Why dads should play with their children
Children learn through play, right from the very beginning and through each stage of development, so quality play is vital – and lots of it.
Why is play so important for children?
Play is in part responsible for healthy brain development, as it encourages imagination and creativity, emotional and social interaction. It is the way that children explore the world around them.
While risking some gender bias, dads are typically the ones to spend less time with their children – though not entirely by choice – and this can lead to a relationship where the dad may be seen as less approachable or even intimidating.
I’ll stress that this isn’t by design, even as adults we harbour some reservations about things we spend less time doing and people we spend less time with.
Playing with children is a great way of breaking down these barriers and demonstrating to our kids that while we may not be there as much as we’d like, we are open, loving, fun and supportive of them.
During play with us, our children start to learn interaction and social skills and their perspective of the world is influenced by how we play with them – if we control the activity or let them take the lead, whether we are fun, playful and laughing or reserved and serious, whether we always have a lesson to teach or whether we play just for the enjoyment of it.
Quality and quantity are important
please don’t let your phone appear to be more important to you than your child
Modern working families have less time to spend with their children.
This presents risks that we need to be mindful of…
As our lives are busier, we’ve become more efficient at managing our time and ‘squeezing things in’. This in turn can lead to frustration on our part when others do not appear as efficient as we are, or do things differently to the way we might – including our children.
Our children’s minds do not organise or prioritise in the same way as ours – you already know this from hearing things like ‘we can just buy another one’ or ‘just one more go, pleeeease’. There is no concept yet of where the money comes from, or that some other activity will be lost if we don’t leave now to arrive on time.
Play cannot be ‘squeezed in’.
Limiting play time to what you have, rather than making enough time for play, shows your child that they are less important than whatever else it is that you spent your time on before or after.
This includes checking emails, Facebook, and ‘just a quick call to…’ – so please don’t let your phone appear to be more important to you than your child.
Time is a precious commodity, so is the love and respect of your child.
In an effort to teach, many of us will attempt to guide play so the lesson can be learned. This can actually counter productive, especially when overdone. Children will learn at their own pace – more, less, faster and slower.
Child driven, undirected free play allows development of decision making skills, discovery of their own interests, progression at their own pace and the opportunity to fully engage in their true passions.
Play in groups allows children to learn important social skills, to share, to work as a team, resolve conflict and promote self worth.
As play is often physically active rather than passive, it helps stave off childhood obesity too.
Plan, and spend your time wisely playing with your children and you’ll reap almost boundless rewards, as will your children, including their healthy development and a strong dad-child bond.
Commit to playing
focus your attention on playing with your children, not how you’re going to reply to that email when they finally get bored
Give your children your full attention and involvement by turning off distractions – no tv, phone, tablet etc.
Remember – you are your children’s idols and they will copy you before they listen to you.
We all want for our children to be confident, self-assured and successful. What that actually means is that dads need to have tea parties wearing a tutu. To not do so would show our children that they must conform to established stereotypes and that if they’re unsure of something it’s best to play it safe and not try. Why on earth would anyone want their child to believe this?!
Despite everything you try to tell them to the contrary – they will do what you do, not what you say, so it is up to you to actually do what you say, and lead by example.
Get fully involved with whatever it is and focus your attention on playing with your children, not half-distracted thinking about “how you’re going to reply to that email when they finally get bored”. They will notice this, just as you notice distraction in them, your partner and your colleagues.
How does it make you feel when you don’t have someone’s full attention?
How will it affect your child’s perception of their self worth and value?
Mix it up
there are no hard and fast rules to play. Different activities and games will help their development in different areas
In all likelihood your child will, at some point, want to repeat and repeat the same thing. It will drive you nuts.
Don’t snap, chastise or display how bored you are – they will take it personally – they’re still children!
Image Credit: whilehewasnapping.com
Instead set yourself up with a selection of activities they can choose from. A great way to do this is by writing activities down on coloured cards, lollipop sticks etc. and putting them in a jar or bowl so you and/or child can take turns picking what you’ll do next. Make this a routine and frequently add new activities (as well as remove some) to keep the choice fresh.
Apart from the above, there are no hard and fast rules to play. Different activities and games will help their development in different areas, without needing to teach. Whether you play with props or not, outdoors or inside doesn’t matter.
This is especially important for those parents who may be feeling guilty about not having the time or finances to arrange trips out – quality play time at home with you can be as beneficial if not more so than organised activities elsewhere.
Yes, there are benefits to a child’s development of organised activities, especially when compared to being left unsupervised (latch-key kids) but over-scheduling the child or the parent benefits neither. Both become more stressed, rushed and anxious and finances are reduced.
