Fathers are important! Whether you are playing ball or making sandwiches, how you relate to your son matters. The kind of father you are can impact your son’s whole life. The traditional roles of fathers as protectors and providers are important, but fathers need to forge emotional bonds with their sons, too. Happily, this can be done through ordinary activities, as long as those activities foster communication and allow the expression of emotions. This list of father-son activities will help you find fun and meaningful things to do. Activities for younger kids are at the top of the list, but many of these father-son activities can be adapted to almost any age. Have a look and then get started having a blast with your boy!
1. Create a Sandbox
If your son has some basic construction toys like bulldozers and dump trucks, buy or build him a sandbox. Put in some smooth river rocks to vary the challenge. If you don’t have room for a full-sized sandbox, you can make a tabletop model and let your son use it for play with his smaller construction vehicles.
2. Build With Blocks
Plain wooden blocks are a classic toy for children. Consider buying two sets instead of one, so that you and your son will have enough for big projects.
3. Create a Dinosaur Habitat
In a variation on the classic fairy garden, find an appropriate container and make a dinosaur habitat. Purchase some plastic dinosaurs, add some live miniature ferns or succulents and some rocks. You can even use a shallow dish filled with water for a lake.
4. Play in the Rain
Being allowed to play in the rain is exciting for kids because it feels like something forbidden. As long as there’s no lightning or thunder, it should be safe. Kids especially like stomping through puddles in rain boots. Raincoats and umbrellas are optional if the weather is warm.
5. Have Big Fun With Miniature Cars
If your son has a collection of small die-cast cars, the two of you can have hours of amusement with them. Create tracks and ramps using boards, rain gullies or cardboard. Cardboard tubes make good tunnels. You can use painter’s tape on floors and carpets to map out roadways.
6. Practice Numbers
Building good math skills should start early, but no worksheets are necessary. Help your son practice counting and measuring. Move to adding and subtracting when he is ready. Real world activities that support math skills include cooking and handling money. Card games and board games also build number sense.
7. Ride a Train
If there is an excursion train near you, book a trip for you and your son. It’s also possible to book a day trip on Amtrak. Be sure to arrive early so your son can get a good look at everything that goes on at a train station.
8. Play Pirates
A laundry basket or cardboard box can become a pirate ship. Be sure to display the Jolly Roger! A bandanna makes a good head wrap for a pirate, or you can fold paper into a buccaneer’s hat. Add a eye patch and a cardboard sword, and your little pirate will be ready to make someone walk the plank!
9. Make Slime
There are tons of recipes for homemade slime. Try several and let your son compare the results. Then you can tweak the recipes, and a craft just became a science experiment! You can also play around with adding colors or scents to the mixture.
10. Build an Obstacle Course
Create an obstacle course in the back yard and challenge your son to see how fast he can complete it. This is a good way of introducing the concept of personal best – that you can compete against yourself instead of against others.
Most children love physical play, and your son will enjoy roughhousing with you as long as you are aware of your superior strength and bulk. Roughhousing teaches children the difference between physical play and physical aggression and so helps to build that moral compass that kids need.
12. Visit an Airport
Watching planes take off and land is fascinating to most kids, and learning to recognize various kinds of aircraft is a cool activity. Many large airports have designated areas for plane spotting. These may be located off of perimeter roads or on top of parking garages. Due to security concerns, there are definite protocols to follow when plane spotting. Photography may or may not be allowed. Small airports are usually private property, but they may allow visitors, too, or you can plane spot from any nearby public property.
13. Take Him With You
One of the greatest compliments you can pay your son is to take him places with you when you don’t have to. You can have a bonding experience doing simple things, as long as he’s not already tired and you’re not already stressed out. Take him along when you run errands or go to visit friends.
14. Tee Up!
There are lots of good reasons to teach your son golf, but be sure to keep it fun. Most children are physically ready to start learning the game of golf at around 7 years of age. Start at the driving range. You may be able to rent junior clubs at your local golf course. If not, you can buy one or two basic clubs to start. If you need advice or financial help, there are several organizations working to make golf available and affordable for youngsters.
