Activities for Dads and Kids
The following activities are just a few ideas about how to be involved in your child’s life—whether he or she is a baby or a young adult. The key to each of these activities is finding mutually enjoyable activities that you can do all year—not just as a special event on Father’s Day.
Talk to your infant in a pleasant soothing voice, using simple language. Listen to and respond to sounds your child makes and imitate them. Take turns babbling. Allow your child to actively explore his or her environment. Encourage them to grasp, chew, and manipulate safe objects to help them understand the nature of their environment.
Label or name objects, describe events and reflect the feelings of your child to help them learn new words. Use firm, rational communication reflecting logical consequences of your child’s actions when disciplining. Allow your child choices that are acceptable to you. Routine tasks of eating, toileting, dressing, etc, are important opportunities to help children learn new words, about their world, and how to regulate own behavior. Make bath time fun by playing with simple toys like boats, ducks or containers for floating and filling with water.
Provide many experiences to extend language and literacy abilities: reading books, telling stories, singing songs, writing down stories that children dictate, and illustrating the stories with crayons or water colors. Give your child opportunities to problem solve by asking open ended questions like "How do you think this works?" or "Why do you think the water does that?" Be available to share time with your child and share childcare tasks like feeding, bathing, and going to the doctor. Spend time teaching your child how to tie shoes, undo buckles, button and use zippers, as you help them dress.
Elementary School Students
Encourage your child’s literacy development: read with your child, go to the library together, provide reading and writing materials. Develop a shared interest with your child and spend time working on learning more about that interest: sports, animals, stars, nature, weather, cooking, etc. Give your child chores that are developmentally appropriate: making their own bed, setting the table, picking up their own toys, hanging up their coat, etc. Be aware of homework assignments and other topics of study your child has. Monitor the completion of homework and be available for help.
Make a scrapbook together of some of the special activities you have shared. Write stories to supplement the pictures. Show genuine interest in your child’s friends, interests, thoughts, feelings, and activities. Monitor your child’s peer interactions by encouraging them to play in your house or in other supervised areas. Be aware of possible times when your intervention may be beneficial in teaching a social skill. Teach your child family values and specific ways to deal with difficult situations involving drugs, alcohol, sex, social encounters, etc.
Learn and have fun together. Not only can the adolescent learn a new skill or hobby with you, but you can also develop new skills related to their interests. Set aside some time with your child to discuss future plans and goals: career, college, marriage, etc. Tell your child stories of when you were their age: use photos to share fun memories and major events, share embarrassing or funny experiences, what you did after school, your struggles, etc. Encourage and support activities outside the house: sports, extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, or part-time jobs.
“Minnesota Fathers & Families Network, June 2004, www.mnfathers.org.” Reproduction for commercial sale or benefit is prohibited
10 Tips for Dads of Daughters
- Listen To Girls. I focus on what is really important—what my daughter or stepdaughter thinks, believes, feels, dreams and does—rather than how she looks. I have a profound influence on how my daughter views herself. When I value my daughter for her true self and take her seriously, I give her confidence to use her talents in the world.
Encourage My Daughter’s Strength & Celebrate Her Savvy. I help her learn to recognize, resist and overcome barriers. I help her develop her strengths to achieve her goals, help other people, and help herself. I help her be what Girls Incorporated calls Strong, Smart and Bold!
- Respect Her Uniqueness; Urge Her To Love Her Body & Who She Is. I tell and show my daughter or stepdaughter that I love her for who she is and see her as a whole person, capable of anything. She is likely to choose a life partner who acts like me and has my values. So, I treat her and those she loves with respect. Remember 1) growing girls need to eat often and healthy; 2) fad dieting doesn’t work; 3) she has her body for what it can do, not how it looks. Advertisers spend billions to convince her she doesn’t look “right.” I won’t buy into it.
- Get Her Playing Sports & Being Physically Active. Start young to play catch, tag, jump rope, basketball, Frisbee, hockey, soccer, or just take walks…you name it! I help her learn the great things her body can do. Physically active girls are less likely to get pregnant, drop out of school, or put up with abuse. The most physically active girls have fathers who are active with them!
- Get Involved In Her School. I volunteer, chaperone, read to her class. I ask questions: Does her school use media literacy and body image awareness programs? Does it tolerate sexual harassment of boys or girls? Do more boys take advanced math and science classes and if so, why? (California teacher Doug Kirkpatrick’s girl students didn’t seem interested in science, so he changed his methods and their participation soared!) Are at least half of student leaders girls?
- Get Involved In Her Activities. I volunteer to drive, coach, direct a play, teach a class—anything! I demand equality. Texas mortgage officer and volunteer basketball coach Dave Chapman was appalled by the gym his 9-year-old daughter’s team had to use, so he fought to open the modern “boy’s” gym to the girls’ team. He succeeded. Dads make a difference!
- Help Make The World Safe & Fair For Girls. This world holds dangers for our daughters and stepdaughters. But over-protection doesn’t work, and it tells my daughter that I don’t trust her! Instead, I work with others (especially other dads) to demand an end to violence against females, media sexualization of girls, Neanderthal stereotypes of boys, pornography, advertisers making billions feeding on our daughters’ insecurities, and all gender inequity.
- Take My Daughter To Work With Me. I participate in April’s annual Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day and make sure my business participates. I show her how I manage money. My daughter will have a job and bills some day, so I introduce her to the world of work and finances!
- Support Positive Alternative Media For Girls. Our family watches programs that portray smart savvy girls. We get healthy girl-edited magazines and websites like New Moon Girls (www.newmoon.com). I don’t just condemn what’s bad; I also support media that support my daughter!
- Learn From Other Fathers. Together, we fathers and stepfathers are walking encyclopedias of experience, expertise and encouragement. I share what I know and listen to the wisdom of other dads. I use and share tools like www.joekelly.org. I’m proud of being a Dad!