Meaningful activities with kids can be with mom, grandparents, or dads. Here we are going to gear them to dads.
In this article we describe some activities that are fulfilling and strengthen the connection between child and father. These activities are more engaging and enjoyable when done together. There is a playful element to all these activities and there is a lot of joy in doing them together.
Grow a monarch garden
A monarch requires certain plants that it feeds on from caterpillar to adulthood. The monarch caterpillar only feeds on milkweed and for some reason milkweed is a plant that is being less and less planted these days, resulting in declining population of monarch butterflies.
There is so much fun and so many educational parts to this project!
Firstly, the monarch butterfly is an iconic and intriguing butterfly in America because it literally covers half of the American continent in a matter of weeks. It takes at least a couple of generations to make it one way and another couple of generations on the way back. It is a very iconic butterfly also for its markings.
When people make their gardens or part of their yards monarch friendly, they are creating friendly and nutritious places for them to stop, lay eggs and continue the journey, without these gardens the monarchs cannot live on.
It is important to first educate yourself and your child on the journey of monarchs, there are some beautiful short documentaries that you could watch together for inspiration. If your child is not familiar with the process of transformation from caterpillar to butterfly in general, this is a great time to learn about this fascinating process. A field trip to a butterfly conservatory or natural science museum will be very timely.
Then, you can set out on learning about the different plants to have in your garden and decide on a design. These are some sites where you can get some step to step how to and some important information to help your kids create a meaningful garden.
Plein Air Drawing
Chose a favorite park or a beautiful place in nature. Make sure there is at least one tree. Find a good place to sit where you have a good vantage point of a tree and other elements.
The materials you will need for this activity are simple: a drawing pad no larger than 10×13 inches. A B2 pencil. A good erasure. The materials don’t have to be top of the line and expensive, they just need to be for drawing not for school, such a #2 pencil. This is not the same as a B2 pencil.
Each person can draw the tree from the ground up. They are free to imagine the roots going out and into the ground. Draw the tree trunk, then followed by the branches, they don’t have to draw every branch, just the main ones on each side, then the leaves. The leaves don’t have to be all drawn individually, they can draw little spirals to depict bunches or leaves, and then a few on each branch in more detail.
Once they’ve done this, they can add more detail to the trunk by drawing the lines that are created by the bark or darkening some areas to give it volume. The same with the branches. This tree may have had a branch cut off, this is simple to draw by making a circle near the trunk and connecting it to the trunk with one curved line at the top of the circle and another at the bottom.
Observe where the sun is now and darken the ground where the shadow falls.
Once the tree is complete, there is plenty of artistic license for imagination…How about a nest with a dove inside? Or some birds and butterflies flying around the tree?
You can go back to this place any time, and draw the same tree or other things around. This is a very bonding experience. It is stimulating and calming at the same time. This requires tremendous focus.
One of the reasons why this activity is so meaningful to do with kids is that by committing this place to paper, it becomes a place that they can invoke in a heartbeat. Anytime they want to go to a peaceful and grounding place in their minds, even as adults, they will be able to invoke every detail of it in their mind’s eye.
Start a business
Create something and learn to sell it. We have a post that covers more on this subject which you can read here. It can be a fun and rewarding activity. Kids learn a variety of skills from this activity witch makes it very meaningful. They learn math, marketing, pitching, economics. They practice commitment, setting and meeting milestones, responsibility. And last but not least they make money, which in and of itself is very empowering for kids as it gives them an outlet to make decisions as to what to do with their money. They can chose to open a kid savings account, they can keep it and spend on whatever they want, they can donate some of it, they can reinvest in their business, etc.
Organize a yard sale
Some kids have a real hard time letting go of their toys and most parents complain that the stuff keeps accumulating through the years. Yard sales are great because it translates into a great project-based learning activity encompassing real life math skills and organization as well as learning to let go of beloved toys and things that they are not using anymore. Encourage your kid to make signs and put a few around the neighborhood. Have fun with it and let your neighbors know that kids are invited and offer hot chocolate or a side activity in order to lure more neighbors with kids. This is a great way to get to know neighborhood kids and hang out with friends. Another way to make it more meaningful is to make it a community kid yard sale, where your kid’s friends are welcome to have their own stuff to sell along with your own child. It turns into a great day. Yard sales put the FUN into letting go of old toys and encouraging a more minimalist house.
Learn to play an instrument together
Depending on the age of your child, an instrument might be more appropriate than other. The size of the child often determines what he can play. Piano is a good start. Ukulele is simple enough and small for a 5 or 6 year old to play. Guitar requires a larger body even if using a kid guitar. Starting to play an instrument is not something that should be imposed on the child, but if you want your kids to take up an instrument, they will be more inclined to do so if dad is going in on it with them. Investing not just money but their personal time and making it a fun bonding activity.
Create art with nature
Walk around the backyard or go on a walk together and find anything that gets your attention and that you would like to use in their art work. We like to use a tray or box with compartments or just have the kids pile different elements they find individually so they don’t get mixed in the tray. Once they have at least a few kinds of leaves, flowers, seeds, etc. they can sit and figure out how they can use the different elements to create a composition.
Dried leaves, dried flowers, seeds, sand, anything goes with nature art.
You will need a large piece of craft paper in their favorite color, and glue. This activity is great to do outdoors if the weather permits, and it is also a great group activity. Find a good working station where the kids can set their paper, glue and other materials.
Finally, we usually have some colorful glitter to sprinkle on at the end.
Encourage initiative for product design or architecture
Start small. Gather white board and cut it in different sizes. Provide small nails that can puncture through the board easily. Hot glue gun. Encourage the child to come up with practical solutions for their toy pets, dolls, etc. Or for the house. Like napkins holder, iPad holder/stand, by saying “gosh, it would be nice if someone could invent something I could keep in the dining room to hold paper napkins so I could grab one whenever I wanted!” Or “gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I could have a great iPad holder right on this table made out of this white board stuff!”. Start your own, very simple project, in front of the child. Kids want to do the same thing daddy does. Our daughter saw an opportunity with this material to easily build all kinds of practical solutions for her Barbie house.
Build a model of your dream cabin, home or boat
This activity is geared towards kids that have developed dexterity and attention to detail. The materials can be foam board, thin plywood, scraps from a construction project, sticks, small logs, cardboard, even clay.
Notice that these activities in addition to being meaningful they also have high educational potential. The more they immerse themselves in them, the deeper the learning.
Here is a list of supplies and resources our family found useful when delving into some of these activities. Your child may have some interests that can be linked to these activities, so please do not limit the activities to the ones we talk about here, there is meaningfulness in following your child’s interest and suggestions and that could really lead both you to down your own rabbit whole!