Habitot Children's Museum

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Habitot Children's Museum

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

Parenting Q&A

Parenting Question of the Month What’s special about fathers?


Parenting Q&AIt wasn’t until the 1970’s that researchers started studying the father’s role in early child development. One consistent finding in the research is that fathering is not mothering! Studies of men and their modes of interacting with, caring for, playing with, disciplining, and talking to children revealed that men nurture children in ways which are distinctly different from women while being extremely complimentary.

One of fathers' most important roles is as a partner in play with young children. Research shows that fathers' physical play with infants, toddlers and preschoolers has a hugely positive long-range influence on children's confidence, brain development, and the ability to self regulate. Father/child play encourages preschoolers to test their limits, take risks, and explore their bodies and their physical worlds.

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. Surprising your child with unconventional behaviors encourages creativity and a larger world-view.

  • Wrestling and tumbling around help children burn off excess energy, these activities also create moments for fathers and children to be physically close, an important part of the bond between any parent and child. Rough-and-tumble play also teaches valuable lessons about regulating emotions such as excitement and arousal. 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, and both of you will be rewarded with a rush of endorphins.

  • Parenting Resources

    Batten, Rich. The Positives of Play for Fathers and Children. Colorado Department of Human Services, 2007. Web Site: http://www.coloradodads.com/index.cfm?page=18&detailid=44

    Brott, Armin A. and Ross D. Parke. Ten Ways to Become a Better Dad. Excerpts from Throwaway Dads, 2012. Article: http://www.babycenter.com/0_ten-ways-to-become-a-better-dad_8254.bc

    Weiss, Louis, Ph.D. Father's Role in Early Child Development. The Allliance for Early Childhood. Article: http://www.theallianceforec.org/library.php?c=10&news=203

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