Father's Day gifts: Skip the grill and let your kids get creative

Father's Day gifts should come from your kids' imagination, so skip the generic grill or tie and let them create something from the heart. The simplest gift is often the best.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor
For Father's Day, the simplest gifts are often the best, so let your kids get creative this year. In this 2000 file photo, Hannah Rocklein paints during an integrated preschool class.

My husband once said to me that it doesn’t make sense for him to buy me a gift for Mother’s Day. Why? I’m not his mother. I got the message. He’s not my Dad. So on Father’s Day, I don’t buy him anything, either.

I don’t ignore Father’s Day, but follow this philosophy: A gift for Father’s Day should in spirit, at least, come from the child. Together, a Mom and even a very young child can produce something meaningful for a Dad. Call us boring, but my son and I have been giving my husband the same gift for Father’s Day since 2009. Each year, we make a stepping stone using cement mix and primarily my son’s feet.

We started this tradition when Simon was 18 months old. The first time, a pre-teen, who was a mother’s helper, assisted. She held Simon as I pressed his feet into the cement, then I washed off his feet. I put Simon’s name and the year in it and created a butterfly and blue sky with pieces of stained glass.

In 2010, when Simon was 2 1/2, I added a mosaic turtle and sky. This time, though, Simon was old enough to help press in the mosaic pieces. He also could follow instructions to stand in the cement on his own.

Last year, at 3 1/2, Simon took more ownership of the project. He pressed marbles he picked in assorted spots around his footprints in the stone. He helped me stamp his name and the year into the stone. He, with gusto and giggles, likes standing in the cement and counting to 10 as I make sure every one of his toes shows up.

This year, Simon is the main designer. He told me what he wants on the stone besides his feet. I won’t say because I don’t want to give away the surprise. My husband has said he would be happy with this same gift for years to come. It has turned out to be a gift for the family. We look at the stones each year and see how much Simon is growing. Each stone, too, shows his growing independence as I contribute less and less to the design. As his feet grow bigger, only his footprints may be there at some point. And, as he reaches adolescence, he may ask to abandon this tradition in favor of something else.

If Simon wants to spend his own money to buy his Dad a gift, that’s fine. But for now, I prefer our approach to spending hundreds of dollars or more on a gift that comes more from me than my son. For the very first Father’s Day gift, I took Simon to a paint-your-pottery place. I held him as the store assistant put paint on his feet and pressed the feet against a pot for a plant. Simon was just five months old. He giggled because the paint tickled his toes. That year, we also gave his Dad a balloon, which Simon quickly adopted as his.

Two of the stepping stones sit by our front step because they need sealant. One of them cracked last year. The third stone – made that first year – is amazingly the hardiest. It sits in front of the herb garden that my husband, with help from Simon, plants each year.

The best way to celebrate a Dad seems obvious to me: Let the child play a role in some way. A 4 year old can’t really go buy Dad a grill or even a tie. Some mothers may eschew crafty gifts. Try cooking something together or don’t try hard at all. The best gift, of course, is often the simplest: Spending the day together.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Linda Wertheimer blogs at Jewish Muse.

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