11 Best Father/Son Activities

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 15, 2009 · 84 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family


We all know about the importance of fathers spending time with their sons. The relationship a boy has with his father greatly shapes the man he will become in the future. You can help mold your boy into a man you’ll be proud of by taking him on special father/son activities. These kinds of activities allow you to spend some needed one on one time with your boy. And they’re particularly conducive to bonding. Men don’t like to sit face to face and talk about their feelings. It’s much easier to open up when we’re doing something side by side, and we can just let the talk flow naturally as we cast a fishing line or tinker with tools.

Below we’ve come up with a list of 11 awesomely manly activities that you can do with your son to strengthen the paternal bond with him. You can even do these with your own father to re-connect with him as well.



A father and son fishing is an iconic image of paternal bonding. Andy Griffith took Opie fishing all the time and look at the relationship they had.  This fishing stuff really works. But seriously, I’m sure we all remember the time when our dad’s taught us how to rig a line or make our first cast or how he beamed with pride when we caught our first fish. Make sure to bring your camera so you can document the big one your son catches.

Playing Catch


America’s pastime has brought fathers and sons together for over a century. Sure, it’s a bit cliche, but there’s something about playing catch with a baseball that can really bond a father and son. What’s nice about a playing catch with your son is that it can provide opportunities to really open up and have deep conversations with him about life. Even if you don’t get all philosophical, the time you spend in the front yard showing your son how to throw a split seam will be a memory he’ll keep for the rest of his life.

The father/son bonding power of playing catch is so real, it even lasts beyond the grave!

Building a Pinewood Derby Car


If your son is in Scouts, he’ll most likely take part in the pinewood derby. Working with your son to build the fastest car at the race can definitely bring a father and son together. However, fight the temptation to high-jack the project from your son and do it all yourself. First, it’s bad form. The pinewood derby is supposed to be a competition between the boys, not between over-competitive fathers. Second, when you make the car all by yourself, you’re missing out on an opportunity to show your son how to cut and sand wood or how to paint. These are skills that your son will call upon the rest of his life. Moreover, your son is more likely to remember the time spent building the car with you than whether his car won. I know that’s what I remember when I think back to my pinewood derby days. So instead of being the chief, just be a guide.



What better place to re-connect  with your son (and your masculinity) than in the great outdoors? The teaching opportunities on a camping trip are endless. For starters, you can show your son how to start a fire, how to navigate with a compass, how to use a pocket knife, how to identify plants and animals, and how to tie basic knots. Besides all the practical knowledge you can pass down, sitting around a campfire give you a chance to to pass on some manly wisdom on life.

Building a Model Rocket


Building a model rocket is sort of like building a pinewood derby car with your son, except a model rocket involves fuses and combustion; two things that are bound to excite any boy. While you’re building the rocket, you can inspire your son with stories of daring test pilots and brave astronauts. Who knows? Maybe your time building and shooting off a rocket will lead to a career in space engineering.

Going to a Sporting Event


There’s nothing like watching sports to bring men together. Instead of rooting for your favorite team from the living room couch, pack up the car and take your son to watch them live and in person. You can teach your son how to snag a foul ball or  show him how to score a baseball game by hand. Buy the kid a hot dog and a team jersey and he’ll be on cloud 9 for weeks. Whatever sport you go watch, your son will definitely remember that day for the rest of his life.

Working on a Car


When your son graduates from pinewood derby races, it’s time to start working on a real life car with him. Sadly, many men today (myself included) are utterly clueless when it comes to basic car maintenance. You can ensure that your son is one of those few self-reliant men by teaching him how to change the oil or brakes on his car. If you’re one of those men who doesn’t know how to do basic car maintenance, make it a project to learn together with your son. If you and your son have oil changes down pat, take on the challenge of restoring an old beater into pristine condition. The satisfaction you’ll get as your son puts the key into the ignition and she roars to life will be unmatchable.



Hunting is a perfect time to bond with your son. Why? Well, if you’ve never been hunting, you pretty much sit around in a blind all day. That gives you plenty of time to talk shop with your son. Talk sports, talk politics, or talk about how you’re freezing your asses off. Just talk. Also, it gives you another chance to pass on some man skills like how to track an animal or how to handle a gun. Even if you don’t bring home a trophy, you’ll both come back with plenty of memories

Road Trip


Road trips can definitely be conducive to father/son bonding. Being in a car for hours on end provides ample time to talk and connect with your son. A father/son road trip can be as simple as a day drive to watch a baseball game or a complex cross-country journey that takes you to new and interesting places. Just make sure he leaves his gadgets at home or else you’ll never talk to him.

Go to the Barber Shop


Initiate your son into the temple of manliness known as the barber shop. Visiting the barber shop with your son is a great way to spend a Saturday morning together. You can chew the fat with other men, get a sharp hair cut, and if your son is lucky, he’ll get a piece of gum from the barber after he’s done.

Service Project


Teach your son the importance of giving back by taking him to do a service project with you. There are few qualities as important to exemplify to your son than that of  being service-oriented. Opportunities to serve are all around us. Sign up for Habitat for Humanity, and show your son how to hammer and paint correctly. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. It will give your son a chance to rub shoulders with different kinds of people, and he’ll hopefully walk away with a better appreciation for what he has and a bit more compassion for his fellow man.

Have any other ideas for father/son activities? Share them with us in the comments.

{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tom "The Practical Nerd" June 15, 2009 at 8:38 am

This article almost breaks my heart a little bit. It makes me smile to think about these kinds of activities, but my dad has bipolar disorder and never really wanted to spend that much time with me as I grew up. I didn’t really get to do any of these things with my father.

That said, it makes me look forward to getting married and having children of my own, so that I can do these things with them and share in the bonding I never got with my father!

