“Children need your presence more than they need your presents,” are the wise words of Jesse Jackson.

Both Dads and kids need a purpose to develop the art of presence. To assist you in this art, we have gathered together 40 things that Dads can do with their children. This is particularly relevant over holiday periods.

Almost 80% of them don’t require any money, but they do require effort and execution. The games and activities cover a range of ages, and in most cases, they can be adapted to suit just Dad and the kids, or mum and the extended family.

The criteria is: it must be fun.

  1. Craft. Google craft for the age group concerned or visit Easy Peasy and Fun or Happiness is Homemade. There are dozens of great websites. Most of the materials you will have in your home. Children love making things with Dad. Trust me, this is a winner.
  1. Build a Home or Fort Inside. Use blankets, clothes pegs, cushions, furniture and imagination. Children are the best at make-believe. At night, turn off the lights and use a torch. Time for Dad to become a monster.
  2. Walk Somewhere. Walking is great exercise and a great way to get some Vitamin D from the sunshine. Simply walk around the block, walk in the park, bushwalk or explore a beach, some rocks or a creek. You will never regret it.
  3. Paint a Picture Together. It could be a combined creation, or you could each do your own. An old shirt turned inside out makes a great paint shirt. Don’t forget finger-painting. Picasso, eat your heart out.
  4. Cook with Your Children. Start with simple cookies or scones, then move up to pizzas. You could even go the full à la carte and compete on My Kitchen Rules. The good news is, you can eat your creations. Have fun!
  1. Ball Games. If it’s round, it rolls. Better still, it can be caught or kicked. Catch, soccer, football, basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, beach ball, ping pong, tennis, balloons are round too, and the list goes on. Ball games are always a sure winner.
  2. Play a Game with Your Children. Hide and seek, tip, capture the flag, dodgeball, I Spy (for younger children, use colours) and the list goes on.
  3. Go to the Beach, Surf or Just Swim. All you need is water. You don’t need an ocean. It could be a river, creek, pool or dam.
  4. Wrestle Dad. ‘Who’s afraid of the tickle monster’ or the ‘Dad who can blow a raspberry on your belly’. The variations are endless and also loads of fun. Rough and tumble play is important for children.
  5. Jigsaw or Puzzle. Can be an all-age activity and always pays dividends when done together.
  6. Make Something Out of Wood. Can be simple or difficult depending on the age group. Couple of offcuts and you’re away. Nailed, glued or screwed. It’s always a challenge, and our children need to be challenged. And yes, it is FUN!
  7. Go and Visit Some Playgrounds. How long has it been since you’ve been to a children’s playground? You will find they have gone to another level since you were a kid. They are probably closer than you think. Here are some examples, here, and here.
  8. Build Something with Boxes. Cardboard boxes combined with children and some imagination can be a lot of fun. Add some recycling material and the sky is the limit.
  9. Construction Toys. Most children have Lego, others have Connetix Tiles, Duplo, Meccano, and the list goes on. Why not build something from your combined imaginations? It will be better than you can imagine.
  10. Sandcastles. Yep, tried and true. All you need is sand and water and hey presto, you’re away.
  11. Waterslide on the Lawn. Some black plastic, a hose and just a little bit of slope. You can buy reasonably cheap pre-built water slides. Ideal in summer. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
  12. Garden Together. Get your children to help you in the garden and make it fun at the same time. You can do the same with chores. Washing the car can turn into a water fight. What a great distraction.
  13. Family Exercise Workout. Make fitness fun. You can even throw in a few dance moves if you do it to music. The Family Lockdown Boogie springs to mind.
  1. Lawn Games. Croquet, golf, quoits, hopscotch and the Kids Sumo Wrestling Game.
  2. Family Game Night. Monopoly, card games, snakes and ladders, chess, chequers, Scrabble —  the list goes on for young and old.
  3. Family Picnic. Why don’t you get out of the house, take some food, find a nice place and have a picnic?
  4. Backyard Picnic. Too far to go? Why not walk outside your back door? Spread your rung and the rest is history.
  5. Find a Pool. Could be your local municipal pool, a friend’s pool, a rock pool, as long as it has water in it. This one is in twice for a reason. Water is wonderful. It is like a new dimension. Always fun for the whole family.
  6. Fishing. This is a classic family activity with Dad taking the lead. Wharf, beach boat, rock, river, lake and the list goes on. You might not catch many fish and spend the whole time baiting hooks, but you will catch time with your children and that is more valuable than the fish in the long run.
  7. Family Fun Night. A staple of the Dads4Kids Good to Great Fathering Course. The minimum requirement is two families, ideally a few more. Each family creates a skit, play, mime or sings a song or a combination and then presents it to the group. Make sure you capture it on video. The memories will last a lifetime.
  1. Family Dance Party. Just your family or a few others. Add music, movement and humour. Video helps. Food makes it more fun. The permutations are endless.
  2. Visit Your Local Library. Something more sedate but equally captivating. Works for all ages, is safer than the internet and can be done together.
  3. Campfire. Best at night but also works during the day. Did anyone say, “Toasted marshmallows on a stick?”
  4. Camping. The pastime for many Australians. Popular around the world. Borrow a tent if you don’t have one. Ideal place for a campfire and endless variations of the same. Better still, get some dads to go with you. We always do a Family Fun Camp for every Good to Great Course.
  1. Backyard Camping. Don’t have a car or want to go too far? Make up your own rules and have your own fun. If it gets too cold, you can go back inside.
  2. Playdate with Another Family. Call someone and get together for a playdate with another family. You get to hang out with friends as well as your children. Add food and it just gets better.
  3. Museum Visit. There are many different kinds of museums, and many have interactive displays designed for children. Do your research. As Dr Seuss said, “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. The more that you read, the more you will know.”
  4. Adventure Playground, Water Parks and Theme Parks. These can cost a pretty penny, but such expenditure will also buy you some memories. Grab some videos and pics to enjoy later.
  5. Special Activities. Some require money. All require equipment: bike-riding (this is a staple), bowling, go-karting, sailing, indoor rock climbing, rollerblading, diving, archery, skating, dancing, skiing and skateboarding. Variety is the spice of life. Make a list. Give it all a go with your children.
  6. Sports Games. Soccer, football, baseball, cricket, hockey, gymnastics, athletics, swimming, wrestling and boxing. It’s not so much the activity, but the shared experience that memories are made of.
  7. Live Music. Go and see a band, a singer, a musical virtuoso or an orchestra. Better still, play music with your children and teach them a skill they will never forget. The joy of music will last a lifetime.
  1. Animals. Feed some ducks, birds or wild kangaroos, visit an animal park or go the whole hog and visit a zoo. Animals are amazing and your children will be delighted. This could be as simple as walking the dog.
  2. Reading Together or Telling Stories. Dads do this well. Family stories need to be told, and Dr Seuss is never old.
  3. Movie Marathons. Try a comedy marathon, cartoon marathon, or just a movie night. Choose wisely and bring your popcorn. I put this at the end, because it is much better to be active than passive. Do this one sparingly. We already spend too much time on screens. The memories are richer with the previous 39 ideas, but all 40 are needed.
  4. Last but not least: Travel and explore with your children. Whether that be the local creek, park or bushland. Don’t forget the places, streets you have never been to. You will find many good places in your region and state to go to. Australia is a big country, and the world is waiting for your children. Exploring and travelling is the best form of education, and the father-child memories will last a lifetime.


