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  • Writer's pictureScott Behson

Hey Dads: Year-Long Presence Is the Best Christmas Present

Our kids may want things, but they NEED time with their fathers. This Christmas, instead of stuff, we should give our kids the opportunities to do more fun things with us. Here are a few ideas.

Regardless of what you and your kids like to do, why not have Santa give you more opportunities to do them together

The best gift you can give your kids is your consistent presence. Happily, instead of buying your kids the latest junky plastic thingamabob they have their eye on, we can use Christmas (or Hanukkah) gifts as a as an excuse to purchase things that create opportunities for time together. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Buy Experiences

Research on happiness shows that money buys far more happiness if it is spent on experiences instead of things, especially experiences purchased in advance, as looking forward to a fun experience is also fun.

A few Christmases ago, Nick’s favorite present wasn’t a toy at all, but an envelope. In it was a note stating that “We are going to Disney!” Amy and I had budgeted for this trip for a while, but this is the first Nick heard of it. That Disney trip was an incredible family vacation, and we have the memories and pictures to hold on to. I’m sure Nick doesn’t even remember he got considerably fewer gifts that year.

Yes, I know Disney is not in every family’s budget, but there are options at every price range. This year, I purchased a much smaller option- a four-pack of tickets to our local minor-league baseball team.

If you are a dad who likes the outdoors, buying a small tent for Christmas and attaching a note about when your first camping vacation will be would make for a cool present and a way to lock in a weekend dad-and-kids adventure (plus, the tent can be used in the living room for a test run after the tree is put to the curb).

Family memberships at many cultural institutions pay for themselves in two visits. In my neck of the woods, family memberships to Storm King Arts Center, the Bronx Zoo and the NYC Botanical Gardens are very reasonable. By buying a membership, you are much more likely to spend a few Sundays over the course of the year out on a family trip, as opposed to spending the day watching your football teams lose.

Nick and I at our local minor league baseball stadium. An experience we'll remember more than a typical present

Nick and I at our local minor league baseball stadium. An experience we’ll remember more than a typical present

2. Feed Common Interests

Both Amy and I come from skiing families. A few years ago, Nick was old enough to start. For Christmas, we bought him kids’ ski lessons at Mt. Peter, a tiny ski mountain about 40 minutes north of our house. The reasonably priced intro lessons were every Tuesday after school from January through March, and Nick could ski for free after his lessons. I bought a Tuesday-only ski pass for myself, and for three months, each Tuesday was spent driving to Mt. Peter and back (I used these car rides to introduce my son to Elvis and punk rock) and skiing together after his lessons. Time and money very well spent.

I have a friend whose son is very mechanically inclined, and every Christmas Santa gets his son one of those gonzo mechanized LEGO sets for them to work on together. The hours they spend working on these is great bonding time, and they also get a tangible reminder of their work together after the project is finished. Legos are great, but Lego sets that become father-son projects are a gift that keeps on giving.

Amy and Nick love reading together, and, over the years, she bought Nick the Harry Potter and Narnia series. These books give them both the gift of a half an hour every night cuddling and reading before he goes to bed. What can be better than that?

3. Buy Games You Can Play Together

A few Christmases ago, Santa got Nick a Wii. One of the things I like about the Wii is that gameplay is accessible to adults (it also gets you moving, as opposed to sitting and pressing buttons). In the years since, Nick and I have spent countless hours playing the 12+ sports included in Wii Sports Resort, racing each other as Sonic the Hedgehog (him) and Knuckles the Echidna (me) in Sega All-Stars Racing, competing in many events in the Mario & Sonic Olympic games, and, most rewardingly, conquering the LEGO Star Wars Complete Saga together as Jedi and Padawan.

Playing these games together is often Nick’s pre-bedtime reward for finishing dinner and doing his homework, and it is a highlight of my day, too. Even now that Minecraft and other solo iPad games are creeping in, we still make time for our Wii time.

Even better than gaming together is shutting down the screen and having “family game night“. Our current favorite board/card games to play are Telestrations (a combination of Pictionary and the telephone game), Apples to Apples, Sorry! and Uno. I recommend buying a few family board/card games and scheduling in time to play regularly.


Our kids may want things, but they NEED time with their fathers more.

Toys and games are great, and I’m not advocating taking the thrill of ripping away Santa’s wrapping paper from our kids, but perhaps we would all be better served by shifting the types of presents we give- less stuff more Dad-and-Kid experiences, They’ll remember the gift of your constant loving presence more than any present under the tree.

What do you think about these ideas? Any examples to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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DISCLAIMER- I do not have any relationship with any of the brands or places mentioned in this article. I don’t roll that way.

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