They are tough but tender. They are up for action but also like snuggles. If you have boys in your family, you already know that they bring a whole lot of fun and a few challenges.
When it comes to ways of passing the time, they will favor group play and love competing from an early age. Boys are action-oriented and show more courage than their sisters, so it’s important to balance their desire for adventure and exploration with safety considerations.
This list of activities that we’ve compiled is designed to provide ideas and inspiration for parents looking to stimulate their son’s interests and abilities. It’s sure to include at least some that are suitable for your boy, or boys if you are lucky enough to have more than one. And of course, daughters can join in too, the more the merrier.
1. Building Things
The moment he realizes how fun it is to assemble and put stuff together, your little one will fall in love with building things. Nurture this interest and help him develop essential skills by providing lots of construction toys. Start with blocks and work up to more complex sets as your child’s fine motor skills grow.
Be sure to try classics like Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs, but also give newer versions a whirl. More recent toys use magnets to hold the pieces together, making building easier for little hands. The original snap-together bricks come in large sizes for toddlers and smaller ones for older kids, and many boys are fascinated by them even into adulthood.
As your boy becomes more proficient at building, take it up a notch with sets that focus on specific skills, such as building vehicles, robots, gears, and circuits. Encourage your son to experiment and explore different techniques and materials. At the same time, teach him how to use basic tools such as hammers and screwdrivers. Begin with child-safe plastic tools and gradually transition to real ones as he becomes more capable.
When your boy is ready, consider moving away from toys and into actual building projects. Many home improvement centers offer building workshops on Saturday mornings, which can be a great introduction to the world of construction. Alternatively, you can start with simple projects at home, such as a bird feeder or shelf, and gradually move on to more intricate projects. You may spark a lifelong interest in building things. If not, you will have given him some basic skills that will serve him well.
2. Fixing Things
Knowing how to fix things is an important life skill that is not being taught to many kids. Your son may be right there with you any time you are tinkering with something. Just explain what you are doing and try to get him involved. Once he has helped with a successful project, he’ll be proud of himself and may be eager to take on the next one. Try to choose projects that are easy enough that your child can get some hands-on action.
Real-world tasks such as fixing a leaky faucet or replacing a doorknob are perfect for kids. Wait until they are a bit older before letting them actively participate in motor or electrical projects. Do you have old electronics around your house?
Let them take those apart and have a look inside. As adults, many of us shy away from working on electronics because we think they are too complex and too expensive to tinker with. In fact, many repairs can be done by the average person, especially if they start young.
3. Meal Prep and Cooking
Everyone should know how to prepare meals for themselves and their families. And it’s best to start your son off young. Guys need to know much more than how to fire up a grill!
There’s a natural progression for teaching children kitchen skills. Start with foods that don’t have to be cooked, like sandwiches, snacks, and salads. Pick ones that can be cut with a regular kitchen knife. The next step is usually baking, as it’s less hazardous than stovetop cooking.
Baking doesn’t have to mean sweets. You can show your son how to make tasty sheet pan dinners, for example. Add microwave cooking, stovetop cooking, and grilling as his skills increase, but always include safety instruction in your lessons.
While teaching cooking techniques, be sure to discuss food safety, meal planning, and food storage, too. You’ll also need to talk about nutrition. Start with the Nutrition.gov website created by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or try their MyPlate app, then move on to reading the nutritional information on labels and in recipes. You just might learn something too!
4. Music Enjoyment and Music Making
Music is known as a universal language. Most of the time, it’s something that children enjoy instinctively, without having to be taught. But music does offer many opportunities for you to bond with your boy.
Very young children love being sung to, and you don’t even need a tuned voice to oblige. Listening to music is also pleasant and relaxing, although music that is produced electronically doesn’t create a human connection like singing to your son will. There’s a world of cool music for kids nowadays, and don’t be afraid to expose your little one to some of your favorite tunes. Remember though, kids pick up lyrics extremely quickly, so be careful that it’s something age appropriate that can be sung in public.
Consider providing your child with some kid-friendly musical instruments to play around with, such as a toy keyboard, drum set, or guitar. Research has shown that music has a powerful, positive impact on kids’ brains, and the effect is increased if the child is actively engaged in producing the music. There are also many fun and interactive apps available that can help him write his own music, experiment with mixing sounds, and learn about different musical concepts.
One of the great things about sharing music with your child is that it can create a lasting bond. This connection will surely continue throughout your lives, even after they have grown up and started their own family. You can always have conversations about favorite bands, new releases, and musical experiences that you have both enjoyed.
It’s rare to meet a boy who doesn’t like camping. At first, your little man will be captivated by the pure romance of sleeping under the stars and roasting marshmallows over a campfire. Later, he’ll appreciate that a tent lets you get away from it all and allows you to explore some of the most beautiful and untouched natural areas anywhere in the world.
Camping blends well with other adventures, such as backpacking, hiking, fishing, and rock climbing. You can find helpful hints at The Great American Campout, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation.