15. Put Something on the Grill
All kids should learn to cook, and grilling has its own set of attractions. First, it’s done outside, so you can toss a ball around or just enjoy the outdoors while you cook. Second, grilled foods are delicious! Your son might learn to like more varied foods when they are cooked on the grill. Like all cooking activities, grilling has its dangers, so wait until your son is of an appropriate age before sharing your special techniques.
16. Go to a Car Show
Many fathers and sons share an interest in cars, and it’s likely that there is a car show happening in your area in the near future, even if it’s just a group of enthusiasts meeting at your local mall. Whether you prefer antique cars, classic cars or custom cars, you won’t have to go far to indulge your interest. Another great thing about car shows is that the owners generally love to talk about their cars.
17. Tell Him About Your Childhood
Family stories are important in building an appreciation of family history and a sense of shared values. Your son will love hearing stories about your childhood as along as you don’t get preachy. He’ll especially love funny stories, but tales of hardship overcome do give children a sense that they can handle difficulties, too. Make the stories interesting, and don’t include a lot of unnecessary details. It’s even okay to practice so that you can tell the story well! Chances are that your son will ask to hear favorite stories over and over.
18. Go Backpacking
Camping trips are kid favorites. Kick the adventure up a notch by taking your son backpacking. It’s wise to start small, with a hike of just a mile or two to an established campsite. If all goes well, you can progress to a more primitive camping experience. Remember that cell phones often don’t work in wilderness areas. Plan ahead and be prepared for emergencies.
19. Look Through a Microscope
Many adults remember their first glimpse of a world not visible to the naked eye. For many of us, that occurred at school. Buy a microscope for home, though, and you can share that experience with your son. Decent standard microscopes can be bought for reasonable prices, or you can try one of the new USB digital microscopes. These use a handheld lens and a USB connection to project a magnified image on a computer screen. Pocket microscopes are also available, and they add another dimension to hikes and outdoor activities.
20. Take up Archery
A number of recent movies feature heroes and heroines who are skilled with bow and arrow. These may spark your child’s interest in archery, although some enthusiasts would say that the sport is just flat fascinating from the start. Archery is a lifelong and year-round sport that can be enjoyed by almost everyone. It teaches discipline, builds self-confidence and increases upper body strength. Of course, safety is vital, and you’ll need to be vigilant in supervision.
21. Try Leather Working or Wood Burning
Every child needs to try some creative crafts. While there’s nothing wrong with guys doing needlework or watercolors, your little guy might be more interested in traditional male crafts like leather work or wood-burning. Of course, these are best suited for older boys and require close adult supervision, but they can result in items that are both beautiful and useful.
22. Teach Him Some Knots
Scouting programs are famous for their knot-tying emphasis, and many an adult has been thankful for having been taught some basic knots in their youth. Knots are needed in boating, sailing, camping, construction, handling livestock, crafts and many more endeavors. If you never learned the difference between a square knot and a clove hitch, you can learn along with your son.
23. Start a Collection
Children often acquire and discard hobbies quickly, but if your son has an interest that has lasted a while, you can help him start a collection. Your son might be interested in stamps and coins or sports-related items. Specimens from nature, such as rocks, insects, shells, leaves and feathers, are also popular with some kids. Many kids enjoy collecting toys and games. Whatever your son chooses, it’s possible for you both to have fun finding new items for his collection.
24. Go Fishing
Every little boy deserves the chance to catch a fish. You can take a minimalist approach to fishing with a cane pole or move up to a rod and reel. A guided fishing expedition can be a wonderful gift for a boy who really gets into fishing, but wetting a hook off a bank or pier works, too.
25. Go to the Aquarium
Public aquariums are a hit with kids, and most do a good job of teaching about ocean conservation and other ecological issues. There is a substantive debate about whether whales, sharks, porpoises and similar marine animals should be kept in captivity, but few people object to the display of smaller animals. Also, many aquariums conduct valuable research and participate in the rescue of marine animals in distress. Many adults trace their interest in ocean life to a childhood visit to an aquarium. That might be true of your son, too.
