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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111
www.habitot.org

Parenting Q&A
Parenting Question of the Month Is it OK for fathers to wrestle with young children?
dad and child playing with blocks Parenting Q&A One of fathers' most important roles is as a partner in play with young children. While fathers are generally comfortable with ball play and other sports activities, especially with school age children, active, physical play between fathers and children in the early years is encouraged as well. Research shows that fathers' physical play with infants, toddlers and preschoolers has a hugely positive influence on children's confidence, brain development, and the ability to self regulate. Some fathers may feel reluctant because such silly and rambunctious play can seem unmanly, but the bonding and attachment that results can have lifelong impact. 'Father-play' frequently differs from 'mother-play' and in general encourages preschoolers to test their limits, take risks, and explore physically - all important life skills. Fathers need to be mindful, however, about their greater physical strength in playing with young children. Here are some ideas for playful physical activities and father-child bonding:

• Get down on your child's level and be silly! According to Freud, "Nothing gives a child more pleasure than when an adult gives up their oppressive control and plays with them as equals.” Let your child be the boss of their play by allowing them to lead you on a walk, or asking them where and how you should move your body.

• Wrestling and tumbling around not help children to burn off excess energy, these activites also create moments for fathers and children to be physically close, an important part of the bond between any parent and child. Create safe spaces in the home to wrestle and pillow fight together and give you and your child moments to crawl over you, tickle you and hug as you play.

Take risks together. We often hold our children back from physical activities out of fear that they might get hurt, but it is important for children to challenge themselves, and sometimes learn the "hard way" what they are physically capable of. Be there to scaffold your child as they learn to balance on something new or if they have a hard time, talk them through fears and let them know you support them in trying again. Most children will face their physical fears eventually and will feel more confident taking risks if they are feel secure that a parent will always be there to make them feel safe.

• Make everyday activities physical. Blow bubbles on children's tummies. Swing them in your arms. Jump up and down while standing in line. Make funny faces. Shake your body while driving in the car. Your child will be thrilled to share in these silly bonding moments.

Parenting Resources

Books and Articles for Adults:

Father, Fitness, and Fun.. University Of Illinois Extension: http://web.extension.uiuc.edu/regionwc/lessismore/0706fctsht.pdf

Batten, Rich. (2007). The Positives of Play for Fathers and Children. Be There for your Kids Web Site: http://www.coloradodads.com/index.cfm?page=18&detailid=44

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