Fatherhood Roles in the Animal Kingdom

Father’s Day is almost here. What we appreciate more about this day and age is that the roles of a father and what fatherhood looks like is different and unique to each family, and those roles are starting to be recognized and celebrated more. Some fathers are seen as the protectors, some as the providers, some act as the caregivers, and there are those that do it all. These roles also vary and reign true for a variety of wildlife in the animal kingdom as well. Here you will learn about 5 animal dads that go above and beyond to take care of their little ones, and how it can look different for everyone. We also threw in some fun and easy Father’s Day crafts, games, and gifts to make the father in your family feel like the king of the jungle, and let everyone have some quality entertainment together.


1. Blue Poison Dart Frog

blue poison dart frog

What is found most often in the animal world, is males showing off and even fighting to get the right to mate with a female. However, in the case of blue poison dart frogs, the roles are reversed. Males will establish a territory, and then start calling to let the ladies around know he is ready and able. Females will then approach, and many will fight to see who will be able to mate. Once a winner is determined and courtship finishes, unlike most frogs that can lay hundreds or even thousands of eggs, this species of frog only lays about five or six eggs. While mom will sometimes stick around to help, dad is the one checking on the eggs, and even urinating on them to ensure they stay healthy and moist. After the eggs hatch, the male must then carry each tadpole one at a time on his back to a small pool of rainwater where they can continue to grow and change for the next ten to twelve weeks into fully developed frogs. Talk about carrying the weight of the family.

Frog Toss Game

home made frog toss carnival game
We found this fun frog toss game by Little Family Fun. We know most dads are always down for a little challenge and competition, and this is something everyone can play at any age. It is super easy to make and can even be free if you use stuff lying around your house. All you need is
  • An old box
  • Poster-board (You can pick blue to go along with the poison dart frog)
  • Black, white, red construction paper
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Tape

First, you cut out a half circle from the top of the box to make the mouth. Go from edge to edge to make sure the “mouth” is big enough to actually throw some “flies” in it later. Next, take that half circle you cut out and make two ridges to be the eyes.

Cover the box in your colored poster board. It is easier if you measure the pieces of the poster board out first. If you don’t have enough to cover the back that’s okay because most people won’t see it anyways. Double sided tape or packing tape work best.

Remember that mouth you cut out before? Cover that with the colored poster board as well, and then cut out two white circles and two smaller black circles to be the eyes. Put it all together and tape it to the back of the box.

Next, cut out a long strip of the red construction paper to be the tongue. You can use scissors or a pencil to curl the tip to give an added frog-like effect and tape it to the bottom edge of your frog’s mouth.

Lastly, crumple up some black pieces of paper to be the flies that you toss in. You can make up your own rules and where people need to stand when tossing, based on the size and age of your family to make it fun for everyone! You now have your own fun mini carnival or fair game right in your home, and without the crazy cost.

For step-by-step pictures check out the link here from Little Family Fun.


2. Lion

male lion and baby lion cub

Male lions have always been called the king of the jungle, even though they now generally inhabit grasslands, savannas, and open woodlands. They are a symbol of strength, and while it is true they spend the majority of their day sleeping, they always rise to the occasion to protect their pride. That can be a lot to look over! For a dominant male lion, his pride can consist of around 30 lionesses and cubs that he has to keep an eye on and keep safe. Thankfully, a lion’s eyesight is five times better than a human’s, and they are able to hear noises up to 2 miles away. So there won’t be any sneaking out for his cubs. When he senses any threat or danger, that fatherly instinct kicks in and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the other end of that.

Father's Day Pride

wildlife tree fathers day pride lion t shirt


Give dad a gift this Father's Day to let him show his love for his pride everywhere he goes. These "My Family Is My Pride" lion t-shirts are soft, pre-shrunk, and come in a variety of sizes to fit any dad. Check them out here


3. Emperor Penguin

parent and baby emperor penguin

Emperor penguin dads are truly dedicated fathers. Once the female has laid the egg, dad takes over. The mother has used a lot of energy to produce and lay the egg, that her body is in desperate need of nutrients. She sets out to sea for two months to feed and replenish, and it is completely up to the dad to keep their precious egg warm and protected. That takes a lot considering they live in Antarctica where it can get to 72 degrees below Fahrenheit. He won’t eat and will barely move during the entire time until mom gets back. If the chick hatches before she returns, the male will actually produce a milk-like substance from his esophagus, and feed the chick until the mom comes back with a full belly and can provide some fresh solid food.

