Young girls blossom when given the freedom to explore their interests through hands-on activities. And our task as parents is to provide our daughters with activities that nourish their interests, develop skills and foster growth. From imaginative play to artistic pursuits, physical exercise to intellectual stimulation, these opportunities offer a wealth of ways for our girls to thrive.
Together, let’s inspire their passions, support their interests, and create treasured memories that will help shape them into the remarkable women they are meant to be. Most importantly, let’s enjoy the journey together.
1. Pretend Play
Pretend play is important for children’s development, starting from a young age. Even one-year-olds can engage in basic pretend play by acting out common actions like sleeping, sneezing, or eating.
Around age two, children start to use objects symbolically in their play. For example, they may use a towel as a doll blanket or a block as a toy car.
By age three, children’s pretend play becomes more complex. They can act out a series of events and draw inspiration from stories, movies, and fiction.
Make-believe helps children develop symbol use, an indispensable building block for language skills. Pretend play also improves vocabulary as children think of words to describe what they’re doing. It can build empathy when children pretend to be someone other than themselves.
- Choose simple toys. Supply your child with toys that can be used in multiple ways. These encourage open-ended play that sparks imagination; help develop important cognitive skills like spatial reasoning and sequencing; provide longevity by incorporating them into more complex storylines as she grows.
- Play with your child. Don’t just comment on their play from your vantage point. Get down on the floor and engage in the action. Having a playmate will help create more intricate stories and open the door for different roles to be played.
- Follow her lead and fuel her imagination. If your child says that a box is a mountain, don’t suggest that she use a pillow instead. Spur on her vision, show interest, gently guide her through suggestions.
- Do ask questions. If your daughter pretends that her doll is injured, you can say, “Who can we get to help?” Don’t say, “Let’s take her to the doctor”. Open-ended questions that begin with “who, what, when, where and how” are best in these scenarios.
2. Dolls and Stuffed Animals
Children often lavish affection on their dolls and stuffed animals, but these toys also serve important functions for them. They help with pretend play and provide comfort. Kids will use them to act out worries, recreate family dynamics, and experiment with social roles. Children may play household with dolls, assigning rules and consequences. Stuffed toys sometimes substitute for dolls, especially for children who prefer plushies.
Allow your daughter to choose her own dolls. One that she picks will likely become a treasured companion, while a gifted doll may go unused. Sometimes children play with dolls of a different gender or race, which is normal. Dolls serve as both playmates and self-representations for kids.
Many children also enjoy playing with miniature figures, which fall into the same category as dolls. These may be highly realistic or nothing more than painted wooden pegs, and fit easily into a pocket or backpack.
Stuffed animals commonly function as comfort objects, especially as security or bedtime companions. Children often name and attach strongly to one “special” stuffed toy. Many children hang on to one or more stuffed animals well into adulthood. They may no longer hold them or love them as before, but remain unwilling to part with them.
Almost any little girl would be thrilled to have a dollhouse. If you are confident in your skills, maybe try to build one or at least some of the furniture. I’m sure your little girl would love to have something made uniquely for her. Here’s what you need to know about the sizes of dollhouses.
- 1:6 Scale. This means that one inch represents approximately 6 inches (ca. 15 cm) in real life. This size dollhouse will fit fashion dolls like Barbie. The larger scale can be easier to work with, but the finished dollhouse will require quite a lot of space.
- 1:12 Scale. The most popular scale for dollhouses, accommodating dolls around 5 to 6 inches (ca. 13 to 15 cm). Many commercial dollhouses use this proportion. Some collectible horse figurines are also available in this scale, in case your little one is a horse lover.
- 1:24 Scale. Sometimes called half scale, this measurement is used for collectible cars and other vehicles. It’s the preferred scale for some toy companies.
- Other Scales. Dollhouse accessories also come in 1:48 and even 1:144 scale, the so-called dollhouse-for-a-dollhouse scale. These measurements are more for serious hobbyists and less for children.
Knowing your child will help you choose the right dollhouse for her. Remember that what fascinates you as an adult may not appeal to them. Children may prefer simple furnishings that are easy to handle. They may be frustrated by items that are hard to manipulate, even if they are finely crafted and meticulously detailed. Of course, children under the age of three should not be given small toys as they are a choking hazard.