26. Teach Him How to Do Yard Work
Sure, you like to have fun with your son, but there’s nothing wrong with sharing chores, too. Besides teaching skills and encouraging a work ethic, doing yard work with your son can also be an exercise in teamwork and bonding. Start him off with safe tasks such as weeding and raking leaves, then move up to mowing, edging and the like. He’ll be proud of himself when he masters these tasks.
27. Set Up a Bird Feeding Station
Bird bring beauty to our backyards and can be very educational to observe as well. The Audubon Society has some general advice, but for advice about your particular area, consult your local chapter or a retailer that specializes in selling food and feeders. Buy your son a pair of age-appropriate binoculars and a field guide for identifying your backyard visitors.
28. Try Horseback Riding
If you’d like for your child to try horseback riding, check stables in your area. Look for clean grounds and healthy-looking animals. Any children riding should be wearing protective helmets. Early lessons should be on the lunge line or lead line. This is a safer and smarter way to introduce your son to horseback riding than signing up for a random trail ride while on vacation.
29. Work on Things
Just as your son should know how to do some basic lawn and garden care, he should also be able to fix a few things around the house. Plumbing is a good place to start, because it doesn’t involve electricity. A little later your son can help with appliances and electronics. You can even let him take apart some old gadgets or try to fix his defunct electronics. If he learns something, that counts as a success.
30. Go Karting
Riding a go-kart on a commercial track is great fun for dads and sons. Reputable operators provide helmets and other protective gear and emphasize safety. Junior riders should be driving vehicles with a restricted speed. If you take your son go-karting, emphasize following the rules. And if you drive, set a good example!
31. Go to a Video Arcade
If you’d like a walk down memory lane while having father-son time, visit a video arcade. Arcades tend to feature family-friendly, non-violent games and may even have some of the same games you played as a child. When the two of you get tired of video games, you can play skee ball, air hockey or a classic basketball arcade game.
32. Learn Guitar Together
If you always wanted to be a guitar hero and now your son shares the ambition, why not take guitar lessons together? Children as young as 6 or 7 can start learning the basics. Playing guitar can build math and memory skills, give boys an emotional outlet and boost your son’s social life. Find a good guitar teacher and join your son, and the two of you can compare callouses!
33. Plant a Tree
There are so many reasons to plant trees. They provide shade, produce oxygen, give shelter to animals and birds and look beautiful. Plant one in your own space, and you’ll increase your property value, too. If you don’t have a spot for a tree, join a volunteer organization with your son and beautify your community together.
34. Put Together a Model Car
Long before Lego, boys spent hours putting together models of their favorite cars. You can share that hobby with your son today. Kits are usually designated with a skill level that can range from 1 to 5. Choose a simple snap-together kit for your first foray into model building, or look for a skill level of 1 or 2. Most model kits are put together with glue that has some powerful fumes. You can use less stinky glues, but they won’t weld the pieces together in quite the same way. If you use traditional model glue, always work in a well-ventilated area.
35. Do Some Stargazing
If your son is interested in the stars and space, you can feed that interest in several ways. For classic star-watching, you’ll need an open sky in an area with little light pollution. Download an astronomy app to your phone to unlock a load of resources. You can also plan a visit to a observatory or planetarium.
36. Try Surfing
Seeing your son get up on a surfboard for the first time can be quite a thrill! Unless you are an experienced rider, sign him up for lessons. You can join him in surf school or be his designated photographer. Surfing improves balance and increases coordination. It’s also a good confidence builder.
37. Teach Him Some Tailgate Games
Even if you never go to tailgate parties, you and your son can have a bushel of fun with tailgating games. Think about it. Tailgate games have to take up a minimum of space and be safe for spectators. That’s a good formula for at-home games, too. Some of the most popular are the beanbag game popularly known as cornhole, washers and ladder golf.
38. Enjoy RC vehicles
Radio-controlled vehicles are a good way to get your son outside and moving. Manipulating an RC vehicle also builds motor skills. Older children will pick up math and physics knowledge without even knowing it. Although RC vehicles can be phenomenally expensive, you can buy cheaper models for kids. To get free advice, join an RC community in your area or online.
