My daughter has an older brother (8yrs old) so when we all play together we tend to do older boy things. Does anybody (especially women) have any memorable games/activities they played with Dad?

A few I have tried: Tea Party, Doll House, Puzzle, Painting, Coloring & Gluing, Playing Ball.

Looking for other ideas...

  • 5
    My most memorable activities with my dad were Legos (we made a MASSIVE town over the years), model trains, and learning to ride my bike. I was not a "girly" child, however :)
    – Acire
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 16:45
  • 5
    @Erica I literally don't know a single child that doesn't like to play with legos.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 20:16

5 Answers 5


Well, I'm not keen on the idea that there is one set of activities which are suitable for girls and a different set of activities which are suitable for boys.

I try to give my daughters the idea that they can be engineers, scientists, astronauts or dragon-tamers (ok, maybe lion-tamers) if they want to be when they grow up, and not limit their options to female-stereotype careers such as beautician or manicurist. So I try to give them opportunities to play in ways that in the 1950's would have been considered 'boyish' - and then it's up to them what they actually choose (and it's ok with me whether they choose to play with trains or play with dolls) .

  • Kids should decide for themselves what they think is fun. Why put these limits on play?
  • Play matters. Children need a wide range of play to develop different skills. ...
  • The real world has moved on. These gender stereotypes are tired and out of date.

Let Toys Be Toys - For Girls And Boys: Why It Matters

So the obvious answer is to say that you should do with her whatever things you did with your son at that age. But I realise that's not necessarily a helpful answer! So - some suggestions:

  • Activities related to things she's interested in
    With one of our daughters that was ballet and drama, with our other daughter it was steam trains and racing cars. Either way is good.

  • Activities relating to things that you're interested in.
    It's really fun sharing an adult interest with a small child - if you have an enthusiasm then it can really rub off on them. If your particular enthusiasm is for an activity which is traditionally male-dominated then don't let that stop you from sharing it with your daughter; perhaps she'll become a world-champion boxer or a superstar programmer - or maybe not, but either way you'll both enjoy sharing an activity together.

  • Dinosaurs. Everybody loves dinosaurs. :)

So once you've got some kind of a subject or topic, the actual activities that you do (based on that topic) could be almost anything:

  • Junk modelling (this is particularly fun if you do it really big)

  • Painting and drawing

  • Role-play type playing ("you be a racing car and I'll be the other racing car!") - can be with or without dressing-up

  • Cooking (dinosaur biscuits! space rocket biscuits! ballet shoes biscuits!)

  • Making costumes for dressing-up (cardboard and sticky tape are good for this, you don't have to sew)

  • Playing with 'small world' toys (ones that represent objects in the adult world e.g. toy cars or dolls)

  • Building with construction toys such as Lego

  • Playing running-around games ("you're the T Rex and we're the stegosauruses and you have to catch us and then we'll swap around!")

  • Making up stories together

  • Reading stories relating to the subject together

  • Reading non-fiction children's books about the subject together

  • Going to an event or show e.g. a sports fixture or a ballet performance

  • Board games and similar e.g. Dino-opoly, Top Trumps (they have TT for practically everything now), jigsaw puzzles, etc etc

  • Going to a relevant museum e.g. for cars we've been to Brooklands, for ballet/performance we've been to the Theatre and Performance gallery of the V&A.

  • Watching relevant movies or TV shows together (not too much)

Of course there's other things that everyone does with kids which aren't themed but are equally suitable for either gender:

  • going to the playground,

  • playing on the climbing frame,

  • climbing a tree,

  • playing chess,

  • feeding the ducks,

  • playing snakes and ladders,

  • teaching them to ride a bike,

  • teaching them to swim,

  • learning ball skills (throw / catch / hit with bat). Swingball is particularly good for this because when they hit the ball in a random direction it doesn't matter,

  • going to interesting places e.g. zoo, cathedral, airport.

It depends on the individual child and their preferences. What does she like doing?

