19 Unique Things to Do on Father's Day

Want to make this Father's Day memorable for dad and the kids? Consider planning some of these fun-filled games, projects, and activities.

Father and Sons Playing Street Hockey
Photo: Robyn Breen Shinn

Sure, dads appreciate thoughtful gifts and elaborate meals on Father's Day, but nothing beats some quality time with the kids. This year, plan an activity that's empowering and fulfilling for everyone in the family. We rounded up a few of our favorite ideas, as written by actual dads, prominent bloggers, musicians, and more.

1. Play in the Street

Sam Weinman, a New York City editor and author of Win at Losing: How Our Biggest Setbacks Can Lead to Our Greatest Gains, approaches parenting with this idea: "Allow them to be the conduit to your younger self. I like to remind my boys that being a kid never gets old." His go-to? Dragging out two goals, waiting for traffic to subside, and playing a little hockey in the street. He's even turned it into an annual event: a round-robin tournament with four kids and a dad on each team. Winners take home a replica of the Stanley Cup trophy—which is actually a popcorn maker. "It's arguably the highlight of the year."

2. Introduce Them to a Record Player

Now, granted, this isn't for everybody: It doesn't always work to have a 2-year old's peanut butter–covered hands around a precision device that doesn't play if you bump it. But according to writer Jeff Vrabel, "Some years ago, I ventured into the attic to retrieve my old and spider-infested collection of records, and on many nights since, we've been charmed by this relic from the past. We page through the massive art, make jokes about bizarre 1970s-era artist names ("Meat Loaf?" my eighth-grader said one night, shaking his head in bemused disbelief. "Why don't people make any sense?"), and indulge in the novel idea of listening to something straight through, instead of fast-forwarding or commanding Alexa to play something different.

3. Invent New Foods

According to Vrabel's 6-year-old, he has been eating Cocoa Pebbles incorrectly for decades. "He told me this while retrieving two other boxes of cereal, from which he created an innovative new breakfast called CocoaLuckyTrix," says Vrabel. "For the week after, we started breakfast by engaging in some cereal alchemy, producing such inventions as Cinnamon Toast Flakes, Rice Krispiespuffs, and my personal favorite, Marshmallow Apple Pebbles."

4. Learn Which Colas Can Explode

Everybody knows that Diet Coke + Mentos = geysers of carbonated awesomeness. But though it's the most famous reactive liquid, Diet Coke isn't the only drink that will activate on contact with Mentos and make a mess of your kitchen! Head to the grocery store and grab a sample of other sodas. (This is for science, so the cheap bottles work just fine.) If you're feeling especially MythBuster-y, tape several pieces of poster board together, mark off heights, and see which beverage creates the greatest geyser. (Hint: Don't skimp on the diet root beer.)

5. Climb Your City

Troy Carpenter, dad and Instagram star @redblueox, has an altitude-themed go-to for his oldest: visiting monuments and ascending to urban heights. He'll take his kids to Indianapolis's downtown Soldiers & Sailors monument or figure out which days of the week he can visit the top floor of other skyscrapers. If you're in a city with older kids, finding the highest heights can be a perfect mix of urban adventuring and making sure they get enough exercise to sleep well that night.

6. Send Screens Back in Time

If your kids are into video games, bond with and/or horrify them by showing them the ancient video games you had to deal with as a child, whether it's Atari, Nintendo, or another console. Mario Kart, anyone?

7. Create a Spy Network

Few concepts capture a kid's imagination more than secret messages, which is what compelled Coy Bowles, guitarist with the Zac Brown Band, to fashion a game out of a quirk in his house's design. "We have a 4-inch tall pipe that connects one recording-studio room to another," he says. "Its purpose is to pass cables through the wall, but my daughter and I now use it for fun." Bowles and his budding spy swap messages and toys through it. "It's cute to see her so curious about what's happening on the other side of the wall." No pipe? Hide messages anywhere: in drawers, behind bookshelves, in the vegetable crisper, inside a favorite book.

8. Invent Stories (With a Little Help)

Take a few sheets of paper, cut them into squares, and write a single and possibly hilarious word on each. Biscuits. Alien. Rhinoceros. Havarti cheese. Then ask your kids to make up a tale, occasionally flipping a square over and adding the word on it to the story. It's 100 percent free, 102 percent imaginative, and customizable to you and your family. (Translated: "You can use whichever ridiculous words you want.") It's this strategy that once made Vrabel's 6-year-old spin a fantastic tale about a space pirate who uses lightning to fight a volcano inside an evil toilet.