Use the right toys and games
Toys such as dolls and blocks allow and encourage children to fully utilise their imagination, as opposed to electronic and passive toys.
Playmats with a road network and a selection of toy cars, planes, boats etc. give the opportunity to mimic real life.
Wooden train sets and hot wheels tracks allow for endless additions and variety of track as well as add-ons such as traffic lights or signals – that could even be made instead of bought.
Board games like Monopoly, Cluedo and Scrabble are not only fun, but can teach important life skills too. There are simpler versions for younger children too – Monopoly Junior, Cluedo Junior and Scrabble Junior, which utilise a smaller board, more child friendly themes and rules, and shorter game time.
Cards and card games have many uses – from teaching tactics to practising memory, recognition, speed and maths – as well as following rules.
Uno is a fantastic game for all ages and even a regular pack of cards or two provides a range of games such as Rummy, Go Fish, Crazy 8’s and others for 4-5 years plus, Snap for younger children and even 21/Blackjack and Poker for tweens and teens. Plus, they can always be used to build a house of cards too!
Rummikub is another game great for two or more for number patterns, while the simple pick-up-sticks packs away into no space (great for taking away on holiday) and requires observation, dexterity and tactics to win – plus you can employ practice of multiplication or addition to count score at the end.
Other simple but fun and effective toys for boys and girls are balls and frisbees – who doesn’t enjoy kicking, throwing and catching?
The overriding advantage to all of the above is that they can be played together – maximising opportunity for bonding. Most will teach in some way without you, the parent, having to try to instil some life lesson and they are all fun.
As an added bonus or two, some can still be played alone and a couple require getting up and really active – great for everyone!
It doesn’t have to be a game
I’ve listed a number of games above, but I spend just as much time on craft activities, teddy tea-parties and teaching how to cook or, occasionally, bake.
The time spent together is the most important thing for bonding, your child will feel more loved, and likely talk more too.
Explore your child’s interests – you don’t have to know what to do all the time. As discussed earlier allowing your child to take the lead is important in their development – and possibly yours too, one day you will have to let them go solo, maybe now is a good time to start practising.
This is a fabulous post! You are absolutely right about giving children our time; our greatest gift. #dreamteam
This is a fantastic post! I totally agree that time time is the most important thing you can give a child #DREAMTEAM
LOVE this! I was a total daddy’s girl. He worked 10 hours a day 6 days a week when I was growing up, but he still kicked a football around in the garden after work with us, and always did fun stuff with us on Sunday. #DreamTeam
I spend half my life nagging my hubby about this. I have so many memories of fun times with my dad, but our kids aren’t going to have many with him if he doesn’t get his bum our of his office once in a while haha #DreamTeam
Fantastic post with some great ideas – the greatest gift you can give your child is your time – something that I have found wanting on in recent times but commit to trying harder!
Time and our full attention are the most valuable things one person can give another … Totally agree with you here.
There is no better way that spending quality time with our children. Dads play a vital role in the family dynamics and giving their time is important. Thanks for sharing #dreamteam
I love the idea to mix it up so that you aren’t stuck on repeat with the same activity. #DreamTeam
Great Read! definitely need to change it up, it helps your sanity
That photo is amazing!! My husband was great at playing with our children – he would really throw himself into it. The kids loved every minute and it bonded them xx
I’m so glad to hear it – dads take note – our kids really do need us to do more of this!
You got me at “Dads need to have tea parties wearing a tutu.” I think children will benefit a lot from having a father who’s not afraid to look silly just so his children could have fun and enjoy his company. For the girls, this could help them have a higher (or better) standards when looking for a partner when they come of age. As for the boys, this could help them build confidence about their manhood- that it’s not just about being tough.
Thanks for sharing this, I really enjoyed reading it!
This is exactly what I was driving at – I’m glad you liked it!
Some great ideas and advice. I like the Daddy Days jar. We have a Boredom Jar which is similar. We created it when we were trying to think of screen free alternatives https://squidgydoodle.co.uk/screentime/ I love your comment ‘Limiting play time to what you have, rather than making enough time for play, shows your child that they are less important than whatever else it is that you spent your time on before or after.’ It’s so true, thanks for the reminder. #BlogCrush
Fab post. As you say it’s so important to be present ad there in the moment with them. We are all a bit time poor these days but just that bit of effort and making time to play is so important!! #blogcrush
While I’m the creative one my husband is fantastic at playing with the kids. Making ice lollies and going to the park are just two of the things they do together. #BlogCrush