2 Khürt Williams June 15, 2009 at 8:51 am

Ah … a list of all the things my father did NOT do with me or my brothers while we were growing. He was too busy working to provide trivial things like … food, education, clothing. My dad only had a high school education but retired a few years ago from his 40 year career from Barclays Bank, PLC. He worked his way from teller to Senior Regional Finance Manager for the Caribbean.

Thanks to my dad, I had educational opportunities that provide me with the lifestyle that allows me to spend time with my kids. Thanks Dad!

3 Tatang Sulaeman June 15, 2009 at 9:20 am

Taking place after The Dark Knight, the Joker winds up in Arkham Asylum, under the psychiatric care of newbie shrink, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, who’s subbing for Dr. Jonathan Crane . Heavy on talk, the flick follows the pair across five therapy sessions as the Joker manipulates Quinzel into a new persona: Harley Quinn.

4 Sunil Punjabi June 15, 2009 at 9:22 am

This is good list, and I’ve done several with my girls. How about a list of Father/Daughter activities?

5 Richard June 15, 2009 at 9:52 am

This is an great post, Brett. Thank you!

Every father needs to be reminded how life-changingly important these Father-Son activities can be for the child. This excellent short video does it for me.


Speaking of videos, Hulu does not stream outside the United States. Aaarrggghhh!

6 Steve June 15, 2009 at 10:08 am

I think another great activity for Fathers and Sons is golf. Play your favorite course, crack jokes in between shots, bet a dollar per hole, etc.

A little more expensive than playing catch, but for the 5 hours and it’s just you two out on the course, it’s pretty awesome.


7 Brian June 15, 2009 at 10:08 am

No son, yet (one on order and is due for delivery in November), but I love doing some of these activities with my daughter. It’s funny, but the biggest obstacle to the fishing and hunting one has been my wife. My daughter loves to watch (and help) put bait on the hook, reel the fish in, and then help clean them. My wife thought she would be squeamish about seeing the fish die, but instead she was full of healthy curiosity about the whole process. Dealing with the results of hunting has been the same.

What is the best to me is that when I am working on the car, I have to give her a wrench that she takes and “works” on her trike. World’s cutest thing.

8 Jeff June 15, 2009 at 10:37 am

I helped my 13 year old son build his first plastic model airplane yesterday. It was an awesome experience. Teaches him to focus, read directions, and describe new parts, terms and methods. I’m hoping he gets into it like I used to when I was a kid.

9 Walt June 15, 2009 at 11:45 am

Scouting. Do it. Get as high a position in your Pack (Cub Scouts) or Troop (Boy Scouts) as you can grab. It’s awesome for a lot of these activities. And as you interact with people, it shows your kid how he needs to interact with people.

Scouting shows boys how to be men. Especially when dad is involved too.

10 Bryant June 15, 2009 at 12:13 pm

@Walt: The problem with Scouts is that they require a belief in God. For those of us who are atheist or agnostic (or even non-Christian, I think), that isn’t an option. When I have kids, I would love for them to have some of the experiences available in Scouts, but don’t want them to have to profess a faith in which they were not raised.

I’ll say that in general, one of the best thing a father can do is support his children and show an interest in their own interests, whatever they may be. Attending recitals, sporting events, or even just playing the occasional video game with your kids will mean a lot and help you connect with your children.

11 Scott June 15, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Scouts was one of the single worst experiences of my boyhood – boys behaving like animals, teasing and torturing each other. At the campouts, my father and the rest of the men would retreat in the evenings into the RV while the campgrounds would descend into scenes out of Lord of the Flies. I was awkward, effeminate, and bookish, and was given no quarter, by either my peers or by Scoutmasters who had no idea what to do with me, and who were sometimes worse than the other boys in their bullying (all in the name of “fun”, of course).

I still despise them, but I recognize that my experience was not typical. I would just advise that some of the above mentioned activities require wiser men than most of the adults I met as a child. Some kids respond better to certain types of experiences than others.

Along those same lines, what would you suggest if you’re not a particularly “sporty” sort? My main sports activity growing up was competitive swimming, and I hated most team sports (soccer, baseball, basketball). I have no children yet, but I live in dread of having a kid that’s interested in those things (as my father was) and having nothing in common with him (as my father and I had nothing in common, except maybe Star Trek).

12 Mark June 15, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I really liked this post, though I have to share in a bit of the sadness the first comment displayed. My dad and I did a number of things together when I was younger, yet we share none of the same interests. What I love, he doesn’t, and vice versa. That’s actually one of our biggest issues today – even if I wanted to connect better over some type of activity, there’s no common interest.

That’s always been a tiny fear about having my own kids someday, actually. I’m great with all kids and I love ‘em, I’ve worked with them for years, but if my own children are sports fanatics, for example, they’ll miss out on the ability to have a dad that connects with them over it. I’ll still love them, and be much more appreciative of their interests than my dad was of mine – but still, there would be something missing for both me and the kid.

13 Jones June 15, 2009 at 12:37 pm

I’m an agnostic myself and I had some hesitation about putting my son is Scouts, but in the end I decided that the God part was really such a comparatively minor part of the overall program that the benefits outweighed my qualms. My son loves it and he’s learned a lot of stuff that he wouldn’t have otherwise.

14 Brian June 15, 2009 at 12:44 pm

@Mark — You can always find something, my dad was great athlete in high school where he was the QB of the football team, leading scorer of the basket ball team, and leading pitcher of the baseball team. I was a middle of the back offensive lineman and reserve forward on the basketball team (my greatest asset was that if some player in b-ball was scoring to many points I could go in for a minute and would come out with him holding whatever body part I could dig my elbow into, the coaches loved me).

But what my dad did is “man up”. He took an interest in my interests, not because he really cared about what book I was reading or model car I was building, but because I was interested. Sometimes when you are the dad you have to suck it up and get involved with your kids. I’m not afraid to say that it is not the easiest thing in the world. When I come home from a long day and my little girl wants me to play “Pretty Pretty Princess” with her or have a tea party I have to do it because that’s part of the job.

