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What Kids Need from their Dad

We’re approaching Father’s Day and if yours is still living, you are probably thinking about what to give him or at least worrying about finding the perfect card.

While usually the emphasis is on how special fathers are on Father’s Day, do something to help your kids remember your fond connection for the rest of their lives.

But a different slant on this holiday is to spend time thinking about the things kids need from a dad—or the gifts you give your kids.

One of my daughters’ favorite toys as kids was the ramshackle two-seat Whirly Bird* my husband pulled from the dump and straightened out for them to use in our back yard. It never looked great but it worked cool and my daughters still talk about it. A toy brought home from the dump? Yeah, it happened and it probably wasn’t very safe but it made memories for the kids from their dad.

Jay Payleitner is a writer (see blog, who is not afraid to take risks in raising his children and wrote a book called 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad (Harvest House, 2010). I like some of the chapter titles, which can serve as a list of things kids do need from their father. Most are self-explanatory but if not I added a short explanation in parentheses.

Kids need their dad . . .

  • To help them beat the odds (to not get involved in drugs, etc.)
  • To stop and catch the fireflies
  • To kneel or stand by their bed as they sleep, praying
  • To sometimes make an illegal U-Turn on the expressway and drive 30 miles back to the restaurant where your son left his Dodger’s cap
  • To get right with his dad
  • To rent a dolphin for an hour (ridiculously expensive splurge on a vacation but well worth it according to Payleitner)

You get the idea. I have his permission to share highlights of his chapter on “Kids need their dad to make a pair of homemade stilts.” It would make a great project as a run-up to Father’s Day or the week after.

Even if you’re not handy in the woodworking department I’ve got a worthy project for you and your six- to ten-year-old. It’s cheap, easy, and doable in a single relaxing afternoon. Plus it’s something they’ll actually use, not just stick on a shelf. It’s stilts.

Trust me, kids love the idea of being taller than they are. I’m talking about the old fashioned stilts dads and kids have been making for generations out of leftover wood they find in their garages. Second, if you hammer your thumb or drill through your hand or if your kid breaks his wrist falling, it’s not my fault. You’re the dad, you’re in charge. So no lawsuits, okay?

Really, this is a piece of cake. If you go online and google “homemade wooden stilts” you’ll find dad-friendly instructions with illustrations. Keep the footrests low for your first pair.

Remember, this really isn’t about researching, designing, shopping, hauling, sawing, nailing, drilling, sanding. It’s about you and them. It’s about building a family. Don’t worry if the quality of construction is not up to the standards of master carpenters.

Just do it. Don’t think about it too much. Don’t wait for just the right time. Tell your kids to get in the car. Go to the home center, buy some wood, make a pair of stilts. Why not? (excerpted from pages 129–130)

I like Payleitner’s emphasis on just doing it—and it doesn’t have to be stilts. Play in a yard sprinkler. Blow huge bubbles. Rescue a toy or playground equipment from a yard sale or second-hand shop and paint it up together. While usually the emphasis is on how special fathers are on Father’s Day, do something to help your kids remember your fond connection for the rest of their lives.


For a free pamphlet, “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad” (in English and Spanish from the National Fatherhood Initiative), write to Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg, VA 22803 or to  

(*For an example of a “Whirly Bird” in action, see

Posted 6/7/2012 7:00:00 AM

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