Strong Families from the Start
Dads Role in Play
Playing is so important to children’s overall development. When you think about it you might remember the games you played or the activities you did as a child that gave you some of life’s greatest lessons. Lessons like taking turns, sharing, accepting failure and growing from it. Jim Alberici, father of three girls, says, “I just love spending time with them and being able to teach them different things.” He is excited because his girls take an interest in sports and this has allowed them to continue to spend more time together. Just as it is important for children to play with other children they also need time to play with their family and specifically their dad or father figure.
Why would the term father or father figure be used? Well families come in all different designs. Additionally, some of us experience the death of a father all too early. It is in these different moments that the males in a child’s life rise up to fill that special role. It could be a grandparent, uncle, brother, or friend. A special someone that can lend a male perspective, roughhouse, challenge you to be all you can be, be that rock that you need on the tough days. Little ones have their “special people” and they are the ones that help lay an important foundation.
We all think different and approach the things life throws at us in different ways. Children need the time with both males and females to learn different perspectives and learn that variety is okay. They also need to see that their dad can get down on the floor and play playdough, cars, dolls or even dress-up tea parties. It’s all the little everyday moments that can be capitalized on from the time your little one is ready to start the day running to the special cuddle time and stories. It is maximizing every moment you have with your little one not with a script and fully planned out activity. Instead it is meeting the child where they are at, playing a game with their ideas, challenging them but letting them win sometimes too.
Father figures teach little ones so much and have such an important part in the shaping of the little people they interact with. Richard Fletcher, the leader of the Fathers and Families Research Program at the University of Newcastle in Australia, supported this when he spoke with ABC News in 2011. Fletcher says, "Rough and tumble play between fathers and their young children is part of their development, shaping their children's brain so that their children develop the ability to manage emotions and thinking and physical action altogether. This is a key developmental stage for children in that preschool area between the ages of about two and a half and five. That's when children learn to put all those things together." Children are learning so much from their fathers and so it is important to recognize this important role not just every June on Father’s Day but all year long. It is important to carve out those opportunities to try things dad’s way and appreciate that while it might be different it can achieve the same end result with a special learning opportunity built in.