These are all great suggestions listed above, and if your kids are interested in what you like to do consider yourselves lucky. Kids are not going to change, as the adult and the dad you have to be the one to suck it up and get interested in their world of comic books, dolls, video games, or whatever it is they are interested in.

15 Scott June 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

@Brian – Your point is well taken. I can only speak from my point of view, but when my father tried to “help” by feigning an interest in my activities, he often came off like a bumbler and a meddler. I can only remember watching him lose his temper attempting to “coach” me in something he had no interest in, and my stomach knots itself in embarassment for both him and me. All I remember is wishing that this man whom I did not understand and who did not understand me would just go away. He tried, but it would have been better if he hadn’t.

16 Anthony June 15, 2009 at 1:58 pm

LIke a few of the other men who commented before me, I missed out on many of these activities with my father. However, I look foward, with great optimism, to the day when I have a child of my own, and I can take him, to do all of these things. And while I have not done many of the items listed here, I am confident that I can learn, not for my own sake, but rather for my son.

I sometimes worry about being a good father, and doing these things for my son when that day comes along. But through not doing these for me, it has taught me what I don’t want to do, and more importantly, what I must now do on my own, so that I am prepared.

17 Dave Lewis June 15, 2009 at 2:03 pm

When I was a freshman in high school my dad and I had a little hauling and salvage business. He provided the pickup truck and I provided the muscle (as much as I could for a 14 year old). We cleaned out garages and basements, collected newspapers, and sold firewood. We were going through some hard times and needed the money, but dad always made sure that I had some “walking around money” at the end of the day. One of the best moments of my life was the first time Dad discussed the price of a job with a customer and then said “Let me talk to my partner about it.” And then he walked over to me and we talked about the price as two businessmen. I learned a lot about reputation and reliability and always doing a little more than the customer expected.

The work was hard and I didn’t make much money, but I helped to put food on the table. Looking back it was fun and it was a good time with my dad.

18 Ernesto June 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Cool set of activities. But I think they appeal only to a certain type of men. I myself consider reading an awesome activity to do with my children. I want them to be outdoor goers as much as I want them to be readers and academic achievers, and I am the one who wants to model for them. Other activities include going to work with Dad (my dad was a medical doctor, and I enjoyed these visits a lot).

Not every man fits in the hunter-craftsman cathegory. Just my opinion.

19 Tom June 15, 2009 at 6:03 pm

I only got to know my Dad at the age of 14, but the impact it had on my sense of self was so unmistakeable even at a young age that I am acutely aware of the importance of a father son relationship of any kind even if it’s not a kind one. I think the most important thing is simply to let your son get to know you so he has a point of reference to get to know himself.

20 Mike M. June 15, 2009 at 6:26 pm

There is one thing to watch for…don’t compete with your son. Not seriously.

My father and I were both competitive shooters. VERY competitive. And he had a habit of constantly criticizing. It got to the point that I wound up not shooting beside him for over a decade.

By which time I had established myself as a high-level competitor in a shooting discipline that he was weak in – which meant that there was no rivalry. Which was a Good Thing.

21 M. Daniel June 15, 2009 at 6:54 pm

As a son, these activities are on the whole excellent. I however, hold some unique perspective. First off; my dad is/was a barber, so he’d dish out the cut and that’s how we’d do the bonding.

Also, while some may not enjoy the halls its played in, pool was something my father and I bonded over many a times while we tried to rebuild our relationship after he nearly killed himself with alcohol when I was 10 or 11. We started when I was 13 on that.

Also, learning to drive with my father. Best instructor I could have had. I’m the best driver amongst my friends because of it. I love the wheel because of him and the skill he impressed upon me.

22 Rob June 15, 2009 at 7:35 pm

I notice that you don’t mention anything having to do with music or art. Every man should be able to play an instrument, whether a guitar, a piano, a trumpet, the drums, or whatever. And if you play an instrument and have a love of music, I can’t imagine you won’t try to pass that on to your kids. Sitting down with a couple of guitars and jamming, or playing in a band together, or just listening to music–all these things make for great time together. Likewise with art. Art is generally a more solitary pursuit, but with kids it doesn’t have to be. When they’re young, you can use scissors for them, and show them how to colour. When they get older, you can teach them how to use art materials–how to blend colours, how to smudge chalks, how to draw perspective properly, etc. Teaching a child a creative skill is a good way to help them to build character, confidence, and self-discipline.

23 Helen June 15, 2009 at 8:27 pm

I think the focus on “traditional” manly father/son relationships and activities is fine – as I think this site sometimes suggests, traditional manliness gets a bit lost in our metrosexual PC world. We’re all smart enough to translate these suggestions into something that ‘works for us’.

In our case, it’s father/daughter trips to the football. A favorite father/son activity is playing a console (playstation etc) game together. “The boys” also love going to a cafe and having a special treat.

24 Simon June 15, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Be careful with Pinewood Derby cars… your father may want to steal a superconductor magnet from CERN in order to win the race.

(If you get this comment give yourself a thumbs up!)

25 Adam K June 16, 2009 at 12:34 am

@Scott – I also had the same experience in Scouts, I hated the whole thing. I joined with my dad so that I could spend time with him and learn how to survive in the wilderness and that sort of thing, but all the other children were savages who cussed more than sailors. But, there were some good times and overall I think it was a good experience, but not nearly what it should have been.

26 Gerard June 16, 2009 at 1:19 am

Reading this post gave me much nostalgia. (We only did 3 out the 11 tho.) My dad was an Air Force Officer, and was a Scoutmaster in his earlier years here in the Philippines and he loved the outdoors a lot. I remember him taking me on hikes when I was 8. I still remember those hikes fondly.

