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8 Ways Kids Benefit from Playing with Dad

While playtime with Mom and friends are important, playing with Dad offers 8 unique benefits kids won’t get anywhere else.

One of the best things about being a kid is getting to play every day, and it turns out that playing with parents is important to their development too.

Playing with both parents and peers is important for helping kids thrive. It helps kids develop language skills, social skills, emotional regulation, coping strategies, and so many other necessary skills. Without play, and without safe, stable, nurturing relationships, children are more susceptible to toxic stress, as the American Academy of Pediatrics has proven.

Of course, kids benefit the most from playtime with both parents, which creates a stable family unit. However, there are different benefits to playtime with Dad than there are with Mom.

Playtime with Dad vs. Mom

Before we get to the benefits of playing with Dad, it’s important to understand how playtime with Dad is different from playtime with Mom. The following common differences between dads and moms are generalizations and vary widely depending on your own family dynamics. It usually comes down to personality, parenting styles, and family roles.

Either way, both types of play are valuable and complementary, contributing to a well-rounded playtime dynamic.

Play Style

Dads: Fathers often engage in more physical and rough-and-tumble play. This can include activities like wrestling, chasing, and playing sports.

Moms: Mothers might focus more on nurturing and educational play. This can include activities like reading, arts and crafts, and pretend play.

Risk-Taking and Adventure

Dads: Fathers are generally more likely to encourage risk-taking and adventurous play. Moms: Mothers often prioritize safety and may engage in more structured and predictable play activities.

Discipline and Structure

Dads: Fathers might use play to teach discipline and the importance of following rules. They often emphasize competition and fair play.

Moms: Mothers might use play to teach empathy, cooperation, and social norms, often focusing on nurturing and emotionally supportive interactions.

Communication Style

Dads: Fathers may use fewer words and more actions during play.

Moms: Mothers often engage in more verbal interaction during play.

Types of Activities

Dads: Fathers might prefer outdoor activities, sports, and building or construction games.

Moms: Mothers might prefer indoor activities, creative play, and role-playing games.

Problem-Solving Approaches

Dads: Fathers may encourage children to solve problems independently.

Moms: Mothers might offer more guidance and support during problem-solving.

Emotional Regulation

Dads: Fathers often encourage emotional regulation through playful teasing and managing excitement levels during physical play.

Moms: Mothers often focus on emotional expression and understanding, helping children articulate and manage their feelings.

Perspective on Play

Dads: Fathers might view play as an opportunity for competition, helping children learn about winning, losing, and perseverance.

Moms: Mothers might view play as an opportunity for learning and nurturing, helping children develop emotionally and socially.

The Benefits of Playing with Dad

While both parents bring unique strengths to playtime, playtime with Dad is a unique bonding experience that you can’t get anywhere else. Here are eight reasons why it can be particularly beneficial for dads to play with their kids:

1. Promotes Physical Activity

Because fathers often engage in more physical and energetic play, such as rough-and-tumble activities, sports, and outdoor adventures, children automatically become more active. This helps children develop gross motor skills, physical fitness, and a love for active play, which is a healthy habit for kids to learn early.

2. Encourages Risk-Taking and Resilience

While risk-taking sounds bad, it’s actually great for helping children build confidence, learn to assess and manage risks, and develop resilience in the face of challenges. Even better if Mom is on the sidelines with an ice pack and lollipop at the ready. (Or Dad if Mom is the risk-taker.)

3. Provides Well-Rounded Experiences and Development

Even if Dad and Mom don’t fall into the traditional play styles I listed above, fathers bring a different style of play compared to mothers. This introduces a variety of new experiences and can stimulate different areas of a child’s brain. This contributes to more well-rounded cognitive and social development.

4. Enhances Problem-Solving Skills

Rather than hovering over their child’s shoulder, fathers may encourage children to solve problems independently during play, fostering critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This approach can help children become more resourceful and self-reliant.

5. Boosts Social and Emotional Skills

Playing with dads can help children develop social skills such as teamwork, negotiation, and handling competition. Fathers often use play to teach the importance of rules, fair play, and managing emotions in different situations, like winning or losing.

6. Provides Different Perspectives on Gender Roles

During playtime, fathers can model positive behaviors and attitudes, offering children diverse perspectives on gender roles and expectations. Especially if Dad and Mom don’t fit into the traditional play styles. This can help children develop a more balanced and inclusive understanding of gender dynamics.

7. Encourages Exploration

Fathers often foster a sense of independence and exploration in their children. By encouraging children to try new things and explore their environment, dads can help cultivate curiosity, creativity, and a love for learning.

8. Strengthens Father-Child Bond

Perhaps the most important benefit, regular playtime with dads helps build a strong emotional bond, providing children with a sense of security, love, and trust. This strong attachment is crucial for a child’s emotional well-being and development.

Books to Encourage Playtime with Dad (or Mom!)

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Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.

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