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

The stories on this list made us officially overrule our plan to get dad a tie he'll hardly wear.

dadCourtesy, Gerald Craft

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. Check out these  father’s day activities your dad will love.

dadsCourtesy, Luisa Irene Yen

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

dadCourtesy, Edward De La Loza

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

dadCourtesy, Christopher Persley

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. Here are funny Father’s Day quotes that will make you laugh out loud.

dadCourtesy, Scott Cuff

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

dadCourtesy, Darryl Mittledorf

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

dadSuzanne Cohen Photography

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

recipebookCourtesy, Katie Fey

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. Here are some books for dad that will bring you closer this Father’s Day.

kidsCourtesy, AJ Jacobs

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 Jacobs, author It’s All Relative, New York, father of three. 

Courtesy, Teana McDonald

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

dadCourtesy, Lance Somerfeld

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. Don’t forget these Father’s Day gift ideas every dad would love.

dadsCourtesy, Jonathan Bailey,

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

dadCourtesy, Fred Goodall

Do your research

“One of my favorite traditions is to have my kids complete a Father’s Day questionnaire. In the questionnaire, I ask them basic questions about me such as what I do at work, what are my favorite activities, and what do I like to eat. Even though my kids have been doing these surveys for several years now, they always surprise me with their answers. These surveys are special to me and I still have every survey they’ve completed. I keep them in a folder in my office and I look at them when I need a smile.” —Frederick J. Goodall, Mocha Man Style, Texas, father of three

bookCourtesy, Teana McDonald

Tell dad what you love about him

“Last year I received a hardcover book titled, What I Love About Dad. My 12-year-old son filled in 47 pages with touching and insightful words, which are the key to my heart, especially when they’re handwritten. My son filled in each page from a variety of prompts. He wrote many references to sports we played together. One of the lines was, ‘What I love about Dad is getting his advice on football.’ (We had just finished our first football season where I served as head coach.) The book now sits by my bathroom sink so I start my day just looking at it.” —Ryan Critch, Florida, father of two sons. Don’t miss these Father’s Day activities your dad will appreciate.

dadCourtesy, Chris Grant

Perform dad-inspired poetry

“My four daughters wrote poems about what they appreciated about me and read them out loud. This was a group gift idea but they each wrote their own poem and each piece of writing was as unique as the author and each captured a special aspect of our relationship. (At the time their ages ranged from 21 to 29 .) There were traditional rhyming verses and even one rap song. It was a true treasure and stands out as my favorite Father’s Day memory. Afterward, I compiled the poems into one document to store in my office desk drawer to keep it close.” —Chris Grant, founder of C Grant and Company Marketing@DadsWhoBelieve, Illinois, father of four

kids and dadCourtesy, Darryl Branch

Bond in nature

“I surround myself with a group of men who share the desire to be present with their children. We’re made up of business owners, educators, military personnel, and lobbyists and know one another mostly from college at the University of Virginia. For the past five years for Father’s Day, we have gathered as dads, uncles, brothers, guardians, and friends to bring all of our children on a weekend camping trip in the Virginia countryside. We bring tents, food, games, and a pure joy for being with our children and sharing the fellowship of fatherhood. The tradition started when two fathers coordinated a barbecue called the Big Piece of Chicken Cookout. Our goal was to get fathers together with their children on Father’s Day. From meeting in the backyard to several local parks, we’ve watched our children grow as we’ve grown as individuals. My favorite part of the experience is the group photo we take at the end of every trip. This symbolizes what we are all gathered around for: to show our love and togetherness.” —Bashon W. Mann, Washington, D.C., father of two daughters

kidsCourtesy, Dave Peck

Four words: Soft. Serve. Ice. Cream.

“Every year when my wife and kids asked me what I want for Father’s Day, I always replied that I wanted a soft serve machine. I’m a big soft serve fan and only get to have it when we’re visiting an amusement park. When I asked for my own machine, I pictured an official looking monstrosity you might see in a Baskin Robbins. I assumed it was never going to happen. Opening presents last year, I noticed a wrapped gift the size of a small microwave. I opened it and it was a portable soft serve machine! My twins walked out with all the toppings you could think of: M&Ms, sprinkles, peanut butter cups, etc. That night, we started the mix, prepped the machine, and had nonstop soft serve for our family. Now we bring it out at least a few times a month. Since I got my impossible wish I need to come up with a new response when my family asks me what I want for Father’s Day. I think I’ll start saying, “a trip to Hawaii” and see how it goes.” — Dave Peck, California, father of five

dadCourtesy, Darryl Branch

Add to dad’s (homemade) art collection

“Each year my kids are so excited to give me their artwork. Over the years they’ve made ties, picture frames, family portraits, place mats, and a lot more. I love all of it. I have everything hanging up in my classroom where I teach U.S. History. Each year my students ask me where I got the ‘cool art’ from. I smile and proudly say, ‘my kids.'” -Darryl, Virginia, father of three. Check out these movies to watch with dad on Father’s Day.

Gina Ryder
Gina Ryder is a New York-based writer specializing in psychology, relationships, and health. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, and more. A former editor with The Huffington Post, Gina is a huge advocate for the power of personal narrative to humanize news, connect people and bring social understanding.