It reminds me that I should work hard to make him proud and make him see his efforts weren’t a waste. And I do hope that when I do have kids someday, that I would be able to do for them what my dad did for me.

27 ThomsonsPier June 16, 2009 at 1:52 am

I’ve done one and a half of those things with my Dad; I shall add kite flying to the mix, as I don’t believe anyone’s mentioned it yet. We’ve also played squash a couple of times, and bowling springs to mind (there’s a healthy competition in that last).

Though my father and I have quite different tastes in activities, there are a few basics that we enjoy together. We do, however, have similar views on the way in which things should be approached and both enjoy the ride as much as the destination.

It’s a shame that I didn’t see my father as much as I perhaps could have when I was growing up (weekends only), but I know he always made the most of the time even if I didn’t then appreciate it. Fortunately, he’s still here and I plan to continue his way of making the most of things.`

28 Rocket Jones June 16, 2009 at 2:33 am

A word about the model rockets. They don’t use fuses, they’re electrically ignited. A minor point, but considering that the hobby organizations have spent years battling the federal government over regulation, well, you can imagine that safety points like that are a touchy subject, especially since misconceptions like that have been used against rocketeers by overzealous bureaucrats.

Rocketry is a great activity to share with kids, both boys and girls. Check out the National Association of Rocketry website and you can find a rocketry club near you that holds regular launches open to the public. Almost always free too.

29 sarah June 16, 2009 at 4:35 am

I enjoyed your thoughts immensely! I am proud to say my husband has done nearly all these activities with my two sons. I didin’t realize what he was doing at the time, since he did it all so naturally. I am proud of him, and we now have two great grown boys.

30 Hirsch June 16, 2009 at 5:12 am

I have fond memories of my father taking my brother and I to the barber shop once a month on a Saturday morning, and this definitely brings back some nostalgic memories. He would just say to us, we’re going to Harry’s today – Harry being the barber. It was your classic barber shop, and I can still picture it. Some college football game would be on the tiny 12″ TV, Frank Sinatra or some oldies radio station would be playing in the background, and everyone seemed to know everyone.

Sadly, I haven’t really been back to Harry’s since I moved went away to college almost 10 years ago and then moved out on my own, but I still think of his barber shop often and wish that I could find something like that where I live now.

31 Julian June 16, 2009 at 5:24 am

Great post but you need to be considerate of international viewers. I’m in Jamaica and I can’t watch videos from Hulu. Your safest bet is youtube or vimeo.

32 The Plainsman June 16, 2009 at 6:34 am

This is great, especially since we just found that my first kid (coming in November) will be a boy.

I did a lot of these things with my Dad growing up. He did his best despite working a ton to support the family.

While I have a lot of interests that I hope to pass down to my son, I am also excited to see what gets him excited and what sorts of things will appeal to him. The one problem with my Dad was that he seemed to have felt betrayed when I didn’t grew to be less-than-enthusiastic about his hobbies, yet he is supportive and I will be too!

33 logan June 16, 2009 at 7:01 am

it seems the majority of the people i know wish they spent more time with their dad while growing up. it seems the previous generation put more emphasis on providing money and putting food on the table (and im sooooo thankful! my dad has always worked extraordinarily hard and provided above and beyond) and missed out a little bit on the relationship part of the family (big generalization i know :P ) once my dad got home he usually parked his butt on the couch for the rest of the night and watched TV instead of trying to connect with us.

anyways, i’m planning on making a huge effort to get involved with my kids and their interests.

some of the best times i’ve ever had are hunting and playing catch with my dad. we did rockets and pine derby and fishing but i never liked those things all that much.

i agree with Rob, i think every man should play an instrument. i got given a guitar in 5th grade by my dad. best thing that ever happened to me. i kinda wish my dad got one for himself and learned with me! we would be able to have the most amazing jam sessions nowadays!

34 James June 16, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I second both the call for the addition art and music activities to the list and the suggestion to avoid being competitive. An anecdote: when I was very little, I asked my dad to draw me a moose. Now, my mom is an accomplished artist, and I’d already shown a strong talent for drawing myself, but I wanted my dad to draw this moose. He refused at first, but eventually I convinced him. I remember how great I thought the final drawing was — but he immediately begin belittling his work and apologizing. It was a shock to me, and regrettably is one of my strongest early memories. Now I realize that he was just (understandably) insecure, but his insistence on seeing the drawing as some kind of contest really confused me as a kid. I just wanted a drawing from Dad.

35 James June 16, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Also, I’d like to second the suggestion that all these activities are perfectly appropriate for daughters. I have fond memories of building a pinewood derby car with dad and playing marbles in the basement with my Cub Scout pack (which he led), but it was my mom who took me fishing for hours and knew all the ins and outs of baiting, casting, and cleaning the catch — which she learned from her dad. I was touched to read Brian’s story of his daughter’s budding mechanical interests: I’m looking forward to teaching all my children, regardless of gender, how to maintain their own vehicle. Such independence may be a cliche of manliness, but it’s important whether you’re a man or a woman.

36 M.P. June 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm

@Mark – if your kids are into sports, man up and get into it. You don’t have to have every interest in common, but if your son(s) [or daughter for that matter] is really into it – work at it. In the age of 24 Sports Center, it is not too hard to know what is going on. I don’t love everything about the research I do at work, but it is my job to figure it out. I have two daughters and I really don’t normally find great pleasure in girly things, but I get into it because of them. Spending time with them doing the things they want to do is all that matters to me and it will because interesting because they enjoy it.

37 Diane June 16, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Please visit http://www.kepharocks.org to see another Catholic father/son organization.
Yours is inspiring!

38 Doug June 16, 2009 at 8:45 pm

I hope every father knows enough to not let another’s list, be the rule. Just simply paying attention to your children, and their interests negates any need for lists. Any time spent with the kids, is going to be time well spent.

