Sugar and spice? Sweetness, strength and smarts – that’s what modern girls are made of. Although some parents prefer not to make generalities about the genders, researchers have found some consistent differences between females and males. Girls, for example, usually develop verbal skills earlier and are more socially adept than boys. They tend to be more careful and less active, but they can be very strong-willed. These characteristics, of course, apply to the average, and your daughter may be anything but average! Still, when you get a chance to hang out with your daughter, you’ll need some ideas about activities for girls. While your daughter will enjoy many of the same activities as boys do, occasionally she may be in the mood for something different. This list of activities for girls may help. Have fun!
1. Pretend Play
Almost all children love to pretend play, and it is important for child development, too. Children as young as one year old may be able to act out common actions, such as sleeping, sneezing or eating. A little later they will be able to use symbols in their play. For example, they may use a towel as a doll blanket or a block as a toy car. Around the age of three, they may begin to be able to act out a series of actions and also draw upon fairy tales, movies and other works of fiction for ideas.
Make believe helps children learn to use symbols, which is important in language development. Pretend play also improves vocabulary, as children reach for words to explain what they are doing. It can build empathy when children pretend to be someone other than themselves. Here are some ways that parents can encourage creative play.
- Choose simple toys. Supply your child with toys that can be used in multiple ways.
- Play with your child. Don’t just comment on your child’s play from your vantage point. Get down on the floor and engage in the action.
- Don’t judge or direct. If your child says that a box is a mountain, don’t suggest that she use a pillow instead.
- 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.”
2. Dolls and Stuffed Animals
Children often lavish affection on their dolls and stuffed animals, but these toys also serve important functions for them. Kids frequently use dolls to act out what they are worried about as well as to duplicate scenarios that they have witnessed. They also use them to recreate family dynamics. They may act out household rules, or pretend that a doll has broken a rule. Stuffed animals may stand in for dolls with children who prefer plush toys.
If your daughter wants a particular doll, she should probably be allowed to have it, unless it’s clearly inappropriate. A doll that you pick out for your child may never get played with, while one that she is attracted to for one reason or another can become a cherished companion. Children often ask for dolls of a gender or ethnicity different from their own, and that is perfectly okay. Sometimes children use dolls as a kind of stand-in for themselves, and sometimes they function more as pretend friends.
Many children also enjoy playing with miniature figures, which fall into the same category as dolls. These may be highly realistic, or they may be little more than painted wooden pegs. Children often like them because they fit easily into a pocket or backpack. Sometimes these small toys serve as security objects or transition objects, especially if a child isn’t allowed to carry around a larger toy.
While stuffed animals may be used in ways similar to the ways dolls are used, they are also widely used as comfort objects. Children may give them names and become very attached to them. Many children hang on to one or more stuffed animals well into adulthood. They may no longer hold them or love on them, but they may be unwilling to part with them.
Almost any little girl would be thrilled to have a dollhouse. Depending upon your skills, you might be able to build one or build some of the furniture for one. Here’s what you need to know about the sizes of dollhouses.
- 1:6 Scale. This means that one inch represents approximately 6 inches 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. This is the most popular scale for dollhouses. Appropriate dolls will be around 5-6 inches. Many commercial dollhouses use this scale. 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 size is used for collectible cars and other vehicles. Some toy companies use this scale also.
- Other Scales. Dollhouse accessories also come in 1:48 scale and even 1:144 scale, the so-called dollhouse-for-a-dollhouse scale. These scales 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 a child. 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 below the age of three should not be given small toys as they are a choking hazard.
You can buy dollhouse furnishings or DIY. If you choose DIY, you can either use your crafting skills to make something fabulous, or you can involve your daughter in making some easier furnishings. If you decide to let your daughter help, you may want to use some of these decorating ideas.
- 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. It’s easy to paper the walls 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 playhouse with friends. Playhouses are very versatile and can be placed indoors or outdoors. Also, most playhouses 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 make points with your daughter, consider getting her a pet. This decision should not be lightly, however. Parents should consider how much care the pet will need, whether the pet is age-appropriate, how much the pet 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 they can also be the most demanding, requiring daily care. They can also be hard on furniture and flooring. They are expensive to board, and many breeds require professional grooming. Vet bills can also add up. Pet insurance may be a good idea.