9. Go Playground Shopping

If you live in an area with multiple playgrounds, turn your travels into a piratical expedition. Make a playground map, mark the spots you want to hit, and devise a plan with your kids for exploring each one. Create lists of the best parts of each—which one has the twistiest slide, the biggest fountains, the most imposing jungle gyms—and revisit as needed.

10. Bust the Kids

Mike Spohr is the editor of BuzzFeed Parents, coauthor of The Toddler Survival Guide, and inventor of the Police Officer game. "My kids ride their bikes until I (the police officer) pull them over—for speeding, to ask if they've seen an on-the-run thief, or any of a thousand other scenarios. They want me to differentiate it every time, which gets really hard!" His son is usually apologetic; his daughter sometimes gets sassy. But all parties go home happy.

11. Fail to Walk a Straight Line

Block out your senses by closing your eyes and plugging your ears, and try to walk 100 steps in a straight line. It will not work. You will end up 50 yards to the left, or back where you started, or in the middle of a mud puddle—but never ever straight ahead.

12. Explore Farming

You don't actually have to "work" on a farm—frankly it looks difficult. But you might live near a destination for "agritourism," the term for seeing what farming means now, which often involves not just animals and dirt but drones and robots and other things from the future.

13. Modify Your Sports

When he lived in Manhattan—a part of the world not especially known for its expanse of baseball diamonds—blogger and Dad 2.0 Summit co-founder Doug French simply adjusted his ballpark perspective. "We invented a two-person baseball game called Dingerball," he says. "It was a pretty binary approach: If you hit the ball past me, it's a home run." For a good while, one of his sons struggled to connect, but after a time, French saw that the game was teaching his sons the importance of sticking with something until you see some light break through.

14. Prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse

James Breakwell, a father of four girls under 7 who tweets under the handle @XplodingUnicorn, has one simple go-to activity: zombie training. "My kids and I pretend to fight off the undead with foam darts or whatever else is handy and safe." It's loud, messy, goofy, and totally make-believe. "And it's real preparation for the greatest threat of our time," he says.

15. Play Grandma's Favorite Game

Chase McFadden, a blogger who runs the site StuffKidsWrite.com, connects the generations in his family via cribbage, an old-timey card game taught to him by his own grandfather. "I played with my grandpa, our kids play with their grandparents, and they are fortunate enough to have a great-grandmother to play with as well." The game loosely teaches math and strategy, but mostly it's a way to bridge the generations—even if those generations aren't messing around. "Don't harbor any thoughts of a sweet old lady patiently and gently teaching her great-grandchildren the ways of the game," McFadden says. "She plays for keeps."

16. Make Dad a Star

"Our Father's Day begins at 12:01 a.m.," says Kelly Brabson of Bowling Green, Kentucky. The family prepares a midnight picnic and packs up a telescope to head to the nearest rural area where the light pollution is low. Kelly's husband, Mark, loves astronomy and wants to share his hobby with his kids, Elijah and Sarah. "The kids think it's neat to stay up late and don't even notice that they're getting a lesson in astronomy," says Brabson.

17. Participate in Dad's Favorite Hobby

Dale Hoffman's love of photography began when he snapped a picture of a hummingbird at the feeder outside his Ortonville, Michigan, home. He soon became enthralled with birds and catching them on film. So naturally, his daughters Sara and Sam knew exactly what to give him for Father's Day: bird-watching guides. His wife, Robin, says, "Now he not only photographs them, he actually knows what they are." And the whole family enjoys both the bird-watching and the photos.

18. Share the Memories

Thomas O'Callaghan pays homage to his father, who passed away in 1990, every Father's Day. O'Callaghan says his father, who spent his early years in the Detroit area, "was devoted to his family. Maintaining a steady job, he raised four children through tough economic times." To pay tribute to his dad, each Father's Day O'Callaghan, who now lives in Rockaway, New York, raises the state flag of Michigan. After 20 years, he says, the neighbors have stopped asking why!

20. Do What Dad Loves

Instead of gifts, Jason Stinson of Woodstock, Georgia, would rather spend the day with his wife and three kids doing what he loves best: fishing. "Even though most of the day will likely be spent baiting hooks and removing fish, that's okay with me. I'd rather have time with my family than a gift any day," he says.

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