Culture

10 Fun Outdoor Activities for Stay-at-Home Dads

Over the last decade the percentage of fathers opting to stay home with their children has more than doubled. In 2001, only 1.6% of dads were full time care providers. Today, it’s 3.4%.

What’s a dad to do? All that time at home with the little ones can get tedious if a guy isn’t prepared. But if you put a little effort into finding activities you and your kids can both enjoy, then your day will be much easier.

And if you can get them outside, away from the television, it’s even better.

Here are ten activities which I think you’ll enjoy.

10. Go Fishing

The one thing I could count on my dad wanting to do every weekend was grab some fishing poles and head for the nearest body of water. He loves fishing, and because of him, so do I.

His hobby is now my children’s hobby.

I loved watching each one catch a fish for the first time. It was exactly this cute:

If you don’t know anything about fishing, don’t worry about it. You can learn with your child. There are plenty of books on the basics of fresh-water fishing.

And the bonus is that even if you don’t catch a fish you still spent some time outside having fun with your kids. It’s a win-win.

9. Build a Trebuchet

I know what you’re thinking: “Build a siege engine?”

Ok, maybe you’re not thinking that. Maybe you’re thinking, “What’s a trebuchet?”

This is a trebuchet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXgRliQ1rmA

Your trebuchet doesn’t have to be that big. That’s awesome, but you can have fun starting with a tabletop version that throws marshmallows and work your way up to a monster that launches baseballs 400 feet.

At the same time, you can teach your children about medieval times, castles, knights, chivalry, and other siege engines.

If your kids really get into it, take them to a trebuchet competition, or start one in your town if there isn’t one nearby.

Think of all the time you spent throwing rocks in a pond. Now imagine building a machine with your kid that can throw one over the pond.

You know this sounds fun.

8. Plant a Garden

Photo Credit: Samuel Mann

This year our family took seeds and started them inside on a plant stand that we built. The plans for the stand came from Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening and Landscaping Techniques, a book that not only covers starting plants from seed, but also planning and planting a garden. You don’t need a plant stand to start your own seeds. You can use a window sill and achieve results also.

We made our children a part of our garden from the very moment the seed packet was opened until the first vegetables were harvested and served. They were so excited when the plants first popped through the soil. They took ownership of the plants and wanted to be the one to plant them in the garden. They were even given their own section, which they weeded and watered. And they had fun doing it.

If you don’t have a yard where you can plant a garden, try planting a container garden. Rather than starting seeds in boxes designed for transplanting, plant them in a terra cotta pot and place on your front steps or walk. You can still get quite a few vegetables out of containerized plants.

It doesn’t have to be a veggie garden, though. Maybe plant a flower garden or a shade garden. Visit greenhouses and look at all the different plants. Go to arboretums and see what your kids like. Take time to walk around the neighborhood and see what the neighbors have planted. Visit with them about their flower beds. Maybe you can start trading plants with them when it’s time to split a plant that’s grown too large.

This will help your children take more pride in their home and maybe, just maybe, motivate them to keep the yard clean, too.

7. Fill a Kiddie Pool with Soapy Water

A few years ago, I volunteered to bring all of my nieces and nephews to my house for a week. It was during the summer and one day the kids were in the middle of an epic water fight. While this was going on, I grabbed a folding chair and the dish soap from behind my sink and headed outside to our little kiddie pool. After filling it with water, pouring in a liberal amount of soap, and stirring it up, I put the chair in the middle, plopped a kid on it, and threw in the hula hoop.

Then came the biggest bubbles they had ever seen, much like in this video:

I kept the kids entertained while they waited because each of them wanted to see the other enveloped in a bubble. When everyone was done, out came the chair and we all grabbed different bubble making tools, using the mixture to blow thousands of bubbles.

It was a blast.

6. Build a Box Kite

One of my favorite memories as a kid was standing in my yard flying a kite. All of my children have had a kite sometime during their life, but it has usually beeen a plastic one from the store.