39 thehuhman June 18, 2009 at 11:09 am

It’s sad to admit, but my father never did ANY of these things with me. By the time I was in my teens I despised him, and everything he stood for. I vowed that if I ever had a son, I wouldn’t be like my father. I would be a good father.

Looking back over the list, I just realized something. I never did any of these things with my oldest son either.

My family… it’s like we were raised by wolves. :-(

40 brian3339 June 20, 2009 at 6:05 am

I would add gardening and woodworking to the list. Teaching my son how food grows and how to care for plants that put food on the table has been a rewarding experience for us both. Also, teaching him how to create something from ordinary pieces of wood: a birdhouse, stool, table, etc. helps unleash his creativity and shows him how satisfying creating something can be.

41 Paul Totten June 20, 2009 at 6:52 pm

I’m reading this on Father’s Day eve and I’m feeling inspired, sad and a little guilty….My Dad did alot of those things with me and I’m doing some of those things with my son. I don’t think I’ve appreciated the work it took my dad to do those things, provide for his family, take care of my mom, etc…Nor do I often have it in me to give myself credit for doing the best I can given all life demands….Oh, and I’d say skateboarding really has been a bonding experience for my 8 year old boy and me.

What a balancing act it is, being a father and being a son.

Cool site, I’m glad I found it! Really beams in on building men up!

42 siouxgeonz June 21, 2009 at 10:01 am

Just got back from a week-long bicycle tour (GITAP), and thought of this site many times as I saw so many healthy, manly friendships embodied there. There was one father -son and one grandfather- grandson combination. If a man is seeking a place for healthy activities and relationships, the bicycle is a good place to start; when you’re *really* a man, you’ll wear that pink jersey and the spandex shorts, but that’s not necessary until you’re ready ;)

43 Roger June 22, 2009 at 1:14 am

My dad and I did alot of the things on this list and they were some of the best times i had while growing up. Fishing, sporting events (if you consider racing a sport), camping, the thing i remember most is the barber shop. My barber’s name was Bozie and I’ll never forget the times my dad and I spent in that shop (right next to the dentist so that area was sort of a love/hate thing for me.) I would add shooting guns at the range, it’s fun, and I learned a lot about guns that way. Also, I would agree with adding woodworking and art. There was a post that said something about golf, I’d like to add disc golf.

44 Stuart June 23, 2009 at 1:08 pm

About Scouts… if you don’t want your son in Scouts for whatever reason, consider checking out the Merit Badge books from the public library (usually in the children’s section) and doing the projects with your son (or daughter). They are great project books about all kinds of subjects.

45 Maria Jones July 18, 2009 at 12:52 pm

“There are also other supplementary programs geared towards promoting incomes and consumption. Funding is certainly not a problem for the Chinese government as the government is in fiscal surplus and has the largest fiscal reserves, currently at US$1.95 trillion, in the world. Moreover, given the high savings rate and low loan-to-deposit ratio with the banking system, there is ample room for the government to raise debt.

46 John August 1, 2009 at 5:08 pm

This is a great article. The important point of it all is not the activity, it is the time spent with the kids. If you don’t hunt, fish, or do sports, so what? SPEND TIME WITH YOUR CHILDREN. I have 6 kids, 4 girls and 2 boys and I can assure you that the litmus test of manly manhood is going to Home Depot (the holy temple of manliness) with a barbie doll in hand in order to match the colors of the doll’s dress for your daughter’s bedroom. :)

Chances are you will NOT have the same interests as that of your kids, big deal. There are thousands of things in this world to do that everybody can enjoy, a real man would find one for the sake of his kids. No harm either in trying something new to the both of you, who knows, maybe it will become a lifelong activity or end in a total disaster, either way it will bring memories and bonding.

47 Erik August 4, 2009 at 11:44 am

There is no better lesson than helping your dad fix something as a kid. My dad could literally fix ANYTHING. I still don’t know how he does it, but even just holding the flashlight as a kid has given me the confidence and desire to try to figure out fixing things on my own, and I hope to pass that onto my kids. Can’t put a price on the ability to fix something. Gives you some control over your world. I know friends who have never changed their own oil and wouldn’t even know where to begin. That seems crazy to me.

48 Bill August 13, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Did 7 of 11 with my Dad. Don’t have kids myself but notice a LOT of parents these days attend EVERY game that their kid plays. When did this start?

49 Thomas August 18, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Great article. I’ve done most of these with my father (I’m 19 at this point). So I’m old enough to have a bit of perspective, but not quite “grown up” yet. I wouldn’t trade the conversations I have with my father while on long drives, hikes, chair lifts, etc, for anything in the world.
My father used to be a ski racer, and this past spring he brought me to Jackson, Wyoming to participate in the Jackson Hole Town Downhill. While I literally learned to ski before I could run, this was my first competition. I was on a pair of 196cm Fischer SG monsters borrowed from a friend (I’m 5’6″ and 135 lbs), and this course was super steep, technical, and composed of bulletproof ice. I toyed with the idea of giving up before I even started until my 52 year old father dove confidently onto the course on his 1980s 225cm skis. The racers around me, including Tommy Moe (won gold in the ’94 olympics, my childhood hero), chuckled approvingly at his old-school tenacity. Suddenly, I wasn’t so nervous, anymore. I gained some new respect for my father, overcame fear, did something arguably manly (hurtled at ~60 mph down “the mini-hahnenkamm”), and met my childhood hero. Thanks, dad.
I’m posting this story because it’s nice to reminisce, but also to try to inspire those of you who are fathers to follow this article’s advice and spend some time with your son. He’ll appreciate it.

50 Scottso September 10, 2009 at 8:58 pm

I did a lot of these things with my son Evan, but today he doesn’t even talk to me, he must take after his Mother!

