As I read through this article, I realized he was all of the above. Thanks for helping me gather my thoughts.

Elizabeth.

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