Popsicle Stick Penguin Craft

popsicle stick penguin craft

Have your kids make their Father’s Day gift with this fun DIY penguin craft from creativekidzcrafts.com. It is a creative way to show dad how much they care and appreciate the love and protection he gives, just like penguin dads. You will need:

  • Cardstock paper (black, red, white, and orange)
  • Googly eyes (12 mm) or just white and black paper to make your own eyes
  • Black marker
  • (6) Popsicle Sticks
  • Pipe Cleaners (black and any other color for the tie)
  • Tacky Glue
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Glue Stick

First, color your popsicle sticks black. You really only need to do one side, but you can have your kids color as long or as much as you need to keep them distracted. Then, use the tacky glue to glue the 6 popsicle sticks side by side on the black cardstock paper. Try to make them in a very small hill or “U” shape, and then cut out the extra paper around them.

Next, draw an oval belly on the white paper to fit the middle of your popsicle sticks, draw two wings on black paper, four half ovals for feet to fit the bottom on the popsicle sticks, and a small diamond on the orange paper for the mouth. Cut out the pieces and start gluing to put your penguin together!

To make the bow tie, fold a small piece of red paper, accordion style, secure with pipe cleaner, then glue onto the body to make a bow tie. To make the buttons, roll small pipe cleaners into a ball, then glue.

Last, just add the googly eyes or paper eyes, whatever you made, and you have your daddy penguin! For step by step pictures and ideas check out Creative Kidz Crafts!

4. Greater Rhea

greater rhea adult

The greater rhea mating arrangement may seem a little odd to produce great father figures, but these South American flightless bird dads are an extra involved parent. Rheas are a polygamous species, and males can mate with anywhere from two to twelve females. However, males are the ones that take care of and watch over ALL of the eggs. Even if the females leave to search out other mates, dad takes on all of the parenting responsibility solo. He will incubate up to around 60 eggs at a time for six weeks while they finish developing, and once they hatch he then watches over all of them as a single parent for almost two years. He helps show them where to eat, and isn’t afraid to stick up for them and charge anything that might want to hurt them, including another female.

5. Seahorse

two seahorses

Found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world, the around 36 species of seahorses can range from 0.6 inches to 14 inches long. These unique and fascinating creatures are indeed fish, but beyond their “horse” looking faces, they are even more special in the fact that the male seahorse is the one to carry and give birth to the young. Male seahorses are equipped with a brood pouch, which can be compared to a pouch like a kangaroo. The female deposits her eggs into this pouch, and then dad will fertilize and carry them himself until they hatch. Dads will anchor themselves to seaweed, rocks, or any solid surface around, and patiently make sure their babies develop into nice and healthy little seahorses. It can sometimes take up to several weeks before they emerge and are on their own. What makes us even more awestruck over these fathers, is that some male seahorses can deliver a brood in the morning, and be pregnant again by nightfall.

Family Fun Sponge Relay Race

bucket of water and sponge

Summer is here and the weather is warming up, so Father’s Day is the perfect time to get everyone outside to partake in some fun, family water games. Britni from PlayPartyPlan.com came up with 15 water games for kids and adults, but our favorite is always the sponge relay race. All you is:

  • 4 buckets
  • 2 sponges
  • Access to water

You split everyone up into two teams. Place one bucket full of water on one side of the yard, and the empty bucket on the other side. Have each team line up on the side with the full bucket. To play, each player must dump the sponge in the full bucket and try to soak up as much water as they can. Then, they place the sponge on their head and run to the other side, trying to keep as much water in the sponge as possible, so they can then squeeze it out into the empty bucket. Then, they return to the other side and it's the next person’s turn. First team to fill their bucket up to the designated line on the bucket wins!

Just like human dads, animal dads play many different roles throughout the world, some as the protectors, some as single parents, some as the ones to give birth (okay maybe not that last part for human dads). No matter what the role is, each living thing plays a part in its ecosystem and in the world, and our goal is to learn more and support a community that works to ensure each living thing can thrive. We hope that everyone has a safe and fun Father’s Day and is able to celebrate the father figure in their life, in whatever role they may play.








“5 Remarkable Animal Dads.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org/stories/5-remarkable-animal-dads.

“Blue Poison Dart Frog.” National Aquarium, www.aqua.org/Experience/Animal-Index/blue-poison-dart-frog.

Chan, Stephanie, et al. “15 Best Water Games.” Play.Party.Plan, 1 May 2020, www.playpartyplan.com/outdoor-water-games/.

“Frog Toss Game for Kids!” Little Family Fun, 12 Aug. 2013, www.littlefamilyfun.com/2013/08/frog-toss-game-for-kids.html?m=1.

“How to Make Popsicle Stick Penguins: Father's Day DIY Popsicle Stick Penguin Kids Craft.” Creativekidzcrafts, 6 June 2018, www.creativekidzcrafts.com/post/how-to-make-popsicle-stick-penguins-father-s-day-diy-popsicle-stick-penguin-kids-craft.

“Rhea.” Animal Planet, 10 Mar. 2014, www.animalplanet.com/wild-animals/6-rhea/.

“The 9 Best Dads of the Animal Kingdom.” Good Nature Travel, 22 Mar. 2019, www.nathab.com/blog/the-9-best-dads-in-the-animal-kingdom/.

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