Some of the background research on play, careers and gender, for those who are interested:

Interestingly Flouri and Panourgia (2012) in a study of the career aspirations of seven-year- olds found that at this age they were very ambitious with over 80% showing preferences to be managers, professionals or associate professional, however, both the boys and girls had preferences for traditional gender-stereotyped occupations e.g. girls said they wanted to be a hairdresser or a teacher and boys chose fire fighter and police officer. In addition, they could not be considered realistic, with the most popular choices being teacher, hairdresser, sports player, fire fighter, police officer, scientist, artist, actor/entertainer, animal carer, vet, doctor and builder. Similar findings were established by Butler (2005) who looked at the career aspirations of primary school children in Wales and found that the young people had ideas about career from age six but that they were both un-realistic and gender-stereotyped.


Beck et al.(2006) argued that choices made at an early stage in young people's lives have considerable influence on an individual's career trajectory, often resulting in a reinforcement of labour market segregation. This was based on findings demonstrating that young people generally have a conservative approach to labour market possibilities which leads them to conform to stereotypical notions of what men and women do. This view was also represented in guidance from Estyn (2008) which argues that both girls and boys often make stereotypical choices of options and subjects at all stages and girls tend to leave school with lower career aspirations.

Gendered Horizons: Boys’ and girls’ perceptions of job and career choices, pp. 10-11. See the full report for more detail.

Here's a rundown of gendered toys for very small children:

Notice how the girls’ items direct and confine a girl’s attention inward towards herself, whilst the boys’ items direct the boys’ attention outward towards his physical world, where there are limitless possibilities. The tool box lays the foundations for boys’ greater spatial awareness and understanding of physics (i.e. how objects interact with one another). It encourages movement and coordination. The toiletry box on the other hand, teaches girls that they can (and indeed should) focus all their efforts on boosting their attractiveness.

tl;dr: Boys get tools, girls get beauty products. PinkStinks: Makeup for babies

For some really sweet examples of gender-neutral play, check out the twitter feeds for #activegirls and #caringboys: Twitter: matt compton: @LetToysBeToys my daughter defying stereotypes https://twitter.com/HX7/status/471184947450249216/photo/1 Twitter: Kerry Morgan: Aww. My boy babywearing his bear again #socute #caringboys https://twitter.com/kerrym79/status/479186766084472833/photo/1

The Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls is also worth a read:

Research suggests that parents’ gender schemas have a significant effect on children’s gender self-concepts and gender-related attitudes toward others (Tenenbaum & Leaper, 2002). Fathers’ attitudes in particular influence the gender typing of children’s activities and whether children conform to this gender typing (McHale, Crouter, & Tucker, 1999).

  • 5
    While i agree with your ideas (kids should decide for themselves, gender stereotypes are out of date), it still makes sense to have a large variety of activities to offer to the child to choose from. If the OP was brought up with what counted as "boy activities" in his childhood, he might just not know many of the "girls activities". So, "i liked this as a girl" answers would still be helpful. The OP seems to want to enable his daughter to have more quality time with daddy, not force her to do "girlish" things no matter if she likes them or not. Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 17:50
  • 4
    @GuntramBlohm: What I liked as a boy isn't necessarily what the OP's son will like; what my wife liked as a girl isn't necessarily what his daughter will like. Preferences vary by individual child; this is as true for girls as it is for boys.
    – A E
    Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 19:00
  • 5
    +1 for Dinosaurs. This love is not exclusive to children after all. :)
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 16:20
  • 3
    Really amazing answer. I took the what are we both interested in approach yesterday and we build a silly musical scene with her recorded sounds in a program called Scratch. Super fun! Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 16:54
  • 1
    I liked this answer when you first posted it, but I love the progressive improvements and expansions you've added. Plenty of ideas, information, and science.
    – Acire
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 20:28

Cook! Every kid should learn how. Start with pancakes (not a mix . . . make it from scratch!) If she's on the high side of four and you have an electric griddle, she could probably flip them with practice and you right there.

Every time you repair something have her assist. My youngest daughter could replace a doorknob/lock set when she was seven because she worked with me around the house as soon as she could readily follow simple directions and pick up vocabulary like "screwdriver". She doesn't get her license for a few months, but she can change the oil and a tire, and she has the confidence to do it.

Raise butterflies. Take pictures every day, and make a wall-sized calendar to track their development.

