Father's Day

12 Dads Share the Sweetest, Most Heartwarming Father’s Day Gifts They’ve Ever Received

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Channel your inner fanboy

“My son loves Darth Vader (despite the fact that he’s never seen any Star Wars‘ movies). Every week for a month when we would go grocery shopping, he would stop by the rack that had the key chains, whisper something to his younger brother and then nonchalantly ask, ‘Dad, you like Star Wars, right?’ It was obvious what I was getting for Father’s Day. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge Star Wars‘ fan! Plus, there’s nothing worse (for me at least) than a pocket full of bulging keys. For the past year, I haven’t been able to put my keys in my pocket and everyone assumes I’m a Star Wars‘ nerd. But when I think of how proud my son was to give it to me, well, I’ll always be sporting my Darth Vader key chain. I can only pray for a new key chain this Father’s Day!” —Gerald Craft, Washington, father of two. 

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Score special tickets to the big game

“This year, my twin sister and I are surprising our dad with tickets to an MLB All-Star game in Miami’s Marlins Park when he comes to visit. (Our dad is a baseball-loving, retired Army veteran living in Panama.) He was here last on devastating terms, the sudden funeral of one of his closest friends, his brother. This return to Florida will be special for many reasons: a reunion, the game, Father’s Day, and our dad’s 60th birthday (also in July). Our dad is frugal and simple and rarely asks for anything; we knew we wanted to accomplish this dream for him.” —Luisa Irene Yen, Florida

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Outdo yourselves with food, music, and love

“For Father’s Day, we have a tradition to visit new restaurants that play fun music. We’ve tried places that serve Russian, Argentinian, and Colombian food. Last year the family took me to a good ol’ American cafe. We listened to country music on the way. I can’t wait to see where we ‘travel’ this year and what new music we will listen to in the car.” —Edward L. De La Loza, California, father of two

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Start the day with “dad” pancakes. End it with a game.

“My favorite Father’s Day celebration was two years ago. The day began with an amazing brunch with pancakes that spelled “DAD” and a picture frame from my daughter. Then we made a trip to Madison Square Garden to see a New York Liberty basketball game. My daughter and I were on the Dad Cam and we caught a free T-shirt and stepped onto the Garden floor.” —Christopher Persley, co-organizer of NYC Dads Group, New York, one child. 

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Pour your heart out

“I’ve been a single dad for the last 13 years. While I don’t doubt that my kids care about me, I know that I have the tendency to pull away which can influence our bond. I’ve been somewhat withdrawn ever since my grandson’s father passed away two years ago on Thanksgiving. Sometimes I don’t stop to be affectionate as much as I should, but God showed me that being a father is the best gift in the world. One Father’s Day, my three-year-old grandson gave me a plaque that said, ‘I get my Awesomeness From My Pop-Pop.’ That same year, my youngest son gave me a card that said how much I was his hero, my oldest son gave me a card that said how happy he was to have me in his life, and my daughter gave me a card that said that she will always be my little girl. I was in tears. These gifts reminded me that I am appreciated, needed, and wanted.” —Scott Cuff, New York, father of three and grandfather of one

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Play-Doh is your friend

“Last year my three-year-old, a huge dinosaur fan, wanted to give me his favorite dinosaur, a Pterodactyl, made out of Play-Doh. We watch countless YouTube videos and have made a dozen or trips to the Museum of Natural History. From his point of view, his Daddy likes dinosaurs, too. He ended up making me a brontosaurus, because the horizontal profile and stubby legs were easier to build. According to his mama, it took him lots of time and several attempts. It’s true that gifts are about the feeling they create in the receiver—warmth, happiness, and love washed over me that day.” —Darryl Mitteldorf, Director of Malecare, New York, dad of one.

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Strike a pose

“The best Father’s Day gift I received is an annual photography session with my kids. My wife, Suzanne, is a professional photographer, which of course helps, and the photos are always amazing keepsakes. We take a photo every year in different locations around New York City. In past years, we’ve gone to Central Park, South Street Seaport, Battery Park City, and Governor’s Island. I like natural poses, which usually means the kids are climbing all over dad.” —Adam Cohen, founder of DaDa Rocks, New York, father of three.

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Create a custom cookbook

“My dad was always the cook in the household and he taught me and my brother a lot of the basics around the kitchen. Now that we’re both grown, we still call him asking for his recipes, which says a lot because my brother is a pastry chef now. We got him a Honey & Hive custom cookbook, which was full of all our family recipes and photos. It was perfect because it finally captured all of his handwritten notes and kitchen tips we’ve collected over the years in a modern way with decades worth of pictures. He shed some tears when he got it, and wants to order more copies for extended family members.” —Katie Fey, daughter to Jim Fey, Tennessee.

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Make dad smile

One of my sons, when he was five, made a card that said “Happy Fat Her Day.” I’m not sure if it was a veiled reference to my weight and an allusion to gender fluidity, or if it was just a misspelling. Either way, it made my day.” —AJ Jacobsauthor It’s All Relative, New York, father of three. 

Go golfing with the generations

“Our favorite Father’s Day tradition is generational golfing. This is when grandfathers from both sides of the family head to the country club for a round along with their kids and grandkids. The kids and their grandfathers smile and laugh together, they hit and chase their balls, and run ahead of the pack in a carefree manner. Papa and the boys look forward to the banana splits. I’m just so blessed to be out there and see the awesome interaction between children and their grandparents.” —Mike Critch, Florida, grandfather of two

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Head to the beach for quality time

“For Father’s Day, my wife, two kids, and my dad go to Long Beach in Long Island. We just enjoy digging holes in the sand, swimming in the ocean, and eating Long Island bagels. After the beach, we meet up with my stepdad for a barbecue dinner. I’m lucky.” —Lance Somerfeld, co-founder of NYC Dads Group, New York, father of two. 

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Appreciating the day itself

“Father’s Day feels extra meaningful for us as our family looks different than some, with a Daddy and a Papi and two adopted daughters. Over the years, the girls have made us two identical sets of handmade art, two picture frames with sparkles and gems glued on, two small clay objects meant to resemble favorite animals, two delicious breakfasts in bed, and many sets of colorful drawings. My favorites are the glazed clay creations. They’ve made us a turtle, wildflowers, a frog, and a sunflower that we keep on display in our home. Regardless of the shape or size of these wonderful gifts, the love that comes from our daughters on this day is more meaningful to us than anything they could possibly make or buy. The best part? We get to share Father’s Day with each other—two dads celebrating the fact that we get to have a family at all.” —Jonathan Bailey and Triton Klugh, 2 Dads With Baggage, San Diego, fathers of two.

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