Since 1966, when President Johnson signed a proclamation setting aside the third Sunday in June to honor American dads, Father’s Day has been an uncomfortable fit for many men. There’s something a bit off about expecting 7-year-olds to be grateful. Still, we don’t just ignore presidential proclamations around here! So we took a casual survey of local dads to find out what they really want, and hereby present this list of Dad-approved Father’s Day Ideas.
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Unprompted, most fathers surveyed mentioned eating in their description of their ideal Father’s Day. But their choice of cuisine and mealtime varied:
Jeff R.—two young adults
I always enjoy my son cooking up some good BBQ or sushi—I will eat anything I don’t have to cook.
Matt—10- and 13-year-old kids
I’m usually the chef in our house so anytime someone else cooks it feels like a luxury. I’d like to go to a brunch place that has a crazy omelet bar with every veggie and hot pepper on earth. And ideally a place that makes a from-scratch Bloody Mary and throws in a bunch of weird things on a stick, because they’re delicious and the Bloody Mary premade stuff is disgusting. If the weather’s nice, I’d usually grill some burgers or steaks. But it would be great to try something that takes a little longer, maybe smoke some ribs. And get a nice bottle of red wine that costs $20, because usually we spend $10.
Bernard—three young adults
Brunch. I absolutely love brunch. We must go out…otherwise I would either A. Have to make it, or B. Be stressed that my kitchen is being destroyed. We have a tradition of going to a local beer festival together…I’m not much of a beer drinker, but this is more of a time for all of us to be together. It’s kind of an awesome day when you can finally have a drink with your kids—it makes up for the puke and poopy diapers.
Kevin—adult daughter, 1-year-old grandson
With Colleen being 25 and a mom herself, I’m happy simply to be invited over. Whether we get food someplace, cook a meal there, or go out, I like being included in family stuff, even if it’s routine.
A big lunch with as much family as can make it, my choice of entrée. That’s about it.
To sum it up:
Feed them a better-than-average version of food they like and don’t have to cook.
Here’s where the differences between dads really come out. You can’t go wrong by filling the day with things he loves to do—but the fathers we asked added that they’d like for the family to enjoy the activities, as well. Their ideas:
I’d like to pick out a new book from a bookstore to read to him. And let him try something new—a new food or a new experience—something to make the day a milestone for both of us. And I’d like a little time by myself to smoke a pipe and contemplate the amazing and terrifying fact of fatherhood.
Luis—7-, 6-, and 2-year-old sons
My ideal Father’s Day activity is truly spending time with my kids…in my blended family scenario, this becomes the perfect opportunity to see all three kids for an entire day. I get to ask them a lot questions, they create art for me, I play with them, and what we seem to always do is to go for a trail hike somewhere. They love to explore and it also give us time to stay away from electronics.
Jake—8- and 16-year-olds
I like being with the family, doing what’s fun for all of us: a little sportsing outside, a little gaming (video and board), a little favorite movie watching, and yes, a little of all of us doing our own thing.
My ideal Father’s Day activities: A relaxing day boating, fishing, watching movies or just hanging out. No deadlines and no pressure to leave the house if I don’t want to.
Jeff S.—3- and 5-year-old daughters
I want to get kites this Father’s Day. The girls have never flown a kite, and it’s something magical that they have asked to do recently. I’m not sure if the weather will be in our favor, but it could be a memorable experience one way or another.
My ideal activities: doing something together that’s also something I enjoy (going to a baseball game, mini golf) or going someplace (store, restaurant, tourist spot) that we’ve talked about visiting.
To sum it up:
Let Dad take the lead and agree on something the whole family will enjoy doing together. Also: Newer dads want to share sentimental experiences with their kiddos, and everyone can appreciate a little alone time.
Not every dad we asked even mentioned a gift—which is so very Dad of them. For the ones who did, it was functional or sentimental:
A card or gift from my daughter that says or shows that she genuinely appreciates me as her dad.
A card from mom. A good photo of me and the boy together—it doesn’t have to be professional, just good. If there’s a gift, let it be something I can look forward to passing on: a watch, a pocketknife, or an antique or leather bound book of adventure stories (something by Mark Twain or Jack London seems right). Or the beginning of a collection that can become his (books or records, for instance). Or an activity I could look forward to us doing together.
I’d love a fun outdoor game that we could all play, like bean-bag toss or stomp rockets or one of those foldable Ping-Pong tables. And maybe a pair of lightweight dress shoes made out of that really thin summer fabric-y stuff? And a good pair of wireless headphones because I’m kinda tired of untangling my headphones.
To sum it up:
Where Dad is concerned, it really is the thought that counts. Look for something you know they need, will use, or will treasure—and don’t forget a card that says how much they mean to you. Need help with just the right message for the card? See these Father’s Day message ideas from Hallmark writers.
Honestly, asking these questions reminded us that dads are really good guys. A few more answers:
Simply a day with Dad feels better to me than a day for Dad, if you follow me.
Frank—5-year-old twin girls and a 9-month-old daughter
My wife and I actually did a Mother’s Day/Father’s Day handshake agreement this year that we would not do anything in particular for these holidays. As parents of three young kids, holidays are of course filled with lots of joyful moments, but they can also feel like “task-bombs.” This year we are both just trying to make it a relaxing day for each other and giving each other a card… because what I really want it to feel relaxed and for my family to tell me that they love me.