If you're musical (or want to be), get a couple of ukuleles and learn together.

Try everything, and she'll let you know what she wants to do more of with you.

  • 2
    This is a great answer, and not gender-specific. To pancakes I would add popcorn done in a pot with a glass lid (a big favourite in our house) and yeast bread (from scratch) made with milk and with a broken dark chocolate bar broken and rolled into the dough before the last prove. My kids love kneading and rolling dough.
    – ctokelly
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 8:28
  • 1
    @ctokelly: yes! baking bread is great even with really small kids!
    – A E
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 17:01
  • @Marc I gave you an upvote just for being a pastafarian, but then its actually a pretty good answer on top :)
    – icc97
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 20:32
  • 2
    +1 My 6 yr old daughter changed a wall dimmer on her own. (I talked her through every step, but touched 'nothing'). I told her that 95% of adults found this too scary and would pay $100 to an electrician. She put her hand out, and said "I'll take $50, family discount." Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 12:30
  • 1
    @ctokelly: Put some herbs and garlic in it, and make your own pizza dough. Early afternoon till dinner in the kitchen!
    – Marc
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 20:06

At 4 years old, your daughter should be firmly out of the 'toddler' phase and into the "walking/running child" phase. They should also probably be potty-trained by this point, and their fine motor skills should be fairly well-developed. They're also bigger and a little sturdier than they were before.

All of this is great, because it greatly expands the number of things you can do with your daughter during playtime.

Naturally if you're going to get toys for her to play with, make sure the toys are child-age appropriate. Sadly, some LEGO sets might still be out of her age range due to the choking hazard, but you can always check the box (and of course judge your own child's readiness) to see if they're appropriate for your child. You've got an advantage here in that you're looking to play with her, so any toy you feel might be a borderline-case safety concern you can supervise personally.

Some of the suggestions already made are good - and the ones you've already listed as your activities with your child are also very good. As long as you're careful with the age-appropriateness of the toys you let her play with, and the games you play with her, you should be good.

You might also, as some have suggested, ask her what she would like to play. You might be surprised by your own child's creativity.

  • Build a fort or castle out of cardboard boxes and some imagination.

  • When you are through with the cardboard box as a fort or castle then take it to the nearest hill in the neighborhood and use the box to slide down the grass like a sled without the snow.

  • For rainy days nothing is more fun than making a fort out of blankets and chairs. Find some cheap burlap fabric and some cane poles and make a tepee in the backyard or scale down materials for inside.

  • One of my favorite things when I was a kid was my brother and I would play with those cheap sets of small plastic cowboys and Indians or army men figures. We would set them up outside and dig rivers and make mountains spending all day setting them up just to knock them all down with a ball or what ever struck or fancy that day.

  • Get a book on trees, plants, wild flowers, rocks, etc and take a walk in the woods and teach her how to identify what you see on your walk.

  • Lay on you back on a blanket in the yard and play that cloud looks like. . . and take turns telling what you think the clouds looks like with a little made up story to go along with the description.

I babysit for three little boys that were notoriously picky eaters. When they would eat and not cause a fuss I would let them pick a CD and dance on the kitchen breakfast bar like a runway. It worked every time they loved the fact it was a bit of a forbidden thing.(Strict rules about no climbing inside or outside)

  • Welcome! I formatted your post a bit. Please use your Enter key once in a while :-) (formatting guide) Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 14:32
  • Great suggestions! :)
    – A E
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 15:31

Great suggestions already above.

I'd say try to take her lead on what she likes to do and join in with her. I agree that playing should not be forced gender specific. My little girl loves her doll and pram but equally loves dinosaurs and climbing and construction.

My fond memories with my Dad as a child were of cycling together, building "dens" in the garden out of old stuff we found in the garage, gardening (weeding, planting vegetables etc) and going for walks/rambles in the woods. Oh and the all time favourite, him sitting our legs and tickling our feet lol. We also used to make him sit through and judge "fashion shows" with our dolls (there's 3 of us, 2 girls and a boy).

As long as you are all having fun it is the time you are spending with her, rather than what you are doing specifically, that's important. x

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