THERE'S THIS OLD quote from Abigail Van Buren, the “Dear Abby” manners columnist, that goes like this: “If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.”
Pardon our manners, Abby, but this is kind of horseshit.
Any dad trying to parent well in 2023 knows that a hand-me-down set of wooden blocks and a rubber ball are going to last kids only so long. Now, don’t get us wrong; we’re all for backyard bug hunts, the public library, and family volunteering. But spending money to do cool stuff with your kids is also fun. And spending the right kind of money on the right kind of things can actually help you spend more time with your kids.
Think hiking packs, jogging strollers, and bikes. Think projects, board games, and books. Think Lego. And then think of all the little things, from snacks to day packs, that make your life as Dad less stressful and thereby your kids’ lives much more fun.
We contacted dads that think like us—doctors, dietitians, longtime lovers of fitness—for the best things they bought for their family (and, okay, for themselves) in the past few years. Then we mixed those picks in with gear that dads on our staff at Men’s Health love.
The result is the Men’s Health 2023 Dad Gear Awards, a collection of father-tested, kid-approved stuff that’ll help you spend more time with your children and help them turn out really, really well.
Jump to each section:
Kane Revive Active Recovery Shoes
Hard-charging dads know that good shoes make all the difference, and Kane’s Revive Active Recovery Shoes are breathable, durable, made from renewable materials, and way cooler looking than those other hole-studded shoes.
Smartwool Intraknit 200 Crew Base Layer Top
Merino wool is the base layer when it comes to cool- and cold-weather sports. This line of layer-on garb keeps you warm, dry, and comfortable during snow sports, cold-weather camping, or stargazing.
G-Form Pro-X3 Knee Guards
This flexible padded gear is capable of withstanding soccer shin kicks, baseball elbow blows, and all manner of bike scrapes. But it’s also lightweight and formfitting and looks like something out of The Terminator—negating all the excuses of kids not wanting to wear pads.
Blue Lizard Kids Mineral Sunscreen Stick
Broad-spectrum UVA/UVB, at SPF 50+, in a noncomedogenic formula that goes on clear and easy. Plus, it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
L.L.Bean Diaper Bag
Sure, you could shove a loose diaper and a slim pack of wipes into your back pockets and wing it. Or you could just wear this bag, which also houses a water-bottle holster, a changing pad, and tons of pockets. You know what the Boy Scouts say.
Defiance Flash Blue Complete Ski Package
Skiing is expensive, but these packages pay for themselves in three weekends. Adjustable boots adapt as kids’ feet grow, meaning they’ll use them for at least two years—and no more sunk hours in the rental line.
HanYoer Punching Bag for Kids
If you’re looking for a good way to help kids channel their aggression, this is far better than having them take it out on their sibling.
Lululemon Metal Vent Tech Long-Sleeve Shirt
This shirt wicks sweat like its life depends on it, the mesh fabric is ideal for using your cuff to wipe your kid’s snotty nose when you’re out of tissues, and when you finally get a minute’s rest, it’s as comfortable as silk pj’s.
Thule Glide 2
This sturdy stroller folds up on a hinge and unfolds with the twist of a handle—and a massive holding area beneath the seats can hold an entire diaper bag. The ride is smooth, the lockable turning wheel transitions easy from walk to run, and the adjustable handlebar snaps for the comfort of various pushers.
Woom 4 Children's Bike
When your kid’s ready for an upgrade from their first Huffy, this ultralight eight-speed bike rides safely everywhere, from paved streets to groomed off-road trails.
This bike-trailer-turned-stroller does it all. The roomy cockpit seats two kids (or one kid and a ton of toys). When you’re ready to unhitch, it quickly converts to a traditional push-around stroller with drop-down wheels at the front. So it’s basically a Transformer.
Micro Kickboard Mini Deluxe
Cheapo scooters jiggle and eventually fall apart—sometimes at the absolute worst time. This company pops two stabilizer wheels up front, and the kids turn by leaning, which is more intuitive and safer than handlebar-only steering.
Cosco Umbrella Stroller
Every dad needs a cheap, light, no-frills option for chucking into the back of a van and navigating nimbly through crowds.
Yeti Rambler Jr. Kids Water Bottle
Cursed be the father who forgets to pack the water. This 12-ounce tumbler is ultra-durable and easy to clean, and the double-wall, vacuum-sealed design keeps cold drinks that way for hours.
Deuter Kid Comfort Active Child Carrier
Hiking with a substandard kid pack makes the journey feel like a death march. This carrier has padding in all the right places and a lightweight frame and holds a kid up to 50 pounds.
Isle Switch 2-in-1 Inflatable Kayak & Paddle Board
This rig converts from kayak to paddleboard on the fly. It can seat two (like a parent and a younger child who doesn’t have to paddle) and is light and stable enough for school-age children to use solo. No roof rack needed!
This versatile “insta-gazebo” provides protection from the sun, bugs, and rain, whether you’re camping, tailgating, taking a beach day, or picnicking at the park with the family. It’s available in a handful of sizes and sets up in under a minute. Really.
Matador SEG28 Backpack
Keeping your dad gear packed and organized is no easy task. The clever, segmented design of Matador’s Seg28 backpack separates it into four individual compartments to make organizing kid-friendly. Bonus: It’s extremely water resistant.
