As a parent, you want the best for your children so they have happy, healthy lives. But good health isn't just about preventing sickness. It's also about maintaining healthy relationships. The relationships that parents forge with their kids are just as important as proper nutrition for long-term, overall health. This is especially true of the unique bond between fathers and daughters. Often, as the first man present in a young girl's life, fathers have a special responsibility to model respect, openness and appreciation toward their daughters. By letting your little girl know she's valued and loved, you can establish a positive precedent for her subsequent male relationships, and one of the best ways to do that is by spending time with her. This is especially true as she enters adolescence, which can be a challenging time. Having special father-daughter activities can bridge communication gaps and build more meaningful bonds.
Read the next page to learn how to teach your daughter about nature in the modern age.
Yeah, we know -- the only free time your daughter seems to be able to spend with you is during the 15- to 30-second increments she has between texts. So turn off the TV, leave your tablet computers at home, put the smartphones away and explore a different environment. Take your daughter outdoors and teach her how to appreciate the beauty of nature. In doing so, you may find that spending time away from the hubbub of the rest of the family and all your gadgets can help you broach and talk about difficult subjects.
Go for a hike in the woods, spend time at a nature preserve or walk along your favorite beach. Teach your daughter how to identify trees or look for animals. If you need more structure, try the sport of orienteering, which can help teach your daughter map-reading and navigation skills, and is a sport you can do together as she grows older.
Whether it's whipping up a batch of cookies or conquering a four-course meal, spending time in the kitchen with your daughter is an easy way to have fun together. For younger girls, keep it simple with brownies from a mix. Older daughters might prefer to attempt something more sophisticated, like baking a cake from scratch -- or you can teach her a few of your grilling tricks. Collaborating on a menu and shopping at the grocery store can reinforce life skills of teamwork and financial responsibility as well.
If you aren't handy in the kitchen, this may be a good opportunity for your daughter to turn the tables and teach you a thing or two. This more egalitarian kitchen environment can foster conversation and sharing. Finally, enjoying the delicious fruits of your labor will make for a sweet memory.
For more indoor or outdoor fun, take your daughter roller-skating. Whether you tie on some quads at a roller rink or buckle on in-line skates and take to an outdoor path, girls of all ages enjoy the challenge of skating.
Mastering roller-skating can also teach your daughter about the importance and fun of learning new skills. Younger kids tend to start by tentatively rolling around the edge of the rink, but over time will learn to overcome their fear of falling and will be whizzing around with ease.
If you skate outdoors, you can also teach your daughter the importance of safety by making sure she wears proper protective gear, including a helmet, wrist guards and elbow and knee pads before hitting the trail.
Instead of simply telling your daughter that she's cherished and loved, why not show her?
If you have a camera, take turns photographing things around the house and outdoors that represent her one-of-a-kind traits. Perhaps an image of her tennis shoes could signify her athletic spirit, or a photo of a blooming flower might symbolize her beauty. Ask her to track down things that she appreciates the most about her family or friends as well.
To make a day of it, drive around town and take pictures of special landmarks or her favorite places. Daughters who like to draw or paint may prefer creating their own pictures. After you're done taking pictures or sketching, make an album or a handmade book for her to keep.
Little girls can sometimes be a bit dramatic, so why not indulge that side of her by taking her to the theater?
While plays and musicals are a fun way to spend a couple of hours, exposing your child to live theater may also help her excel academically and give her a well-rounded education. Younger girls may enjoy puppet shows or specially targeted children's productions. Tweens might prefer musicals like "Annie" that feature girls their age. If your high schooler is studying Shakespeare, take her to a professional production of the play she's reading in class. Seeing the text come to life may help her understand the material and do better in school.
Get a subscription to a theater company or series of shows. It will give you specific dates you can put on your calendar, allowing both of you to look forward to future daddy-daughter time.
For girly girls, the world may revolve around makeup, nail polish and anything pink. You might think that related activities are reserved for mothers and daughters, but dads can also get in on the action. This will show your little girl that you don't take yourself too seriously and that you'll always make an effort to share in her interests.