- Cats. Felines don’t require as much space or attention as dogs. They are more self-sufficient, although they usually require a litter box that should be cleaned daily. When you travel, you may be able to avoid boarding by having a friend feed and check on your cat. 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 and seldom bite. They aren’t noisy and need very little in the way of grooming or routine health care. They require a fairly large cage, and they will be happier with a companion.
- Rats, Mice, Hamsters, and Gerbils. These smaller rodents aren’t suitable for small children, as they are relatively delicate and also are fast and hard to catch once they get away. 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, think 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 some bite and their cages will need to be cleaned on a daily basis. Most reptiles and amphibians are not recommended as pets for children as they may carry salmonella.
6. Hair and Nail Salon
Fixing your daughter’s hair can be a practical skill and also a bonding experience. It’s a good idea to experiment with it on a day off so that you won’t be operating in a high-pressure situation. Simple braids, ponytails, and messy buns should be within the expertise of most parents. If you find that you actually like doing your daughter’s hair, and if she is the patient type, you can find lots of fun styles online that might work for your daughter’s hair.
Other cool dads specialize in doing their daughter’s 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, you can create special designs for her nails. Do remember that nail polish is very hard to get off of surfaces and out of fabrics. Some parents prefer to use a non-toxic polish especially made for children.
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 safest for both boys and girls, although drowning is a hazard for young children, being one of the top causes of death for ages 1-4. With swimming lessons and proper supervision, however, your daughter can enjoy the water with a high degree of safety.
- 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.
- Roller Skating and Ice Skating. Skating is both fun and excellent fitness activity. Children should always wear protective gear. Helmets are an especially good idea on the ice because kids have a harder time catching themselves on slippery ice and may strike their heads.
- Tennis. Kids as young as five or six can start learning to play tennis. They can start even earlier with driveway tennis, played with larger, slower balls and specially designed rackets.
- Gymnastics and Cheerleading. When taken to the competitive level, both gymnastics and cheerleading can be intense and can lead to injuries. At a lower level, these activities are perfect for fun and fitness.
- Dance. One of the most popular activities for girls, dance 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 building strength and endurance. You also might enjoy training together for a 5 or 10K.
Of course, all parents should support their children as they learn to read. They can help with reading readiness and early reading. Perhaps most important is reading aloud to children. When your daughter is older, you can still encourage a love of books with these strategies.
- Share Books. Read a book while she is reading it. If you have trouble finding reading time, listen to the book in audio form. Discuss the book as you read it – careful of spoilers! – and when you finish.
- Limit Screen Time. Sure, children read online, but much of the time they are consuming the equivalent of junk food. Also, reading 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 pick up a book.
- 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 area 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 books with related themes. It may be possible to take your child to visit the setting of a favorite book or to visit 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, you may find that they will be making an appearance near you. Many authors do readings when they have new books coming out. BookCons can also be fun events, featuring author appearances and various fan experiences, sometimes including cosplay.
9. Jewelry Making
Your daughter will be able to enjoy the craft of jewelry making for many years. With you to show her how, she will be able to make jewelry that is 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 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. You can use a small craft drill to make a hole in shells, but many are very hard. Another way to incorporate a shell into a piece of jewelry is to use super glue to 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 incorporates 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. You can choose and place furniture, change paint colors, install flooring and select accessories. If this way of decorating appeals to you and your daughter, you can purchase an even more sophisticated program for room planning. 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 some basics of home décor, such as how 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 choose her colors and accessories, with a little help from you.
11. Virtual Travel
All children should know something about other parts of the world, and a parent is a good guide for such activities. Your child may have a special interest in a certain country. 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 the country 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. If you are worried about privacy, have the letters sent to your office or to a post office box.
- 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 some recipes that are typical of your child’s country of interest. You may also be able to find some actual food products in your 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 observed in your child’s country of interest.
- Language. Learn a few words in the other country’s language. 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 country.
One thing that many girls love about Scouts and similar organizations is the chance to go camping. If you’re a non-camper, why not give it a whirl? 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.
- 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 food!
Why It’s Important to Do Things With Daughters
Girls typically score higher on measures of passivity than boys, so they may not ask for their parents to do things with them. 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.