The Modern Dad: Taking Classic Father-Son Activities to the 21st Century

Modern Dad
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I lost my dad when I was 40 years old. He had just celebrated his 85th birthday. It was heartbreaking for me because he was more than my father, he was my best friend. While the pain of his passing will always be with me, I take comfort in the beautiful memories he left me with, and the valuable life lessons he taught me along the way.

Now that I have my own children, I want to teach them the values that my dad taught me. I hope it helps you too.

Teaching a Sense of Service

It’s one thing to raise a child who is self-reliant, clever, and passionate, but all of that would be useless if he was selfish. When I was growing up, my dad would take me to volunteer in soup kitchens every Sunday. He always said that the best way to make sure you succeed is by taking care of your community. He was right; volunteering every weekend made me realize not just how lucky I was, but how some people, who are down on their luck, just need a helping hand from time to time.

Another thing it taught me was humility. For decades, my mom always thought that my dad and I would be at a baseball game every Sunday, not knowing that we were helping out at the local shelter. It’s not that she would have been mad; seeing her son be a decent human being would have made her ecstatic, but my dad insisted that we kept it to ourselves. “Charity is a silent virtue”, he would say, and in the age of social media, I can see why.

Building a Model Rocket

What better way to spark your son’s scientific curiosity than to build a model rocket that you can launch into space (sort of)? Model rockets combine two things any child (or dads, for that matter) enjoys: combustion and building stuff. There are plenty of resources online about how to build a model rocket, and even commercially-available kits that come with all the tools you need.

While you build it, talk to your son about science; pique his interest with science facts and stories about astronauts and the moon landing. Who knows, your son might be the first person to explore uncharted territories in space.


A Day at the Arena

Take your child out to a sporting event from time to time. Not only will this be a great way to teach him about the sport you love, it’s also a way for him to feel part of a community; sporting events have a way of bringing people together under a common cause, and is integral at creating the idea that he’s part of something bigger.

It’s also a good way to teach your son about passion, and a good way for you to learn how to express your passion in a healthy manner. It’s ok to get frustrated at the game, but teach your son, by example, that there is grace in defeat, and humility in winning, by displaying behavior that is appropriate and healthy. Just make sure you don’t curse like a sailor if your team loses. Remember: grace in defeat!


There are not a lot of things better than sitting on a boat in a quiet place and just waiting for a nibble on your line. Bringing your son with you when you fish teaches him plenty about the outdoors, respecting nature, and of course, patience.

The best part about fishing is there are no distractions; teach your child the importance of being in the moment by banning the use of smartphones and tablets, unless it’s for taking photos of your catch, or looking up specific species of fish on the internet.

Working on a Car

Working on cars is more than just about learning the intricacies of a fine piece of machinery (although, that is a huge factor); it also teaches your son how to problem solve, and that certain problems require specific tools and techniques. This might not seem like much to him now, but when he grows up, he’ll learn how to resolve real-life situations using the lessons he learned working on the old beat-up truck of his old man.

Along the way, teach him about cars, how owning a machine like that requires more than just money, it requires patience, creative thinking, and most importantly, responsibility. Go online to find details about what each part does, and show him how every piece of the puzzle is integral to making this work flawlessly. Just remember to have safety goggles and gloves!

playing catch
Source: The Heritage Foundation

Playing Catch

A time-honored tradition that has been an integral part of American families since time immemorial, playing catch might seem a bit Norman Rockwell to some, but it’s a cliché for a reason. Playing catch isn’t just about encouraging your son to play baseball (although, that’s an added perk), it also gives the two of you quality time where he can open up to you about what he’s going through and it gives you an opportunity to listen, understand, and dole out advice.

It forges good memories and it reinforces the idea that you’re your son’s safe space. If he’s serious about learning baseball and you want him to start learning how to pitch curveballs, there are home-based radar guns to help you out. Or, go old-school and setup a make-shift pitching cage in your yard, another bonus activity.

It’s Not Just for the Boys

Remember though, this list isn’t just for sons; daughters can share in this too. It’s important to show your daughter that you’re just as much of a safe space as her mother is. You might not know exactly how to teach her femininity, but you can show her what real masculinity is like: respectful, honest, supportive, and caring.

The activities on this list won’t just teach your daughter life skills, it also teaches her what a real and decent Man looks like. In this way, you are helping her raise her standards in the way she is to be treated by the future men in her life.

Share with us the way your dad taught you to be a good person by hitting us up in the comments section below!

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