Here’s a fun way to engage your kids in a little math, history, and pop culture all while celebrating Dad and getting to know him even better. Before Father’s Day, talk about what year Dad was born. (Brace yourself for your kiddo’s astonished cries when you mention a date in the misty past of the ‘70s or ‘80s!)

Now ask your child to do the math and figure out what year it was when dad was the same age as your child. Let’s say your child is age 7. And for fun, let’s say Dad is age 37 now. That means Dad was the same age as your child in 1987. This simple fact will already spark curiosity about learning about the 1980s and help your child relate to this time.

I want my MTV … and mixtapes, too!

Pop songs can take us back in time quicker than almost anything else, and they’re a fun way to get your kids excited about Dad’s early days, too. A quick online search can point you to Top 100 lists of music and videos for any year. You can do a fast scan of the lists and focus on the more kid-friendly songs and videos, then create a playlist for dad.

For our example year, 1987, the Billboard Top Song was “Walk Like An Egyptian,” by the Bangles, a video sure to send the kids into giggles, though we bet they’re up and dancing by the end of the song! Other big songs of that year were Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” Wang Chung’s “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” and “La Bamba” by Los Lobos.

On Father’s Day, have the kids play the videos and music they found for Dad and ask him about any memories he has of those songs. Can Dad show a dance from when he was a kid? What did he use to play music on? A Walkman? A cassette player in Grandma’s car? All these details can help kids appreciate how much technology has changed since Dad was a kid.

Big screen and little screen

You can do similar searches for TV shows and movies popular when Dad was a child. Don’t forget that VHS tapes of movies often came out a year later, so in our example, Dad was probably marvelling at the aerial acrobatics of the 1986 hit Top Gun in 1987, on his family’s “huge” 19-inch TV screen.
You can make a YouTube playlist of the opening credits/theme songs of the top TV shows for Dad. Family Ties, Alf, Growing Pains, and Who’s the Boss were all big hits in 1987. Which were dad’s favorites? Did he have to do his homework before watching TV? Were there any shows he wished he could watch, but his parents wouldn’t let him? Which celebrities did he like?

The Dad and Me book

Finally, get conversation flowing with a fun Father’s Day project where your child interviews their dad to create a wonderful keepsake book the whole family will enjoy for years to come. Each spread in the book will have a page about Dad when he was a child, and a page about your child now.

To prepare, visit a craft store to pick out a nice hard-cover blank book. The kind with spiral binding is actually easiest for a child to write in; traditionally-bound blank books can be awkward to hold open and to write “in the crack” near the center. A spiral bound book will stay fully open on its own. Make the project even more special with different colored pens and even stickers.

Ahead of time, your child can think of categories and questions and start filling in the book. What was the hottest toy when Dad was a kid? Did he have that toy? If not, what toy did he have and love? Who was the president? What was the big news event? What does Dad remember about these? What pets did Dad have? What were their names and what were they like? What were some of Dad’s favorite foods? (As a fun follow-up, you could try to make and serve some of the more odd or outdated foods Dad ate as a kid, like “Fluffernutter” sandwiches, and Sloppy Joes.)

Your child can start filling in the book with their own information. “I have a pet cat named Toby.” “Daddy had a pet _________, named _____________.” Then over breakfast your child can make Dad feel like a celebrity on his special day by interviewing him and recording all his answers in the keepsake book.
Along the way, your child will get a little knowledge of history and culture, plus a lot of bonding time with Dad!