Turn the bathroom into a spa for a day. Stop by the neighborhood drug store, pick up her favorite color of nail polish and paint her fingernails and toenails. Maybe mash up a couple of avocados for a homemade face mask and slice a cucumber to place on your eyelids. You could even find recipes online for homemade cosmetics. Then, if you're game, allow your daughter to give you a makeover. Nothing's funnier than seeing Dad wearing blue eye shadow and lipstick.
Bedtime stories are an important part of a child's day, but you can also expand your kid's horizons by creating your own book club. Take your daughter to the library or a bookstore, and let her choose a book that the two of you can read together. Set aside time every day to read a chapter. You can read aloud to younger daughters, making sure to use different voices for all the characters, of course. With older girls, you can opt to each read the book separately and have a special book club meeting -- complete with snacks -- to discuss what you thought of the material.
Many popular children's books have also been made into great movies, so you can also expand your book club to be a book-and-movie club. After you read the book, go see or rent the movie and discuss how the two are different.
Camping out with your daughter is a great chance to teach her some practical skills and spend quality time together. Plenty of parks offer accessible campsites with nearby bathrooms and even electrical hookups. During the day you can show your daughter how to find true north, navigate with a compass and build a fire. At night, roast some hot dogs and see who can come up with the scariest ghost story.
If you have a younger daughter who isn't interested in roughing it, backyard campouts can be fun as well. Set up a tent and sleeping bags, but instead of a campfire, opt for flashlights.
S'mores, of course, are mandatory wherever you are.
Although many video games seem geared toward boys, girls love playing them, too. Take a Saturday afternoon and fire up your console for a battle to the virtual death.
With some guidance from you, let your daughter pick the type of game she'd like to play. Whether it's a dance, music-based or even a fantasy game, let her explore worlds she might find interesting. Just be sure to pay attention to the rating and make sure it's appropriate for her age.
Also prepare to be schooled -- it's quite likely your daughter may be a much better gamer than you are, but that's a good thing. Allowing her to teach you the finer points of play will help her build confidence.
A daddy-daughter date doesn't have to entail specific activities, like dinner and a movie; it's more about emphasizing a special time for you and your daughter exclusively. Depending on what you plan, let her dress up any way she wishes. She may want to put on her Sunday best or wear a hodgepodge of clothing and accessories. Maybe bring her a bouquet of flowers if she's older or candy is she's younger.
Dates don't have to be elaborate or expensive. When it comes to spending time with your daughter, it's truly the thought that counts. A preteen might enjoy going to a bookstore cafe and reading magazines. Trips to the zoo, library, museums, planetariums and parks could also work. Even making her favorite meal and renting a movie to watch at home can fit the bill.
Whatever you decide to do with your daughter, enjoy the time you spend together. The two of you will be making memories that you'll both treasure for the rest of your lives.
HowStuffWorks learns about the free-range parenting philosophy and talks to the movement's founder Lenore Skenazy.
- American Alliance for Theatre and Education. "The Effects of Theatre Education." (Jan. 2, 2012) http://www.aate.com/content.asp?contentid=223
- Entertainment Software Association, the. "Games & Violence." (Jan. 3, 2012) http://www.theesa.com/facts/violence.asp
- Gray, Terry A. "Shakespeare's Life & Times." Sept. 21, 2009. (Jan. 2, 2012) http://shakespeare.palomar.edu/life.htm
- Orienteering USA. "What is Orienteering?" (Jan. 2, 2012) http://orienteeringusa.org/new-o/what-orienteering
- Wisconsin Department of Transportation. "Inline skates safety." Sept. 21, 2005 (Jan. 2, 2012) http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/motorist/pedestrians/skates.htm
- Women's Flat Track Derby Association. "What Is Flat Track Roller Derby?" (Jan. 2, 2012) http://wftda.com/faq/what-is-flat-track-roller-derby