51 sumptin' different October 16, 2009 at 9:21 pm

I think these are all great suggestions IF your son is into them. If not, your son will probably regret or even strongly dislike these activities. My dad recognized that his sons were quite different (polar opposites, actually), He would travel around with my brother’s sports team and encourage him in his abilities. My father would also help me create and put up ham radio antennas and go to ham swapmeets with me. He wasn’t terribly into ham radio, but he knew that his boys were different and that he could adapt to their interests. That’s a true dad, not one that thinks he has to do a set number of activities to “be a man”.

52 Al Smigielski October 28, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Two activities I remember very fondly was “rough housing”. Although my mom was not that keen about it, as something always got knocked over. Each Saturday evening after bath time, and in my jammies it was time to hug dad good night, but I knew it was different on Saturdays, after watching the wrestling from Marigold Gardens. My dad grabbed me and we wrestled just like on TV. It was great exercise and a lot of physical fun.
The other activity was playing card games usually poker or pinochle, It wasn’t as exciting as wrestling, but it gave us long periods of time to talk, inquire about “what ever.” school, work, plans, problems, feelings, and sex.

53 Robert November 24, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Another project that can work out really well is making a simple wood go kart. Kind of like the “Leave it to Beaver Go Kart” but safer. I worked hours and hours with my Dad on all sorts of wood projects, and boy I would have sure loved a wood go kart.

They are simple enough and can be built safe enough too. Great bonding times especially when trouble shooting engines and drive systems. I learned a ton when we used to fix our wood chippers and lawn mowers. I would have loved working on a go kart with him too.

54 Eric December 28, 2009 at 9:25 pm

My parents Divorced when I was twelve and ever since It’s never been the same between my father and I. I never really got to have a real relationship with him even before that, but I know if I ever have a son I’ll be sure to do better. Scouting is definitely one to do. It will teach your kid a lot.

55 YoHuckleberry February 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm

When I was about 11-12 my father, brother, and myself had a small weekend business picking up old skids (or pallets) from where he worked or picking up huge bundles of cardboard and recycling. And we split it up 3 ways after expenses, which usually just included gas and a Hardee’s Chicken Biscuit. It taught me about hard work, saving money, and handling my over-active self professionally in front of the 60 year-olds who were forced to work on a saturday. Nothing makes me feel more proud than the memories of those world-worn men telling my dad what a “bang-up” job his boys did. And he would just say “I know.” Nothing makes you feel more like a man than busting some knuckles, getting the job done, AND getting the respect of those who have done it for years. I never liked getting up early on saturdays but I also didn’t know any other 12 year olds with $400 at home in the piggy bank.

As for the issue on Scouting. Do it. The scout law says that “A scout is reverent.” It doesn’t say as to what religion. My dad worked all the time and had health problems to boot, but he never missed a campout. And he didn’t crowd us. He watched from the wings to make sure we were doing things right and that no one would get hurt. Thanks to his help and encouragement I’m an Eagle Scout today and I getting nothing but praise for it. If you’re going to get your son into scouts you should be there as much as possible or else he just feel like you dumped him on some strangers in the woods.

56 Don February 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm

My father (1970-80′s) always took me often with him to the grocery store, the farmers market, flea markets, auto parts store, the hardware store and yes K-mart (oh those blue light specials). We might even stop at the Dairy Queen for a treat. What better way to teach/discuss things with your son/daughter. Let them see what others are doing, how people shop, how to find a bargain, learn about money, learn about different products (tools, auto maintenance stuff, etc) and even how to negotiate. You would be surprised of all the lessons a kid will learn on such an outing by seeing, talking about things and just watching you. Even if its window shopping. I have been doing this with my 3 year old for a year and he can talk about all sorts of things that most five years olds know zero about. Their minds are like sponges. You can never start to early having them follow you around.

57 Troy February 19, 2010 at 12:59 pm

While I think that all of these above activities are great way to spend time bonding with your children, I’d like to add a few more points.
Being aware of how your attitude and demeanour affect these “young students of life” is critical. If you are throwing tantrums, screaming at opponents and otherwise acting like an ass can we expect anything else from our kids? Model good behaviour. While I was fortunate in a way to have some of the above experiences with my father, I don’t look back on much of it fondly due to his attitude. I can now realize that much of his view of the world stemmed from his own self loathing and rage but as a child it is not easy to have perspective. I submit I may have benefitted more from spending less time with him while he tried to sort out his issues.
Nobody is perfect and we all have work to do. Just remember though, these kids are watching and learning from us. Really the activity you engage in is secondary to what YOU bring to it in behaviour and attitude.
In addition, I’d like to suggest learning a new skill to you with your child. Having them watch how I fail, struggle, practice, persevere, overcome and succeed at something is among the most valuable lessons I have taught my two sons. Modelling.

58 Aaron Highsmith March 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm

An activity I haven’t seen listed is Bicycle riding. When I was fourteen I got my first job in a bike shop. While I was there I took an interest in mountain biking. After purchasing a higher end mountain bike with money I had saved up my dad started looking for trails in our area. We would load up the bikes, drive north, and hit the trails. I always really enjoyed that time. Even before that, we would go riding all over the place, usually ending up at Checkers for a burger and some fries. When I was fourteen I also took an interest in guitar. I started teaching myself some songs that we both liked and he bought me guitar lessons. Whenever I would learn a new song or accomplished a new technique I learned at my lessons he was always happy to come hear what I had going on. Just that attention paid to your kids interests helps. You don’t always have to be in a coaching, leadership role, either. If I knew more about a subject, such as bicycle maintenance or music, he would let me teach him some stuff. That right there helped build my confidence in my abilities and ability to share knowledge.

59 Dadismydad April 6, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Those are great suggestions. I also think Dads should consider taking an interest in what their son enjoys. You can create great lessons out of doing something your son already loves, no matter what his interests may be. I also think if you can teach your son something more about what he is interested in his respect for his dad should grow ( ie the finer points of a sporting event etc). Above all enjoy the time!


