Let’s Paint Rocks!

Rock painting is a creative way for Dads to engage their children with nature and art.

rock paintingCollect free-range rocks when you’re out walking in the neighborhood or at the river or beach. You can also buy rocks from a craft store or on Amazon.

Make your designs as simple or as elaborate as you like. Either way you’ll have a memento that you can display in the hour or in the garden for years to come.

Here is a free and easy “how-to” guide so you can learn the ropes:

How To Paint a River Rock

Martha Stewart offers free, fun rock art crafts with endless possibilities.

Here are a couple of rock painting kits you can purchase:

Skipping Rocks

When we vacationed at Lake Tahoe or the Sacramento River delta, Papa taught us how to skip rocks across the water.rock skipping boys He showed us how to select the best stones to skip across the water: flat-ish, even, smooth, and about the diameter of a golf ball or lemon. He’d demonstrate how to hold the rock and throw it at just the right angle. Once we threw it, we’d count how many times it skipped across the surface of the water. Most of the time, Papa’s rocks would skip a minimum of ten times and I recall one that skipped twenty-nine times. We practiced skipping rocks whenever we were near the smooth, glassy surface of a river or lake.

Teach your kids how to skip rocks. If your rock-skipping skills are rusty, here are some helpful tutorials:

How to Skip Rocks – a four-step tutorial from Boy’s Life, the publication of the Boy Scouts of America

How to Skip a Stone – an illustrated guide from the Art of Manliness

8-Step Illustrated Guide from Wiki-How

The Science of Skipping Stones – read a brief explanation of the physics behind stone-skipping including spin, speed, shape, and angle.

Tips from the Pros – Did you know there are professional stone skippers who participate in stone-skipping tournaments? At this site, you can learn from the best.

World Record – Watch professional stone-skipper Russ Byars set the world’s record of 51 skips in July, 2007.

Skipping Stones on a Frozen Lake – Skipping stones isn’t just a fair-weather sport. Check out this video of an Alaskan man skipping a stone on a frozen lake – you won’t believe the sound it makes!


Help Your Kids Start a Collection!

Papa was an avid numismatist (coin collector) and we spent hours sorting through coins to find buffalo nickels, drummer boy quarters, and other U.S. coins of U.S. Mint Proof Setsvalue. Papa passed the joy of coin collecting to my sons as well, and through it we taught them history and geography. Whether your interest is in coins, baseball cards, rocks and minerals, or anything else, starting a collection is a fun way to create a bonding experience between you and your children you’ll always treasure.

Here are some tools (some free, some for a fee) for starting collections. (I have linked to some of these resources via my Amazon affiliate. Amazon gives me a small reward for referring people to their site.):

Coin Collecting

Baseball Card Collecting

Rocks & Mineral Collecting:

Stamp Collecting:

Make Your Own Toys!

Homemade toys are a great father-child bonding experience. They encourage creativity and enjoyment long after the project has been completed. And every time your children play with their new toys they will fondly remember making them with dad. Here are some fun ideas (some that are free, some for a fee) for you to try below:

child cuts with scissorsMake Your Own Science Toys
This website provides complete step-by-step instructions on how to make your own science toys using easily accessible, free and/or cheap materials so that “nobody is excluded because of cost.”

Make a Shoe Box Banjo

Make an Assortment of Musical Instruments 
This website offers instructions on how to make 9 different musical instruments using common household items including:

•Comb Buzzer

Make Your Own Puppets
Get free instructions on how to make a paper bag puppet, or purchase a monster puppet kit.

Make Your Own Sidewalk Chalk and Crayons
Get free instructions for making your very own sidewalk chalk, or make crayons with this kit.

Picking Out a Christmas Tree with Dad

Christmas Tree FarmPicking out the “perfect” Christmas tree can be a challenge, but if you look at it as an adventure it can be a great father and child bonding experience.

CLICK HERE to learn about the different Christmas tree varieties and let the kids help you decide which one is best for your family.

You can  cut down your own tree at a u-pick Christmas Tree Farm. Use this directory to find one near you.

Of course, you can always visit one of the numerous tree stands that are available at this time of year – and then gather the kids around the computer to take a free virtual field trip to a Christmas Tree Farm.

Whatever way you choose, make it a fun and collaborative experience. Pack some cocoa in a thermos, and have a great time!

Holiday Gifts that Dads and Kids Can Make for Mom

The holidays can be challenging and gift giving is no exception. So here are a few fun crafts (some for free, some for a fee) that dads can do with their children to make lasting memories and provide cherished gifts for mom.

Make Snowflake Decorations
Surprise mom by decorating the house with these awesome 6-pointed paper snowflakes. Watch this free instructional video to learn how.

amaryllisGrow Amaryllis
This flowering plant blooms at this time of year. Purchase a bulb at a nursery and plant it in a decorative pot. It will begin to grow almost as soon as you start to water it. It grows to a height of about 3 feet and blooms into a lily-looking flower in just 4 weeks. Or purchase this Red Amaryllis Growing Kit – complete with bulb, soil, and pot!