You can buy dollhouse furnishings or make them your own. If you pick DIY, either use your crafting skills to make something fabulous, or involve your daughter in making some easier furnishings. Whatever you decide, here are some DIY dollhouse tips:
- Furniture. Lots of furniture pieces can be built with craft sticks assembled with glue. Leave them natural, stain them with a marker or, paint them.
- Wallpaper. Easily turn the walls into works of art using scrapbook paper or good quality wrapping paper.
- Bathtub. Make a dolly bathtub by cutting out the bottom of a white plastic bottle.
- Appliances. Paint wooden blocks white and glue on black beads for knobs and handles.
- Upholstered furniture. Cut sponges to the size you need and hot glue fabric to them. Felt or other non-raveling fabric is best.
Perhaps your daughter would prefer to live in her own miniature house! Playhouses are available in dozens of different designs, from Victorian cottages to rustic cabins to ultramodern abodes. There are also lots of DIY plans. As with the dollhouses, many parents yield to the temptation to buy or create a perfect playhouse when a simpler one can lend itself to more creative play.
A playhouse provides your daughter with a sanctuary where her imagination has free rein. She will also enjoy sharing her miniature house with friends. Playhouses are very versatile and can be placed indoors or outdoors. Also, most are designed to be large enough that a parent can stop by for a visit!
5. Fun with Pets
Many little girls are animal lovers. If you really want to score points with your daughter, consider getting her a pet. This decision will not be taken lightly, however. Parents should consider how much care the pet will need, whether the pet is age-appropriate, how much it will cost to buy and to keep healthy, and whether the animal is likely to trigger allergies or offer other dangers. Here are some of the most popular pets.
- Dogs. Canines are among the most companionable of pets, but can also be the most demanding, requiring daily care. They can also be hard on furniture and flooring. Boarding can be expensive, and many breeds need professional grooming. Vet bills can also add up. Pet insurance may be a good idea in certain cases.
- Cats. Felines don’t require as much space or attention as dogs. They are more self-sufficient, though their litter box that should be cleaned daily. When traveling, you may be able to avoid boarding by having a friend feed and check on them. Cats don’t need to be bathed, but they will need brushing. Another point to consider is that cats are approximately twice as likely as dogs to trigger allergies.
- Guinea Pigs. These rodents of the Cavy family generally make good pets. They are gentle, quiet, and seldom nip. Grooming is minimal beyond routine health care. A fairly large cage is recommended, and they will be happier with a companion.
- Rats, Mice, Hamsters, and Gerbils. Due to their delicate nature and agility, these smaller rodents are not recommended for young children. If they happen to escape, it could lead to a zany situation. They can, however, make suitable pets for older children.
- Fish, Birds, Reptiles, and Amphibians. If your daughter will be happy with a pet primarily for watching rather than for handling, how about a non-mammalian species? Fish make great pets, but providing a healthy habitat for fish can be tricky. Some birds make excellent pets, but others tend to pinch, and their cages will need to be cleaned on a daily basis. Most reptiles and amphibians are not ideal for children due to health concerns such as salmonella.
6. Hair and Nail Salon
Fixing your daughter’s hair can be a practical skill and also a bonding experience. Simple braids, ponytails, and messy buns should be within the expertise of most parents. Dedicate one of your days off to experimenting with different styles, especially if she is the patient type. The Internet is full of tutorials and fun ideas.
Other cool dads specialize in doing their daughters’ fingers and toes. At-home manicures and pedicures are cheaper than salon jobs, and some feel they are safer for children. If you have an artistic bent, why not try creating special designs for her nails? Do remember that nail polish is very hard to get off of surfaces and out of fabrics. In case you didn’t know, non-toxic polish made for children is a thing.
7. Fun Fitness
Many fathers and sons enjoy getting physical together, but fathers are often less confident in their ability to share sports and physical activities with their daughters. Also, while little boys are more likely to end up in the emergency room than little girls, females are more likely to suffer sports injuries. According to one study, soccer is the riskiest sport for girls, and softball is more hazardous for girls than baseball is for boys.