60 BicycleBum April 16, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Except for the hunting (he’s a little young, you have to be at least 14 in my state) and the pinewood derby, my son and I have done all of those activities at one time or another. They are alot of fun!
Some other ideas are:
Building model cars or airplanes.
Bowling, Golf, or Basketball – a great way to spend time together
Swimming – fun and good excercise, plus learning a practical skill
Bicycling – one of our favorites!
Gardening – learning to till the soil and care for crops. plus the fresh vegetables taste great!
Woodworking or refinishing – our old dining room table never looked so good!
Raising a puppy or kitten – learing how to care for and train animals.
Take a martial arts class together – my daughter and I took saber fencing togehter!

61 Andy May 27, 2010 at 5:22 am

I have an 8 year old son who I know absolutely idolises me. This list makes me feel very bad as every day I am desperate to have time with him but there never seems to be the time. Life is just too full or crap and it is making me miss my this most precious of times. Starting this weekend it all changes – stuff all the crap; this weekend we’re going camping by the lake and having a fire and catching (I’ll take burgers as a backup) some trout and cooking them on a fire. It depresses me that his idol is becoming Bear Grylls. Nice guy, inspirational character but not my son’s dad. This is my job and I’m not doing it. Well not any more. Thanks for this list.

62 Doug June 15, 2010 at 11:28 am

Interesting how many of the top 10 here are activities we do in Boy Scouts! It’s a great opportunity to share a lot of experiences with your son…

63 RSmith June 15, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Woodworking is great for older kids. Machinery is dangerous if you aren’t paying attention-found that out myself just over a month ago. I am sill looking forward to it with my son when he’s older and has more focus…of course I’ll regale him with the story of when I lost half of my left middle finger. Of course that can lead to another manly lesson…how to stop bleeding and control shock….something every man should know how to do.

64 nathan June 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm

When I was a kid my neighborhood would hold an annual raft ‘derby’ of sorts down the irrigation canal. One year my dad, my brothers, and I made a raft that we attached a hand crank water pump to and proceeded to soak the other participants (including the guy who used to stand in his backyard with a hose. First time anyone shot back at him) one of the funnest times of my life.

65 John June 15, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Alot of great ideas here. My dad and I did just about everything on the list. I know now the man had the patience of a Saint . I have done most of this list with my son now 12 years old. I agree with most of the postings about trying to find common ground with sons/daughters but something I would add to the list is doing something with your dad and your son /daughter at the same time. It seems to make it easier as a group like that, my dad will tell my son stories of his childhood and my son will tell my dad how things are now. Everyone learns about a 100+ years of growing up in their generations time.

66 Anthony June 16, 2010 at 8:52 am

I am wondering if there is a list like this for Father & Daughter? I don’t have boys, but have three girls! We do a lot of these activities together anyway. Great post, great site, and great positive personification of how men/fathers should be in this trying day and age.

67 Daniel June 17, 2010 at 8:43 am

For me the most important thing I am finding with my son is that we do things together. It really doesn’t matter what, but that we do it together. I think this is especially important as I am at work all day.

So when I go to the shop I ask if he wants to come (he always does), when I’m in the garden I give him a spade or a rake, or he gets his toy mower, and we do it together. When I was putting together a wardrobe, I gave him a small hammer. It all takes longer, he makes mess, it gets frustrating, but it is worth it. Obviously if you can do more fun stuff in addition then thats great! Looking forward to some camping this summer

68 Noah June 23, 2010 at 11:33 am

I am expecting my first kid in less than a month, and I am so EXCITED for a chance to introduce them to any number of activities, including many mentioned above–there are a couple that I think should be included however, just based on my own experiences:
1)Cooking: We talk about how knowing your way around a kitchen is a manly skill, but I think it is an important opportunity to teach your kids a life skill that they will use everyday in addition to bonding time.
2) Photography: Again, based on my own experiences–there was a documentary on HBO once about a filmmaker who bought his daughter a camcorder so that she could make videos, and it was remarkable how much she interacted with the camera and came up with her own ideas at such a young age–I think that could be a really interesting activity to get involved with your kid over, just to get some outside perspective on how they look at the world.

Also, to address the problem of mismatched father/child interests– I can’t speak from experience yet, but I propose two things:

1) if your kid is interested in something that you are not–try doing some research on it via books/ TV/ internet. Even if you could care less, at least you can keep up with what your kid is talking about and make relevant comments about it to show that you care.

2)if your kid gets really involved in an activity, maybe instead of trying to help (read: get in the way) we should be approaching them as the expert, and learning from them by asking questions. Even if we don’t care, it would again show an interest with minimal interference other than deferring to their expertise.

Just throwing it out there…

69 joe hearn July 18, 2010 at 2:19 pm


My article is quite similar. Glad to know there are Manly Dads out there!

70 Pace October 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Two pieces of advice I received from my church pastor have really helped throughout his childhood. He had four children and all of them were successful.

1. You are finished instilling values and whatever by 13, so get it done by that time. After that you can only guide them.

2. When you talk about college. Do not dwell on school. Ask them what type of job they would like to do for the rest of there life. What part are they planning on playing in the movie?

3. Whenever I do not want to do something with my son, I told him to sing that song about the father that keeps telling his son he does not have the time because….. And the boy admires his father and grows up to be just like the father. The father retires and when he calls up the son and wants to spend time with him. The son says he does not have the time. And the father realizes his son did grow up just like him!

Moral here is to make the time. If someone said here is a million dollar lottery ticket and you must cash it during Feb. 29th, a leap year at 2 p.m. in San Antonio, Texas you would be there right. It all depends on how important your son is to you.