Read: easily put together and easily destroyed.

A box kite, however, is a different story. You can use the following video as a guide to building your own:

Assembling the kite, depending on how many children you have, could take an entire morning. That leaves the afternoon to find the right park for flying. It’s a great activity for children to show some creativity and then spend some time outside.

If you like this idea, you might enjoy these other kite ideas.

5. Start a Rock Collection

Photo Credit: cobalt123

There has not been a time I have taken a walk, visited the playground, or gone to the lake where one child or another hasn’t found a rock that was the most amazing thing ever and had to show it to me. You’ve likely had the same experience.

So why not use that to your advantage and start a rock collection?

Visit your library and check out a book on minerals.  If you’re an Amazon Prime member and have a Kindle, you can download a copy of Collecting Rocks, Gems & Minerals: Easy Identification for free.

Or you can just grab a box, your book, and your kid and go for a walk with the sole intent of picking up rocks.

Once you’ve gathered a good size collection, head back to the house and spend some time identifying them. You can find some of the more common neighborhood rocks here.

4. Paper Airplane Competition

This is one of the most important skills you can teach your child. I spent much time in awe at classmates who could build paper airplanes that not only looked slick but flew from one side of the room to the other.

For starters, you could help your child make this one, considered the best paper airplane in the world:

Then, when everyone has exactly the same airplane, go outside and see who can fly them the best.

After that, ask them if they’d like to  make one different from everyone else. There’s no doubt the answer will be, “Yes.” If you have materials ready, kids can pick out what plane they want to make, decorate it, and then once again compete for first place in your home’s air rally.

3. Star Gaze

One of the coolest apps on my phone is Google Sky Map. Here’s how it works:

I was at my mother-in-law’s house recently. Since she lives in an area with little light pollution, I knew the night sky would look brilliant.  I grabbed my son and we went outside. After powering up the app, I pointed it at the sky. It worked like a charm. The weakness of the app is that it doesn’t go into detail on the constellations. Star Chart does and it’s worth the money.

With Star Chart, when you click on the constellation, it opens up a box telling you all about the stars you are looking at, including distance and brightness.

If you don’t have a smart phone, once again, your local library is your friend. Grab a book on astronomy and come nightfall, head outside to introduce the amazing universe to your children.

2. Build a Rocket

Photo Credit: LJWhitmire

The highlight of my sixth grade year was watching the rocket I built fly the highest. It was a monster three stage beauty! I thought building rockets was only an activity for school and that would be the only time I could do it.

Then I went to Hobby Lobby. Turns out, you could just buy them.

You didn’t have to be a teacher or anything!

The first thing you need to do is choose the right kit. This is really dependent on how old your child is, how much you plan on helping with it, and where you can launch it. I recommend starting with the Estes 1491 Taser Launch Set. It comes with everything you need to launch and only requires a new engine to launch again.

If you want, you can then work your way up to bigger and better rockets. Maybe even a high-flying three stage machine.

1. Geocaching

According to Geocaching.com, this is “a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online.”

There are geocaches around you right now. I live in a town of less than 30 people and there are several within miles of my house.

This sport is world wide:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4VFeYZTTYs&hd=1

Pack a backpack full of water and snacks, put on your best pair of hiking shoes, and head out on your own personal treasure hunt. A friend of mine found 80 in one day. Try to top that!

And in the unlikely event that you live in an area without a geocache, you can make your own, mark it on the map, and you and your children can maintain it. They will love finding out when someone found their container and learning what they left behind.

If you don’t have a GPS, the low-tech alternative to geocaching is called letterboxing.

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Any of these ten activities will give you a great afternoon with your children. Some could become lifelong hobbies you share with them.

Either way, you get to spend time increasing your love and appreciation of the gifts you’ve been given.

Featured Image Photo Credit:  Benjamin Thompson