Fathers may justly be worried about how to encourage their daughters to be fit while protecting them from injury. There are, however, a number of ways to get girls moving without putting them at undue risk. Consider these:
- Swimming. Aquatic activities are among the safest options for both boys and girls, while still providing fun and exercise. Swimming can boost their confidence and self-esteem through a sense of achievement and independence.
- Indoor Rock Climbing. With the protective gear and safety harnesses that are standard in indoor gyms, this sport can be both exciting and safe for both you and your daughter. It can also be socially engaging, as many gyms offer classes for members.
- Roller Skating and Ice Skating. Skating is both fun and an excellent fitness activity. Children should always wear protective gear. Learning to skate requires developing balance, coordination and spatial awareness, benefits that can be applied in other areas of life as well.
- Tennis. Kids as young as five or six can start learning to play tennis. Though driveway tennis, played with larger, slower balls and specially designed rackets, can be every bit as entertaining.
- Gymnastics and Cheerleading. When practiced at an advanced level, both gymnastics and cheerleading can require dedication and discipline but can also help foster traits like perseverance, teamwork and work ethic.
- Dance. One of the most popular activities for girls, dancing is both exhilarating and a great workout. Sure, dance moms get all the press, but there’s nothing wrong with dance dads!
- Walking and Running. Don’t overlook the value of walks, hikes, and runs with your daughter. You’ll have a chance to talk and bond, as well as build strength and endurance. The sense of accomplishment after training together and finishing a 5K or 10K race can be enormous.
Of course, all parents should support their children in learning how to read. In fact, it’s best to start when they are little and prepare them for reading readiness and early reading. Perhaps most important is reading aloud to children. This is essential for exposing them to new vocabulary, improving their language development and fluent reading skills, and perhaps instilling a lifelong love and habit of reading.
Here are some reading strategies:
- Share Books. Read a book at the same time. If your schedule is too busy, listen to the audiobook instead. Discuss themes, characters, settings, or anything else that stood out for you.
- Limit Screen Time. Sure, children read online, but retention levels are generally lower than from an actual book. Plus, they get easily distracted. Even more, reading books has a more positive effect on brain development than screen time does.
- Be a Role Model. You can’t advocate for reading if your daughter never sees you picking up a book. Make time, even half an hour here and there. You’ll both be happier.
- Create a Reading Environment. Bring in interesting reading material, including magazines, coffee table books, encyclopedias, art books and the like. Make sure that your home has a quiet, comfy space for family members to read together. Either keep the area screen-free or be sure to turn them off.
- Extend Reading. When a book has been made into a movie, watch it as a family after you have finished reading the book. Look for more books by the same author or ones with related themes. It may be possible to take your child to visit the setting of a favorite novel or the author’s home. If these are not practical, try an online visit.
- Go to Readings or BookCons. If you follow some of your child’s favorite authors online, look up any book tours that have close stops. Many authors promote their work by doing readings. BookCons can also be awesome events, featuring author appearances and various fan experiences, sometimes including cosplay.
9. Jewelry Making
Your daughter will enjoy the craft of jewelry-making for many years. Under your guidance, she will be able to make trinkets not just for play, but also suitable for everyday wear and even special occasions.
Craft shops and toy stores have jewelry making kits for children, but if you’d rather wing it, try some of these DIY jewelry projects:
Note: the metal clasps, rings, and other pieces that are used to make jewelry are called findings. Your child may be able to design and put together jewelry from an early age, but she may need your help with the findings and other finishing touches.
- Bead Jewelry. Let your daughter choose beads and string them on elastic cord. Cut to fit your daughter’s arm or neck. When your child gets older, move to standard stringing methods. A necklace planner is an inexpensive accessory that makes beading easier.
- Flower Jewelry. Attach silk flowers to hairbands or barrettes to make girly accessories. You can also glue a safety pin or brooch pin to the back of a flower, then pin it to a dress, hat, or sash.