39. Work on a Car
All kids can benefit from knowing a bit about automobiles, but you should choose tasks that are suitable for your son’s age level. Start him off by letting him help you wash the car. This gives you a chance to introduce simple terms like hood, fender, bumper, windshield and chassis. Next, show him how to change an air filter or replace wiper blades. He can also be your assistant. Just learning the names of the different items in your tool box can be a challenge for him! As he gets into the teen years, he can learn to change and rotate tires, replace fluids and learn other skills that will serve him well once he becomes a vehicle owner.
40. Listen to Podcasts
Enjoying a great podcast together is a good way to pass the time while driving or while doing chores together. This pastime builds listening skills and can also be enormously educational and enjoyable. There are podcasts especially for kids, some of which can be interesting to adults, but don’t be surprised if your son gets hooked on one of your favorites. Just check out episodes ahead of time to make sure they don’t have adult themes.
41. Visit a Dude Ranch
Getting to ride horses is probably the biggest attraction of dude ranches, but there are many others. You and your son can enjoy cowboy cookouts, fishing, hiking and hayrides. Your ranch may even have a swimming hole or a river for rafting. What fun!
42. Read Comic Books Together
Reading with your son is absolutely vital for his intellectual development. If you have a reluctant reader, comic books or manga (Japanese comic books) may capture his interest and unlock his skills. Do check for adult content. Some comic books can be quite risque. The classics that you loved will probably appeal to him, too.
43. Do a Ropes Course
Want an activity that is safe but thrilling and will also test your son’s strength and coordination? Try a ropes course. Most of these are outdoors and feature considerable height and some significant challenges. You can start a preschooler out with an easier indoor course at a local play center.
44. Go on a Father-Son Weekend
Vacations don’t come around often enough. Fill in with a father-son weekend. You can have an active weekend of fishing, camping, skiing, hiking or biking, or you can have a more relaxing weekend at the beach or lakeside. You can also book an urban hotel and hit the museums or find a festival. The two of you will be together. That’s the important part.
45. Go to a Historical Reenactment
If you’re a history buff, your son may not share your enthusiasm. A re-enactment may be just the ticket to getting him interested. Re-enactors often recreate battles, but they also portray everyday life. Getting involved in reenacting can be a good experience for fathers and sons. It can require a substantial investment in time and money, but many enthusiasts think that it is well worth the cost.
46. Teach Him How to Play Chess
A classic intellectual challenge, chess is played all over the world. It’s good for your son to have a working knowledge of the game even if he will never be a chess master. Some advise giving yourself a handicap when playing with a child by removing one of your pieces from the board. Others believe you should play with all pieces so that it will be a significant accomplishment when your son beats you. Once he gets the hang of the game, try variations like speed chess.
47. Go Zip-lining
Need an adrenaline rush? Take your son zip-lining. This thrill sport will test your nerves and possibly strain your vocal chords. There are several different kinds of zip-lines. Some emphasize the scenery. Some are mostly for speed. Many close with a free fall that will give you an extra adrenaline rush!
48. Teach Him How to Build a Fire
Fire-building is a survival skill that your son may never need to save his life, but it does come in handy while camping or just hanging out in the outdoors. If you have a fire pit, you can teach him right at home.
49. Do Some Comparison Shopping
If your son is a tween or teen, it’s time to start teaching him some shopping skills. You can do this the next time he wants a new gadget or even involve him in choosing something for your home, such as a new TV or microwave. Teach him how to compare models and prices and read reviews. The result could be that he’ll be a smarter consumer for all of his life.
50. Watch a Movie
Thanks to the various streaming services, you have a huge choice of movies to watch with your son. Don’t stick to the mainstream brands. Introduce your child to indies, foreign flicks and documentaries. Of course, you’ll be mindful of adult content and you’ll consider your child’s emotional maturity. But there are a world of movies out there that stimulate thought, add to learning and help your child be a more empathetic person.
Cope With Complications
Anyone can be a good father when things go smoothly. Coping with complications and chaos is harder. Keep your cool, and you’ll be teaching your son a valuable lesson. Also, have you ever noticed that the stories we tell over and over involve times when something went wrong? So don’t get discouraged when an activity you have planned doesn’t go well. The experience could become your son’s favorite story!