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Activities for Dads and Daughters

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Dr. Meg Meeker

I recently heard from a dad of two girls, ages 7 and 8, who asked for recommendations for activities to do with his daughters. So, for all you great dads out there, I’ve compiled my suggestions below.

Keep a few things in mind when you are trying to figure out what to do. First, make the purpose of your time together fun. Second, make sure that the time doesn’t always revolve around one person— i.e., going to watch either one of them play soccer. These are meant to be activities where you focus on one another and no competition is involved. Finally, think outside the box. Many girls like to do activities that boys like, so don’t limit them.

Service Activities

  • Find a man or woman in a nursing home who is rarely visited by family. Ask the home in advance if you can visit once a week (or month, as your schedule allows), and then take your daughters for an hour or so. Have them draw pictures, play their instruments, or bring a pet.
  • Help an elderly neighbor with chores around the home—raking leaves, vacuuming, etc.—and have the girls go with you to do these.
  • During the holidays, find a family in need and have the girls shop for gifts for the family and wrap them. Be sure to take your daughters with you when you drop the gifts at the family’s home.

Just for Fun

  • Pitch a tent in the backyard and sleep out at night. Make a fire, eat special camp foods, and read a story at night in the tent.
  • Ride bikes, rollerblade, or take scooters on a bike path.
  • Find an art store that does pottery and have the girls make pottery presents for birthday or Christmas gifts for Mom.
  • Do a scavenger hunt together, either in your neighborhood or in the nearby woods.
  • If you are near water, rent a canoe for an afternoon and teach them how to paddle a canoe.
  • Visit the local Humane Society (be careful with this one; you might end up with a rescue dog or two).
  • Wash your car together.
  • Cook together. You don’t need to be a good cook. Most girls like to bake, so scour a cookbook or two (or just buy a box of mix) and make cookies or brownies.
  • Take them to your workplace when no one is there and show them what you do. This may sound boring to you, but girls feel honored to be brought into your workplace.
  • Go to garage sales and find interesting things to spruce up. Buy an old bike or an old dresser and help them paint it and then use it.
  • Go to the library and ask them to find books on pets, plants, old toys, or anything that they are interested in and then read them together at home.
  • Take them to lunch at a restaurant (it doesn’t need to be fancy) and show them good manners. Open the car door, pull out their chairs, and have them walk through a door before you. This sets girls’ expectations for how they should be treated by men.
  • Build things together. Start small; you can make model airplanes or model animals (find them at a craft store), and work your way up to making doll houses or tree forts. One patient of mine remade a car engine with her dad over several years! At 29, she still talks about it.
  • Make “story” books. Collect old photos and drawings they did when younger and paste them in a book together. Talk to them about what they were like as younger girls or babies. Daughters love to hear about themselves as babies. They also like to hear how you felt when they were born.
  • Start a prayer journal. Give each girl a journal with lined pages. Ask her to write down things that she asks God about. What are her wishes and worries? She doesn’t need to tell you; she should just write them down. If she can’t spell or write well, she can draw a picture of what she wants. Over the weeks, have each girl look back and see what prayers have been answered.

This is just the beginning. Use your imagination and let it fly. Don’t worry about whether or not they’ll have fun each time. Sometimes they will, and sometimes your time together may feel like a flop. Whether you end up laughing or fighting, all time with your girls makes strong memories. It’s the being together that counts.

For more ideas, go to familyfun.go.com and check out my latest book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: The 30-Day Challenge

In it, I help dads put the Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters principles into practice and offer thirty days’ worth of ideas for dads to spend time with their daughters.

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