If you like the outdoors but don’t like roughing it, consider a camper or RV. You can also rent rustic cabins that will give you the adventure of camping without some of the dangers and inconveniences.
Although it’s a classic father-son activity, not every kid can see its charm right away. The problem for some boys is that fishing requires them to be patient and to be quiet. For those who do like it, however, the love of fishing is likely to last a lifetime and be something that a father and son can share for many years.
To increase the odds that your boy will appreciate fishing, make use of these tips.
- Increase your chances of catching. Kids quickly tire of fishing if they aren’t catching anything. Do your research and pick the spot, the bait, and the time when you are most likely to catch something.
- Don’t expect too much. Even with a simple spinning outfit, your child is going to have tangles and backlashes. Bring a second pole, so your child can continue fishing while you fix his line.
- Take it one step at a time. If your child doesn’t want to touch the worm or handle the fish, give him a pass for now. If the fishing bug bites him, he’ll soon want to do everything by himself.
- Make it comfortable. Pick a time when the weather is nice and pack bug repellent and sunscreen. Also, be sure to bring plenty of drinks and snacks.
- Be encouraging. Celebrate even the smallest catch, and praise your child’s skills as they grow.
7. Swimming and Water Fun
Humans have a natural affinity for water. Given a choice, most of us will pick a room with a water view over one without, and population density diagrams show that we like to live near water. It shouldn’t be a surprise that boys usually like water, too, and are interested in the many ways they can play in, on and with water.
Every child should know how to swim. It’s a survival skill, and it also opens up a world of recreational possibilities. It will also help to keep them safe when they are near water at a lake, beach, or swimming pool. If you and your child both know how to swim and are comfortable in the water, you can enjoy a wide range of water games and sports.
8. Floating and Boating
Just as most boys take to camping, many have an instinctive love of boating. You don’t even have to own a boat. Almost any place where there is water, there are boats to rent. Canoes, paddle boats, and some types of kayaks are good beginner crafts. You could also book a ride on a commercial boat. Maybe take a fishing trip, board a pleasure cruise, or test your interest in sailing.
Rafting is another great father-son activity. Try a guided whitewater adventure or take a leisurely float down a river, either guided or on your own.
9. Theme Parks and Kid-Friendly Resorts
What’s the favorite vacation destination of most kids? Theme parks, without a doubt. Some parents love them too. Even with long lines, crowds, and extra expanses, it’s always a fun and memorable activity.
Theme parks come in several different varieties. There are parks centered around fantasy, land or marine animals, the future, movies and popular characters such as Harry Potter. Some are all about the rides, often featuring a dozen or more roller coasters. Others are smaller, with more low-key offerings, sometimes family-owned, and known mostly locally. Water parks are another variety. They may coexist with other theme parks or be separate facilities.
Another option that is growing in popularity is the water park resort. Parents enjoy the convenience of being on site, and there are tons of things for kids to do. Many water park resorts also offer features such as miniature golf, adventure quests, movie theaters and the like.
And then there’s the family-friendly all-inclusive. Some of these are dude ranches, and others feature a mix of hiking, biking, fishing, boating, and sailing options. These are likely to be a tad more laid back than theme parks and water resorts. They appeal more to the outdoor enthusiast and nature lover, and feel less commercial, although some can have hefty price tags.
10. Board Games and Video Games
Boys tend to have a natural inclination towards competition, which can make it difficult for them to accept losing graciously. By encouraging your son to engage in games, you can provide him with an opportunity to develop the skill of being a good loser, while also allowing him to experience the joys of winning.
Board games and card games offer a diverse range of educational benefits. Children can improve their math skills by counting moves and adding dots on dice. Additionally, these games can enhance their logical and strategic thinking abilities. They also teach valuable social skills such as taking turns and following the rules and conventions of play.
Video games can be fun for all ages, and this is one area where your son may soon gain the upper hand. Read the reviews before you choose, and make sure to pick games that are age-appropriate.
Try to provide your boy with a variety of games, some that are educational and others that are purely for fun. There are a multitude of free apps for phones and tablets, as well as a good deal of free games online. Occasionally, you may need to navigate ads, but if the games are worthwhile, you can usually buy ad-free versions.
11. Nature Activities
One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is an appreciation of the natural world. Most children are typically fascinated by the outdoors, but you can help your boy grow in knowledge and respect for the environment.
Here are just a few wonderful activities to consider:
- Birdwatching. Whether you live in the city or the countryside, birds are all around us. Kids get excited about common birds, and they can learn a lot from watching them. Buy them an inexpensive set of binoculars and a field guide, and they are good to go. The Audubon Society has more advice about birding with kids and some recommendations on field guides for them.
- Collecting. Children are natural collectors. Why not encourage your son to collect something from nature instead of toys? Interesting rocks, seed pods, and plants make good collections. You can also look for animal tracks and photograph them, or even cast them with plaster. Insects, amphibians, and reptiles can be captured and observed for short periods of time before they are released back into the wild.
