This Father's Day, Dads Just Want to Be Kids

Forget about the coffee mugs, the ties and the barbecue aprons. This Father's Day, retailers are chucking the World's No. 1 Dad tchotchkes out the door in a bid to make Sunday's holiday as big a draw as that one in May for mom.

"Dads are more involved," said Christopher Healy, the author of a book on fatherhood, "Pop Culture." "It used to be the typical Mother's Day gift that a lot of guys would give their wives would be like 'OK, I'll take care of the kids for the day,' to give Mom a day off because that was the exception to the rule.

"Today I think things have changed to enough of a degree where the opposite can happen — where Mom can say, 'Happy Father's Day, honey, I'm gonna do all the grunt work today,'" he said.

But many of us have fathers who no longer have kids to run after ... and we want to honor them, too. The National Retail Federation expects that Father's Day sales will top $9 billion this year with the average "kid" spending about $88.80 on Pop.

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While Dad may say that all he really wants is to enjoy a frosty beer in peace and quiet, there are plenty of other options to show your love, whether you're buying a gift for a new dad like Brad Pitt or just giving your time to grandpa.

Dads Just Want to Have Fun

Dads really are kids at heart. Healy suggests tapping that inner child by choosing an activity that reminds Dad of his own boyhood.

"For a dad who loved going to ball games as a kid, the chance for him to take his kid to one to relive those experiences and share them with his own child is probably one of the things he's looking for," Healy said.

It can be anything from an afternoon at the fishing hole or the driving range to tickets to a baseball game.

TV for Two

Even if the home team is at an away game on Father's Day, there are other ways to bond over childhood memories.

"A fantastic gift idea for any dad is to kind of call upon the entertainment from his own youth and gift it to him now so he can share it with his own kid," Healy said. "Even if it's 'Disco Duck.'"

It's been ages since "Howdy Doody," "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and "Speed Racer" graced the Saturday morning lineup, but they've been upgraded, remastered and re-released on DVD.

For younger dads, try "He-Man" or "Transformers."

"Even if they're a little embarrassed to admit it at first, a lot of guys will watch the kids' shows with their kids and actually enjoy them on some level," Healy said.

And he'll really enjoy it if it's on a brand-spanking new plasma TV.

New Dads' Need-to-Have Gear

"For the father of an infant, I think one of the best possible things he could have is a BabyBjorn, the baby carrier," Healy said.

The device straps to a father's chest, allowing the baby to be close to daddy, but giving pop the freedom to do other activities, like read the paper.

"For any guy who is really looking to be an involved dad, there is really no more concrete way to get involved than to carry the baby around," he said.

Make Him Presentable

If Dad's closest call with a straight-edge razor was watching Michael Madsen in "Reservoir Dogs," then it's time to treat him to the barbershop.

The Art of Shaving sells starter kits and razors, and its Barber Spas in New York, Miami and Las Vegas offer on-site barber services.

Calling Mr. Fantasy

If your dad spins yarns like Al Bundy about the glory days of high school sports — and you happen to be incredibly wealthy — then it's time to send him to fantasy camp.

Enroll him early in the Baseball Hall of Fame Fantasy Camp, which takes place from Oct. 6 to 11. He'll get a chance to suit up in Cooperstown, N.Y., and play ball with Hall of Fame managers.

If the approximately $8,000 price tag is out of the question, fret not. The Bridgeport, Conn., Bluefish hold a Father's Camp on Sunday for $250, and the Columbus Crew Major League Soccer team in Ohio holds a two-day camp for $95 (includes both parent and child) on June 24-25.

Techies' Delight

Consider giving dad a domain name using his own name — or if he has a young child, the child's name.

"The Internet has given dads a way to celebrate their fatherhood and be proud of their child in a public sphere," Healy said.

Dad may use that killer gift to start a blog about fatherhood, post pictures for the overseas in-laws or upload videos of that family vacation to the Grand Canyon.

It certainly beats that plaid tie you got him last year.