How To Not Suck At Picking A Father’s Day Gift

Two weeks go to go until Father’s Day. Odds are you haven’t gotten pops a gift, but what to buy? Let’s be honest. Your dad probably doesn’t need another tie or paperweight. And he probably doesn’t want new tools or personal hygiene products.

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with a gadget — unless you know it’s the kind of thing your dad will stick in a drawer.

So this Father’s Day, forget the traditional and go for something different. But make sure it’s the kind of different that fits your dad’s personality and preferences.

Here are some ideas on how to not suck at Father’s Day gift giving.

For the card-lover

(Honey, if you’re reading this, stop now. I don’t want to ruin your Father’s Day surprise.)

If your dad has a dark sense of humor and isn’t all that worried about being politically correct, he’ll love a game called Cards Against Humanity.

(My husband and I played this recently at a friend’s house, and it was a rip.)

In short, each player receives answer cards, and then in each round, all the players have to fill in the blanks of a phrase or question provided on a different card.

For example, the phrase could read: “In the new Disney Channel original movie, Hannah Montana struggles with _____________ for the first time.” Or “_______: Kid tested. Mother approved.”

And your available answer cards might read:
– “Praying the gas goes away”
– “Sharing needles”
– “Edible underpants”
– “A cooler full of organs”
– “Crystal meth”
– “Powerful thighs”

The other players vote for the best/most disgusting/most outrageous answer.

It’s not about who wins. It’s how you play the game. (And it’s totally not appropriate for kids!)

For the comic-loving gardener

New garden tools aren’t a bad choice for a dad with a green thumb, but it’s not an especially original gift.

Try a plantable comic book instead.

Dad can read about a green super hero, then plant the seed covered pages to grow herbs or wildflowers.

It’s different, indeed.

For the chef

If dad loves to grill, you can always go for new grilling tools. Or you can go high-tech with the iGrill. This wireless Bluetooth thermometer promises to tell dad when the food is ready, and it can be used with an app that will let him know his masterpiece’s status. If he’s not one of those guys who loves to stand in the heat of his BBQ while he cooks, that is.

You can couple this kind of gift with any number of grilling cookbooks, aprons and oven mitts. Or not.

If your dad prefers the kitchen to the grill, maybe try a foodie gadget like a breakfast sandwich maker.

For the car enthusiast

Buy some gift certificates for the local car wash, or get your hands wet and wash his wheels yourself.

There are few men who wouldn’t prefer a souped-up sports car to his regular ride, but we’re guessing that’s not in your budget. Instead, see about renting Dad a fancy car for the day.

For the tired dad

If Dad is the kind of guy who regularly works himself until he’s exhausted, give him a 30-minute massage. Or if you have the cash, buy him a gift card for a massage at a local salon.

A variation on that theme — if you have smaller kids who like toy cars or trains — try a play-mat T-shirt. Dad simply has to put it on and lay down, and the kids will step up to massage his back while they play with their wheels.

For the gamer

If dad likes playing games on a tablet, maximize his experience with a snap-on joystick. This is especially handy if Dad likes retro games like Pac Man. And yes, you can download those, too.

For the music man

A guitar-lover (or ukelele-lover, even) needs a pick, or a dozen of them.

Dad can make his own with the Pick Punch. Or try a pick made from repurposed coins.

For the trouble-maker

If your dad loves playing practical jokes, give him some new fodder with The Mischief Maker’s Manual. Think: “Invisible Toilet Force Field,” and “The Metal Pillow Prank,” and you get the idea.

For the dad with fine tastes

(We didn’t think “the drinking dad” was an appropriate subhead for this section.)

A couple of old stand-bys still work if your father is a connoisseur of alcohol.

Try a Beer of the Month Club. Or buy a six-pack of his favorite brew, but decorate each bottle with customized labels.

If dad is more of a sommelier, Tasting Room offers an inexpensive starter set in which Dad would receive some mini bottles of wine. He’d then go online and rate each one, and based on his preferences, he’d get a new delivery of full-sized bottles.

For the sentimental dad

We’re going to borrow from our Mother’s Day gift guide for some personalized gifts that dad will like just as much as mom.
• In this digital age, go retro and print and frame a photo of you and Dad.
• Pick up some canvases and paint and let your kids paint some artwork for Grandpa.
• Hit the craft store and buy a mug decorating kit, or create a personalized cup, mouse pad or other item through an online photos-and-more store.
• Create a book of favorite photos and stories about Dad.

For the hero adventurer

You can get the whole neighborhood involved in this one.

“Kidnap” [note the quotes, indicating that we don’t actually suggest you kidnap anyone against their will, as that’s illegal and just plain wrong] your mom and send Dad on a wild journey to find her.

Think of it as a treasure hunt of sorts. Create a list of clues that Dad will have to find at each new location. At the end of the hunt, have the final clue lead to a restaurant or picnic location where you can all enjoy a post-kidnap meal.

If you can’t resist the tie…

We’re not sure why you wouldn’t be able to resist buying your dad a tie, but if you can’t, at least be a little creative. Enlist help from your kids and create some Shrinky-Dink tie pins.

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You can read Karin Price Mueller’s stories for The Star-Ledger at, follow her on Facebook, and on Twitter @kpmueller.

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