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6 Last-Minute Father’s Day Gifts He’ll Love

Ideas to make Dad feel appreciated, without a hefty (or any) price tag​

Son serves father a hotdog at a BBQ
Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty Images

​True or not, dads have developed a reputation for being harder to shop for than moms—which probably explains why the tie has become the go-to gift.​​ Bo-ring.​

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​This Father’s Day, get creative. ​

​Your present doesn’t have to cost a lot of money (even though the National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend $20 billion celebrating dads this year).​

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​Just be sure it’s tailored to the father figure in your life.​

​“Show me that you know me, know what I am into, where I spend my time,” says John Starr, 70, of Cerritos, California. “Then, if you must, buy me something that would draw me further into it. Or send me a note with an invitation for lunch somewhere. Anywhere. What is important is to say that I am important to you.”​

For Father’s Day, John Starr wants to feel important to his children.
Courtesy John Starr

​Here are six ideas—all of which steer clear of the dreaded tie—for showing Dad you care.​

1. Encourage experimentation in the kitchen

​Good seasonings and sauces up the ante when it comes to culinary pleasure. They can add depth to a mainstay meal or be a fun introduction to foreign cuisines.​

“Most dads love to experiment with different sauces and seasonings in the eternal pursuit of perfect flavor,” says father-of-five Rick Fickhesen, 56, owner of Buffalo Artisan Food Traders in Amherst, New York. “I think as guys get older, it kind of takes on a hobby-like feel.”​

Fickhesen recommends versatile add-ons such as steak seasonings to complement all kinds of foods, from hamburgers to popcorn. “It’s a little different,” he says.​

If fiery condiments are more your father’s thing, search for hot sauces that will test whether he can handle the heat. Or make your own. Depending on how much he loves to feel the burn, consider using Scotch bonnet or ghost peppers—rather than jalapeño peppers, which are more common and mild—to ramp up the “wow factor.”​

2. Be the grill master

Turn the tables on Dad by offering to take charge of a cookout.​​

In Jeff Schoonmaker’s house—both the one he grew up in and the one he lives in with his wife and two children in Eugene, Oregon—backyard cooking is the responsibility of one person and one person only. ​​“That’s always kind of been the dad’s role,” he says. “We work the grill.”​

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​Schoonmaker, 52, vividly remembers the pride he felt several years ago on Father’s Day when his daughter, Meagan, asked him to teach her the ropes. They bonded over a simple meal: hot dogs. He showed her how to fire up the grill and use tongs to make sure every side of the hot dog is cooked to perfection.​

​“I guess in some ways it kind of felt like a passing of the torch,” says Schoonmaker, whose dad taught him how to use a grill. “Being able to spend that time with her, doing something I always enjoyed, meant a lot to me. And for it to be something she actually wanted to do made it all the more special.”​

​So how did those father-daughter grilled franks taste? “Awesome,” Schoonmaker says proudly.​

3. Make fitness fun

​A combination of aerobic activity, strength training and flexibility exercises is critical for older adults to prevent bone loss, prevent osteoarthritic pain and boost immunity, among other things, according to the National Council on Aging.​

​Fitness card decks or dice are a clever way to keep Dad from avoiding monotonous workouts by adding an element of gaming and surprise. Randomly draw cards that show core, cardio and other exercises—with pictures and instructions—to wake up stale regimens. Or roll a pair of six-sided dice that display number of reps on one die and specific exercises—push-ups, crunches and lunges, for instance—on the other.​

​"A lot of people don’t exercise because it’s hard to get started, they don’t have enough time, they didn’t get results [in the past], and they don’t know what they should do,” says Kurt Boyd, owner of Stack 52, which sells exercise cards and dice that suggest about 250 exercises that can be done with no equipment. The company’s deck of flexibility exercises—most popular among older people—requires only body weight for arm circles, seated toe touches and other helpful stretches. Boyd says: “This way, you’re always doing something a little bit different, and you can do it anywhere.”​

​Plus, it’s a relatively quick and painless commitment. “You draw a couple cards,” Boyd says, “and that’s all the exercise you have to do.”​

4. Subscribe to a coffee service

​Instead of yet another coffee mug, give a subscription to a coffee “club,” which sends the recipient a variety of roasted blends. You can choose anything from a one-time delivery to an entire year’s worth of java.​

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​For example, Bean Box ships small-batch, artisan coffee from independent, award-winning roasters every week, every two weeks, or every month. A plan costing between $20 and $24 includes one 12-ounce bag that brews 24 to 36 cups of coffee.​

​An NPR Coffee Club subscription, meanwhile, satisfies caffeine cravings while also helping to support National Public Radio. Members receive a rotating selection of roast-to-order coffees from North Carolina-based Counter Culture Coffee. Most plans are under $20. ​

5. Make a gratitude book

​Giving your dad a homemade collection of the many reasons he makes you thankful will be a keepsake he’ll treasure far longer than a store-bought gift.​

​Paris Prynkiewicz has been putting a lot of thought into making a gratitude book for her 54-year-old father, Peter.​

​She plans to include memories they've made and enjoyed together, as well as various challenges her dad has helped her overcome, “to show my gratitude for his support, encouragement and love over the years in good and bad times,” says Prynkiewicz, 27, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.​

​She already knows one memory will be how happy her father was to welcome her fiancé, Dan, into the family after the couple shared news of their engagement. Among the challenges will be the time she was hospitalized for bipolar disorder, with a message thanking her dad for visiting her every day and helping her to readjust to regular routines once she returned home. ​

The book will “be special because this is something he can always have and hold to reflect back on,” Prynkiewicz says, adding that it will be a testament to “how strong the relationship is.”​

6. Attend an outdoor concert together

​As your original Uber driver, your father chauffeured you and your friends to how many live shows?​

​Pay him back (well, at least in principle) by taking him to an outdoor summer concert. Lots of cities and towns host live music for free, with some offering a family-friendly series throughout the season featuring regional talent and world-class headliners.​

​Pack some snacks, slip into comfortable clothes and (maybe for once) dance to the same beat. ​​

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