This list is comprehensive and probably overwhelming. The key is to pick a few and then do them.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Start your family bucket list — select which activities will work for you, crossing them off as the holidays proceed. Put a list on the fridge. Your children will love discussing which activity to do next, because planning around the weather and other commitments is important.

Watch this video with kids talking about the joy of doing things with their dads.

Remember: have fun, build memories and build the next generation at the same time.

Yours for our children,
Warwick Marsh

PS: Have a merry Christ-Mass and a Happy New Year.


Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich.

About the Author: Warwick Marsh

Warwick Marsh has been married to Alison Marsh since 1975; they have five children and nine grandchildren, and he and his wife live in Wollongong in NSW, Australia. He is a family and faith advocate, social reformer, musician, TV producer, writer and public speaker. Warwick is a leader in the Men’s and Family Movement, and he is well-known in Australia for his advocacy for children, marriage, manhood, family, fatherhood and faith. Warwick is passionate to encourage men to be great fathers and to know the greatest Father of all. The Father in Whom “there is no shadow of turning.”

One Comment

  1. Kaylene Emery December 25, 2022 at 7:07 am - Reply

    Dads4Kids is such an inspiration to me. As a woman who once believed her feigned independence I used to try to understand my ferocious belief in the need for men to support each other. God sent His light into the darkness of my life His light lit up my world starting in my own heart…..what a journey we are on !

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