- Shell Jewelry. Both shells bought in a store and shells picked up at a beach can be used for jewelry making. Some shells will already have small holes. A small craft drill will make the job easier, but may not be accessible. Another way to incorporate a shell into a piece of jewelry is to use superglue and attach the shell to a bail. You can also wrap a wire around the shell and create a loop for hanging.
- Found Jewelry. If your daughter is a really creative type, she may enjoy making “found” jewelry that combines random items. Watch faces, gears, keys, Scrabble tiles, and bobbins are among the items that have been turned into jewelry by ingenious craftspeople.
10. Room Decor
A room makeover is a great project for a father and daughter. Today, the two of you have more tools to use than ever before. It’s possible to do your designing on a computer, so you can see how the finished project will look before you ever get started. Some retail furniture and home décor stores offer these programs online. A few examples could include moving furniture around, changing paint colors, installing floors, or selecting different accessories. If this way of decorating appeals to you and your daughter, even more sophisticated programs for room planning are available. Of course, you can also do it the old-fashioned way.
A room redo is a great opportunity for you to teach your child about the basics of home décor. Talk about why it’s important to shop for high-quality items, how to hang items on the wall without ruining the wall, and how to choose the right light for a room. Don’t over direct the project, however. Do let your daughter decide her colors and accessories, with a little help from you.
11. Virtual Travel
Gaining knowledge of other cultures and places is valuable for all children. As a parent, you can play a key role in providing these experiences. Your daughter may have a particular interest in learning about a specific country or region. Perhaps she likes Australia for the interesting animals or Japan because she enjoys reading manga and watching anime. Tap into that interest and expand her world! Here are some ways:
- Mapping. Find the country on a map. Figure out how far it is away and how you would travel to get there. Look at the topographical features on the map and figure out what the country might look like.
- Virtual Visit. Look at images or videos of that community online.
- Pen Pal. See if you can locate a pen pal for your child. It’s safest if you find someone through a personal connection, but there are also several sites for pen pal connections. The Internet has made conversing with people on the other side of the world so much more convenient.
- Weather Awareness. Compare the weather where you live with your child’s country of interest. Imagine how they are dressing and what they might be doing each day.
- Fun With Food. Try to make some local recipes to get a taste of their cuisine. You may also be able to find some actual food products in your local market, in a specialty market, or online.
- Clothing. Research dress customs online, and see if you can order an article of clothing for your daughter.
- Holidays. Observe a holiday that is specific to that nation. It could become a new tradition for you.
- Language. Learn a few words in the other country’s language and imagine conversations with locals. Language lessons are easily found online.
Ideally, this exploration of one country would be followed up with similar studies about other countries. If your child isn’t interested, at least she has had a somewhat in-depth look at life in another region.
One thing that many girls love about the Scouts and similar organizations is the chance to go camping. Doesn’t sound too appealing? Why not give it a whirl first? If you’re not ready for the full tenting experience, rent a rustic cabin instead. Here are some of the things your daughter can learn from camping:
- Coping Skills. It’s impossible to take every gadget or appliance along with you on a camping trip, so your daughter will have to learn to compensate. There aren’t many wall sockets in nature, so she’ll have to spend less time on her phone and more time enjoying the landscapes.
- Survival Skills. Although it’s unlikely that anything will threaten your daughter’s well-being while on a camping trip, it’s a good opportunity to teach her some basic skills, such as way-finding, fire-building, and coping with the weather.
- Knowledge About Nature. Encountering animals in the wild, noticing rock formations, experiencing weather, and observing vegetation can all add to your child’s knowledge about the natural world.
Camping is a good way to get children to disconnect for a while from their social network and their online activities. It also encourages physical activity and family bonding, even if you’re bonding over burned marshmallows!
Why It’s Important to Do Things With Daughters
The main thing is to follow your daughter’s interests and strengths while supporting her through challenges with love and patience. As she experiments with different hobbies and pursuits, help her reflect on what brings her joy and a sense of purpose. With your wisdom and guidance, the activities of her youth will lay the foundation for a lifetime of growth and self-discovery. That’s all the more reason for parents to be sure to offer them lots of activities that will build body and mind. At the same time, you’ll be building something even more important: family feeling.