Photo Snowglobe
This craft is extremely easy – just use this photo snowglobe kit to nsert a favorite picture into a snowglobe. Just gather the kids and sort through memorable pictures from the past year to find a fave, or use a Christmas card photo to make it more festive.

Christmas Coloring Pages
Get out the crayons and color these free, printable Christmas images from Crayola!

Paint a Mug
Mom will love drinking her morning coffee out of a mug that was hand-decorated by her child. Click here to purchase a kit.

Make Candles and Candle Holders
Click here for free instructions on how to make a variety of candles and candle holders that mom will treasure.

There are some surprisingly nice kits out there for slightly older children. They come complete with all of the tools and beads necessary to make attractive jewelry mom will actually want to wear. Click here for a jewelry kit.

Make a Pomander Ball
You just need an orange, some cloves and a ribbon to make this decorative and spicy-smelling treat for mom. Just follow these free directions.

Dads & Kids in the Kitchen

One often thinks of moms in the kitchen, but as more fathers take active, hands-on roles in their children’s lives, this necessary life skill can become a teachable experience everyone can enjoy. Cooking is a wonderful activity for fathers to do with their children because it can be fun, messy, educational, and experimental while creating meaningful memories. And now that the hectic holiday season is upon us, it’s a perfect time to ask Dad to help the kids prepare everyday meals and do some holiday baking.

Here are some ideas to get started:

KidsHealth.org offers a wide selection of recipes that kids will enjoy making and eating, including recipes for kids with special dietary needs.

Dads and kids may learn some skills and/or be inspired to become more adventurous cooks by watching episodes of “Masterchef Junior.”

And here’s a recipe for a baked goodie I made for Papa every Thanksgiving:

 cranberry pictureCranberry Bog Bread

Cranberries are the fruit of a trailing evergreen bush or shrub that grows in bogs. Papa liked their tangy flavor that is enhanced in this recipe that uses the whole berry. The beautiful color of the whole berries, look like jewels decorating each slice. (Makes 1 loaf.)


  • 1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup oat bran
  • 1 cup sugar or sugar substitute (such as Xylitol)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 1 cup whole cranberries
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)


Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour 1 loaf pan.

Mix dry ingredients (flour, oat bran, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda) together thoroughly. Mix together egg, orange juice, oil, and grated orange rind. Add orange juice mixture to flour mixture until just combined – do not over mix. Fold in cranberries and nuts (if desired).

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake approximately 45-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove bread from pan and continue cooling on rack. When completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap until ready to serve. This bread also freezes well.

Don’t forget that the most important ingredient you need when cooking with kids is patience. That and practicing kitchen safety will result in good food and good times.

Help Dad Maintain the Family Car

My father, being a plumber, was always very handy at fixing things from a leaky faucet to installing bookshelves. He also maintained the family car. I would stand in the driveway and watch intently to see how he did it and what tools he used. He patiently explained each step and told me the name of the tools he used. Then, as he tinkered under the hood, he relied on me to hand him the tools he needed. I have very fond memories of this process, and I learned a great deal about the car and how to maintain it. Why not take a few moments to raise the hood of the car to give your kids an impromptu lesson in automobile mechanics and maintenance – an important safety practice that will serve them well when they’re old enough to drive.

Here are a few resources to learn more about how your car works and what is needed to maintain it:

This website explains all the parts of a car with pictures

carschooling-3dLearn how to maintain your car

Read How Cars Work (a book written for teens):

Fathers and kids will enjoy my book, Carschooling, Over 350 Entertaining Games & Activities to Turn Travel Time into Learning Time that has a great section on “Service Station Science” on pages 46-51.

Even if you go to a quick-service place like Jiffy Lube, take your child with you. Pick a time that isn’t too busy and ask the attendant to explain the meaning and use of things like coolant, brake fluid, and what grade of oil your car takes. Make a guessing game of it and have fun!

Take A Hike!

Papa was an avid walker. As a child, I loved to accompany him because he would always take time to smell the roses…literally. He’d pause to admire plants in bloom and pointed out what was new or interesting in the environment.

hachiya persimmonsWhen you go for a walk with your children notice the trees, plants, animals, birds, and insects around you. Bring a nature guide to help you identify what flora and fauna you see. (You can access a free online nature guide with your mobile phone.)

Don’t forget to look upward into the trees, skyline, or clouds, too.

Of course, just quietly walking without purpose is a meaningful bonding activity that can be truly relaxing for both parent and child.

Here are some nature guide books for families that I recommend. (I’ve provided my Amazon.com affiliate link. If you follow the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission from Amazon – thanks for your support!)

Fun Crafts Dads Can Do with Their Kids

Arts and crafts are a great way for fathers to bond with their children. There are lots of fun and interesting crafts online and when I ran across the projects at this website, I had to share them with you.

DadCanDo.com offers a variety of fun projects for dads and kids – from making butterflies to black widow spiders!

Papas Pearls, Black Widow Spider Craft

Click here to learn how to make a beautiful paper butterfly. 

Click here to get directions on how to make a giant black widow spider. 

Make one or several and use them as decorations, gifts, or hang them from string to make a mobile. You can make the project as big or small as you like and customize it to be age appropriate.

I’d love to see what you come up with so post your pictures on this blog when you’ve made something.