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. People love to debate whether boys are born super-charged or whether we socialize them to display “boyish” behavior. We do know that boys demonstrate a certain set of characteristics that seem to be due to nature, not nurture. For example, they like group play and like to compete at an early age. They are action-oriented and show less fear than their sisters. Not surprisingly, they are more likely to suffer injury than girls, so parents must let them explore while trying to keep them safe. That said, boys’ personalities and abilities can vary greatly. This list of activities for boys is sure to include some that are suitable for your son, or sons if you are lucky enough to have more than one. Of course, daughters can join in, too.
1. Building Things
From the time that they can put one block on top of another, most boys enjoy building things. Nurture this interest by providing lots of construction toys for your son. Start with blocks and expand 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. Some of the newer toys use magnets to hold the pieces together, making building easier for little hands. The classic 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.
Once your child has mastered basic building skills, you can branch out. There are sets for building vehicles and robots and sets for learning about gears and about circuitry. While your son is young, teach him how to use hammers, screwdrivers and other basic tools. Begin with child-safe plastic tools and transition to real ones when he can handle them.
When your son is ready, you can move away from toys and begin actual building projects. Start by taking your child to a building workshop at a home improvement center near you. Many of these stores offer Saturday morning classes. You will need to accompany your child, which will give you a chance to gauge his interest. If you would rather do it yourself at home, start with something small, like a bird feeder or shelf. Move to larger, 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. On the other hand, he may have to be invited to take part or even made to get involved. That’s okay. 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 simple 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 older before you involve them in projects involving motors or electricity. Do you have old electronics around your house? Let them take them apart and take 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
When men worked physically exhausting jobs, most of them didn’t have the time or energy to learn to cook. Usually, they had wives or other female relatives who took care of feeding the family. Today’s world is much different. Everyone should know how to prepare meals for themselves and for their families. Guys need to know much more than how to fire up a grill! And it’s best to start your son off young.
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. Choose foods 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 your son’s 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 Choose My Plate website created by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and 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 the universal language. Most of the time, it is something that children enjoy instinctively, without having to be taught. But music does offer many opportunities for you to bond with your child.
Very young children enjoy being sung to, and you don’t have to have a great voice to oblige. They will enjoy listening to music, too, although music that is produced electronically doesn’t forge a human connection like singing to your child will. There’s a world of cool music for kids, but don’t be afraid to expose your child to some of your favorite tunes — curated to be sure that your child doesn’t get kicked out of daycare for singing them!
You should also buy your child some kiddie musical instruments and if he shows interest, a real instrument when he is big enough to play one. 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. Another route to take is to use apps to encourage your child’s interest in music. Apps can help your child write his own music or experiment with mixing.
One of the best things about music is that once you have bonded with your child over music, that bond is likely to last a lifetime. When he has his own children, he may still call you to talk about a favorite band or a new release.
It’s rare to meet a boy who doesn’t like camping. At first, your little man will be captured by the pure romance of sleeping under the stars and having 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 areas around. 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, fishing appeals to some kids and doesn’t have any charm for others. 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 to be something that father and son can share for many years.
To increase the odds that your son will enjoy 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 pack 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 our 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 boys have an instinctive love of boating. You don’t have to own a boat. Almost anywhere where there is water, there are boats to rent. Canoes, paddle boats and some types of kayaks are good beginner crafts. You can also book you and your son on a commercial boat. You can take a fishing trip, enjoy a pleasure cruise or test your interest in sailing.
Rafting is another great father-son activity. You can go on 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. On the other hand, some parents hate the expense, the long lines, and the crowds. You may not know which camp you fall into without making a visit.
Theme parks come in several different varieties. There are parks centered around fantasy, animals, marine animals, the future, movies and popular characters such as Harry Potter. There are theme parks that are all about the rides, often featuring a dozen or more roller coasters. There are smaller, more low-key offerings, sometimes family-owned and known only locally. Water parks are another variety. They may co-exist 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.
A third option is 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 have hefty price tags.
10. Board Games and Video Games
Boys are naturally competitive, and that means that they sometimes have trouble being good losers. Through playing games, you can help your son acquire that skill and also let him learn how it feels to win.
Board games and card games teach a whole panoply of skills. Children’s math skills get a boost as they learn to count their moves and add the dots on dice. They can learn logic and strategy. They learn how to take turns and how to follow the conventions of play.
Video games can be fun for all ages, and this is one area where your son may soon be able to beat you. Read the reviews before you choose, and make sure to choose games that are age-appropriate. You’ll also want to offer your child a variety of games, some that are educational and some that are purely for fun. You can find free apps for phones and tablets and also find some free games online. You may have 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 world of nature. Most children are naturally fascinated by the outdoors, but you can help your son grow in knowledge and appreciation of the world around us.
Here are just a few of the activities that you can do that will increase your child’s knowledge about and appreciation of nature.
- Birdwatching. Whether you live in the city or country, 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 for kids’ field guides.
- Collecting. Children are natural collectors. Why not encourage your son to collect something from nature instead of toys? Interesting rocks, seed pods, and bones 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. Whether you enjoy a brief walk through a park or a longer hike, walking in the outdoors exposes your son to a wide variety of experiences. You may encounter wildlife or interesting rock formations and vegetation. You may also get to experience a variety of weather phenomena! Walk at night for an entirely different experience.
- Aquatic Life Observation. Bodies of water give you and your child the opportunity to learn about an entirely different kind of animal and plant life. You can use a seine or dip net to collect specimens or simply observe aquatic life in the wild.
12. Museums and Zoos
While you are planning outings, don’t forget museums and zoos, which offer a perfect combination of education and fun. Aquariums and zoos are kid favorites but don’t forget to visit some of the over thirty thousand museums in the United States. There are children’s museums, natural history museums, art museums, living history museums, and many other types. There are also offbeat museums like 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 fascinated by the skies and celestial bodies. Here are some activities that will teach your son about space.
- Backyard Stargazing. You can 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. You can also subscribe to a service that notifies you about meteor showers and other celestial events that are worth a look.
- 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. There are a surprising number of destinations in the United States for space enthusiasts. 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 most famous, the 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 or basketball. 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. You can follow a high school or college team, or look for a minor league team near you.
Bicycles are about the most fun you can have on two wheels. Long before your child is ready for his own bike, he can enjoy riding with you. 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 he can enjoy wheeling 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, so 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 child is old enough for his own bike, you will still have some decisions to make. Some parents like to start their children out on balance bikes, which have no pedals. Children use their feet to push and to brake. Some parents feel that balance bikes are better learner bikes 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. Buy one that fits his frame so he can grow in skill and confidence instead of having to wrangle a too-big bike. 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.
Your son should 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, your son 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 do 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 – if not all day, 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, why not engage him in service to others? Small jobs for an elderly neighbor will teach your child the importance of community. You can also look for a local charitable organization that accepts children as volunteers. Volunteering together is a great experience, although at some point you should let your child assert his independence by volunteering alone.
The Value of Spending Time With Your Son
Do these things with your son, and you will teach him a myriad of skills. A Chinese proverb says that it is better to teach a son a skill than to give him a thousand pieces of gold. But teaching your child a skill while spending quality time with him must be worth something around a million pieces of gold.