71 Nicholas Mazzuca January 2, 2013 at 1:47 am

I agree with a lot of the activities on this list. I love doing them with my dad.
There are, however, some things I would add. Instead of just any random sporting event, go to a baseball game. It’s the manliest of sports(besides rugby), and going to a single-A game is more fun than a Major League game any day. It’s always a more personal experience. And, if you live in Billings, the Dehler Donuts are amazing.
Going to a shooting range is also a lot of fun. The first time you shoot better than your dad is one of the most amazing feelings in the world, and all you need to get started is a .22.

72 Matt Tardy March 5, 2013 at 7:07 pm

My father and I did only one of the activities listed. My own son and I are basically estranged from my father (he is alive and now 90) and its a shame that we never did much together. I always thought growing up that I was a bully and a brat and therefore not really available or ready for any activity. But now I realize that I never had much guidance and I was never told told I was good at anything, and that was probably a source of my deliquent behavior. I also think that my father was just too tired for kids (he had six) at night and on weekends. I would say for my own son what I try to do is just encourage his interests without becoming over-bearing. For example, if he likes ballet/guitar/drawing, get him some lessons, but don’t try to force a particular teacher or style on him. I also believe in encouraging cooperation in just about anything : kids are bored and their day is long. If you need to peel potatoes or fold laundry or fix a gutter ask them to help out, they often times like this.

73 Selvakumar March 15, 2013 at 4:09 am

Me & my son, we travel together, go to dance class together …………… I try to spend most of time with son and try to do what ever I want to share with my father in my engager days. We both go to beach and spend lot of time in water discussing on end number of thinks. He is my best friend

74 Chris April 16, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Growing up my parents had very little. We did not take trips or go on vacations but what we did have was each other. My DAD would take my brother and me fishing in the summer and winter and in the fall when my brother was older the two of them would go hunting. But the best part was we would have friends over older younger and have cook outs and those are the memories I will never forget. My father was the sole bread winner and worked long and hard hours but was always there. I love my Dad and still go fishing and hunting with him.

75 Willy April 16, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Have done most of these with my son and daughter. Time together doing things they enjoy is the biggest. Hide and seek is a favorite too. Good List, should be handed out at the hospital when a baby is born.

76 Gnan April 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm

We have a ping-pong table in basement and I play with sons everyday if possible.

We are not Christian and Boyscouts never made us feel we needed to be. My best memories are my trips with them to Philmont, northern tiers and sea base. These are Boyscouts adventure outings.

My father is an immigrant from India and he never did anything with me. But I knew he was always there for me.

77 Tristan July 25, 2013 at 1:07 am

Dont let your kids do scouts! Look into the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Programs. My dad has never been around and without CAP my life would be completely different, for the worst. In CAP You get to fly, learn to be a leader and a member of a team, and to take responsibility. Look onto it!

78 Ed Gruberman August 21, 2013 at 6:24 am

I started changing oil and tires at age 7. I think cuz my dad was tired of crawling under the car.
He excelled at sucking the fun out of every bonding-type activity, with verbal and nonverbal criticism. My dadding style is based on his…and doing the opposite.
I must be successful…as my eldest is 11, and still enjoys hanging out with Dad. (I outgrew that at 5)

79 Mikeymike August 27, 2013 at 2:42 am

I have one to add for the more geeky Dad. The idea came to me after watching my 5 year old son try to play fetch with my brother’s dog – he just didn’t have the arm strength to throw the ball far enough.
So we built a trebuchet.
It was surprisingly easy. We had a small scrap table we used as a base, some pieces of wood for the frame, a couple of gym weights and some rope… done. We finished it in a day and had a hoot making it and tweaking it to throw the ball properly for the dog. Good times. Three years on, he still talks about the project.
Time for another one… Maybe the rocket thing would be fun.

80 Craig August 28, 2013 at 8:54 am

I never done any of these things with my father; I wish I had. He died last year and for the final 2 – 3 years of his life I used to visit him weekly and we would watch westerns together.

Me and my son built a pinhole viewer last week.

I’d love to fish but have no idea of where to begin (equipment / license / techniques etc)…

81 Tom October 21, 2013 at 10:32 am

@Thehuhman I am in the same boat you are my father was a supplier but that was it. We never did anything together. As for me and my siblings we were nothing more than physical and emotional punching bags and burdens to him. I grew up hating him saying I would NEVER be like him. Little did I know how broken I was until my divorce which was a huge wake-up call to me. I missed out on getting to see my kids from my first marriage grow up and guiding them into manhood.

My second marriage and our daughter is blessed by the lessons I learned from my failed marriage and 1st attempt at being a father. I am very involved in her life and several times a month we have Daddy daughter dates, I take her to horse riding lessons, cheerleading, and other activities. I learned to be her biggest fan, and she has taught me what it means to be a dad.

I fear it is too late for my oldest daughter who has a life of her own and has made it clear that I am not a part of that life. One of my sons now that he is away from his mother has reached out to me. This Christmas we are going hunting for the first time and I am going to ask him if he would like to go on a father and son cruise.

Maybe my other son will see that I am not the monster some have made me out to be and we can start building the relationship we never had. Don’t get me wrong I will be the first to admit I have made my share of mistakes as to which I have confessed everyone one of them to my son and asked for his forgiveness.

82 Jeffrey January 6, 2014 at 9:59 pm

I can really relate with the road trip one. Taking my son on a road trip to Arizona (from Idaho) this summer was the best and most memorable thing I did all year. It started out: my dad, my son, my 9 year old cousin and I; then on the way back just my son and I. We went to the place a grew up and places I liked, as well as new ones for both of us. It was an absolute blast!
A couple of years ago I was totally broke and found a skateboard-like thing in a dumpster. It was still in good enough condition so I took it home. The next day my son saw it and wanted to try. He loved and we have been skating together ever since.

83 Steve April 15, 2014 at 6:44 pm

My son and I love to ride our bicycles together. We explore new streets, places to eat, people watch, and basically chat the whole way. Another thing we do is play chess. He’s beating me enough to make it fun now, yet still challenging.

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