Yeah, the branded sets are cool. But not even the Lego Millennium Falcon can match the fun of Lego’s City Series. Take its police HQ, which comes with a booking room, a convict pumping dumbbells, and a truck that can spring the perp by removing a wall of the cell.
We know what you’re thinking: 130 pieces? Marbles? Look, this construction set knows no age limit. So if you’re looking for something you can all do together, why not connect the spinny wheel piece to the toilet-bowl piece to the steps piece to the…
MEL Science Monthly Subscription Box
Spark creativity and hone STEM skills with this kit-based service that goes way beyond your typical baking-soda volcano with projects that build infinity portals, gyroscopes, and space rockets.
Creativity for Kids Pizza Garden Kit
This kit includes seeds to grow tomatoes, peppers, and basil. Because nothing motivates like pizza.
Martin Guitar S1 Uke Ukelele
Dad learns three chords and becomes frontman for the family band. You know it’s always been your dream.
Magna-Tiles Classic 100-Piece Set
They’re fun like Lego but easier for toddlers to handle, and they clean up five times faster because the magnets let you take one tile and basically hoover the rest up with a satisfying clacking noise.
Cook It! The Dr. Seuss Cookbook for Kid Chefs: 50+ Yummy Recipes
Fifty kid-friendly recipes that include everything from Holiday Roast Beast to Pink Ink Drink to Green Eggs & Ham.
Catch a Crayfish, Count the Stars: Fun Projects, Skills, and Adventures for Outdoor Kids
This new step-by-step guide covers everything from climbing trees to building bug hotels to tracking wild animals.
KiwiCo Fort Builder Kit
Strong wooden poles and durable plastic connectors form the frame for epic indoor and outdoor forts. Your furniture stays put.
Crate and Barrel Wooden Toy Workbench
Budding young carpenters will appreciate the hands-on design of this kid-safe workbench. And let’s be honest, is there anything cuter than a toddler with a wrench?
This child-friendly device comes packed with a rich library of educational games, ad-free books, workbooks, and tons more cool stuff. Plus, it’s outfitted with solid parental controls to limit access and total screen time.
OmMade Chocolate Delight Peanut Butter
OmMade blends creamy, roasty peanut butter with other ingredients to make good-straight-off-the-spoon flavors like Chocolate Delight PB and Crunchie Munchie.
Babybel Mini Babybel White Cheddar Cheese
Babybel’s individually wrapped cheeses are shelf-stable and all good. Peel. Eat. Repeat.
Solely Organic Pineapple Fruit Jerky
Go beyond the traditional shoe-leather meat jerky of your thru-hiking days and give your kids this sweet, delicious, fruity snack with no sugar added.
HappyTot Super Foods Oat Bar Blueberry & Oatmeal
A chewy, tasty energy bar alternative packed with fiber and zero added sugar.
The New Primal Snack Mates Pizza Sticks
Every pair of these savory sticks is made with minimal sugar and has a strong dose of protein.
Sweet Nothings Kids Strawberry & Beet Squeezable Smoothie
These squeezable smoothie snacks are made with only organic fruit and vegetables, so they’re plant-based, dairy-free, and ultra-tasty.
GoodPop Organic Freezer Pops
They’re like the classic freezer pops you might remember as a kid but made with 100 percent fruit juice and zero added sugar.
Osem Bamba Peanut Snacks
Snacking on them is like eating air-popped peanut butter.
Wilde Chips Himalayan Pink Salt Chicken Chips
Ditch the salt-and-oil-heavy chips for these protein-packed, meat-based snack “chips.” They’re available in a variety of flavors, from simple and kid friendly (like Himalayan Pink Salt) to more adventurous (like Chicken & Waffles and Buffalo Chicken).
Ikea Sundvik Crib
This simple, durable crib has a removable side and lowerable bottom, so it converts to a traditional bed as your kid grows. Proof nursery furniture doesn’t have to be crazy expensive.
Snoo Smart Sleeper Bassinet
This wildly popular robo-bassinet gently and automatically rocks and soothes your baby to sleep—even if they wake up in the middle of the night. Yes, they’re pricey, but what would you pay for a good night’s rest when you really need one?
QuietOn QuietOn 3.1 Sleep Earbuds
QuietOn’s latest earbuds feature active noise-canceling technology that’s designed to drown out everything from snoring to ambient room noise so you sleep longer, deeper, and better. Use them when your partner is “on duty.”
Frida NoseFrida The Snotsucker
True to its name, this gadget does exactly what it promises. It’s designed to clear dirty noses safely, painlessly, and effectively. Bonus: It’s dishwasher safe. Thank God.
Honeywell Cool Moisture Humidifier (HCM-350)
So many baby humidifiers only send up wisps of moisture. This powerful unit chugs out humidity you can feel in minutes. Doubles as a white-noise machine, too.
Smiling Mind Smiling Mind App
Mind’s free mindfulness app offers a wide variety of meditative programs for adults and children that might just help you and your family sleep more soundly.
Morphée My Little Morphée Meditation Box
If you’d prefer to go screen-free, this setup features eight meditation sessions and eight nature sounds to lull the kiddo to sleep.
The Adventure Challenge Bedtime Adventure Challenge Storybook
An interactive 62-page book with calming activities for ages three to eight. Sure beats another Berenstain Bears.