- Nature Walks. Going for a stroll in nature, whether it’s a quick visit to a nearby park or a more extended hike, can provide your son with a plethora of enriching experiences. From observing wildlife and discovering unique rock formations and vegetation, to encountering different weather patterns, there is plenty to discover. For a completely different perspective, consider taking a walk at night.
- Aquatic Life Observation. Exploring bodies of water with your child presents an excellent chance to discover a distinct variety of plant and animal life. By using a seine or dip net, you can collect specimens to study in greater detail, or you can simply observe the aquatic creatures in their natural habitat.
12. Museums and Zoos
As you plan your outings, keep in mind that museums and zoos can provide an ideal blend of educational and entertaining experiences for your child. While aquariums and zoos are often a hit with kids, it’s also worthwhile to explore the more than thirty thousand museums located throughout the United States.
From children’s museums and natural history museums to art museums and living history museums, there are numerous types to choose from. Additionally, there are some unique options, such as the Museum of Bad Art in Somerville, Massachusetts, the Charles M. Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa, California, dedicated to the Peanuts comic strip, and Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa.
13. Celestial Bodies and Space
Throughout history, humans have been captivated by the skies and celestial bodies. Here are some activities that will teach your son about space:
- Backyard Stargazing. The easiest way is to download an app to your phone that will help you identify stars, planets, and constellations. Use binoculars to get a better look at the larger bodies. There are even services that notify you about meteor showers and other celestial events that are worth a look, so check them out.
- Star Parties. Observatories often host star parties and allow visitors to look through some of their high-powered telescopes. If you have an astronomy club in your area, it may host similar events.
- Space-Themed Destinations. Space enthusiasts have a surprising number of destinations in the United States to get excited about. Kennedy Space Center in Houston and the Space Center Houston spring to mind, but there’s also Hayden Planetarium in New York City, Griffin Observatory in Los Angeles and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. There are also quite a few space museums, including the famous Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and its companion facility in Chantilly, Virginia.
14. Ball Games
A simple sphere can mean lots of entertainment for you and your son. Start when he is young by letting him throw the ball, which he should be able to do around three. Catching comes a bit later. Introduce different games with different sizes of balls.
At some point, your child may want to join a team, either soccer, T-ball, softball, basketball, or any other ball-related sport available in your area. If you have the expertise, you may be needed as a coach. If not, parent volunteers are usually welcome as long as they don’t interfere with the coach’s work.
Going to ball games with your son is also great fun for the two of you. You don’t have to go to a major league game, although these can be major league fun. Any high school or college level match can offer a few hours of enjoyment, and even minor league teams need supporters.
Bicycles are about the most fun you can have on two wheels. Long before your child is ready for his own bike, he can accompany you on a pleasant ride. Try one or more of these options:
- Bike Seat. Once your child is around one year old, you can install a bike seat on the back of your bike so the two of you can go around the neighborhood or local park. Your son should always wear a helmet, and you should be extra careful, because if you take a fall, your child will hit the ground, too.
- Bike Trailer. A bike trailer is designed not to tip over, but it is lower to the ground, making it harder for motorists to see. That’s why most of them have a tall flag on the back.
- Trailer Bike. This single-wheeled contraption attaches to the rear of your bike. It has a seat and pedals for your child and is suitable for children from 4 to 7.
When your boy is old enough for his own bike, you will still have a few decisions to make. Some parents like to start their children out on balance bikes, which have no pedals. Kids use their feet to push and to break. They feel like this is better for learning than the traditional training wheel bikes, which don’t allow children to develop balance skills.
Choose your child’s first regular bike carefully. Don’t buy one that is too big for him, but something that fits his frame, so he can grow in skill and confidence. Later, he may want to branch out into mountain biking or even BMX.
16. Chores and Work Days
Believe it or not, some of the best father-son bonding doesn’t occur over fun activities. Sometimes working together is even more meaningful. Doing routine chores and special projects together will teach your son the importance of service and the satisfaction of doing a job well.
It’s good for kids to have regular chores, researchers say. One study found that children who were given chores at an early age – around 3 or 4 – were more independent and successful in their 20s. At first, it may be more trouble to supervise your son than it would be to do the jobs yourself, but eventually he will be able to make a meaningful contribution to the smooth running of your family.
In addition to daily and weekly chores, it’s a great idea to schedule an occasional workday when you can do some painting, clean out the garage, build a fence, or some other major project. Workdays give your child a different experience than daily chores, which can typically be done in a few minutes.
During workdays, expect your child to work for a sustained period of time – a few hours or at least until the completion of a specified task. In that way, he will learn to work through fatigue and claim the reward of a job well done.
Once your child has some solid skills, maybe let him pick up his own work? Small jobs for an elderly neighbor will teach your son the importance of community. Local charitable organizations sometimes accept children as volunteers, and this can be a great learning experience and boost his resume or college application.
The Value of Spending Time With Your Son
A Chinese proverb says that it is better to teach a son a skill than to give him a thousand pieces of gold. If so, teaching your child a skill while spending quality time with him must be worth something around a million pieces of gold then 🙂