A father’s impact during the first 1-3 years

Did you know research suggests fathers who are playful and involved have children with better linguistic and cognitive abilities? Playtime with dad is essential to development during the 1-3 years.

It encourages children to explore, discover, negotiate, take risks, and problem-solve which supports the development of cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills. Even as they get older, they will still want time with you to hang out and play! 

Rough and tumble play

Children who engage in active, safe rough and tumble play (such as rolling around, chasing and fun wrestling) with their fathers, have been shown to be more confident and better at coping with challenges, setbacks or problems. 

This type of play also teaches children self-control, how to safely push their limits, encourages children to take safe risks and support the development of crucial fundamental movement skills.

Why is this important

The brain of a young child is constantly developing and forming amazing neurological connections. Play helps make these connections stronger as well as enhancing a child’s physical muscle development, gross motor skills (walking, running, jumping) and fine motor skills (grasping, holding, writing).

Playing is fun, it brings joy, and this also impacts social and emotional connections.

Top tips for making play a regular part of your family life

  • Let your child guide you in things they would like to do with you. Choose a variety of activities they like. (If you’re dressed up like a princess at a teddy bears tea party, you are doing something right! Appreciate your child letting you be a part of their own little world).
  • Be guided by them in the role-play. Try to go along with their story and not take over or control it.
  • Encourage them to use language in their role play by asking questions and getting them to explain things to you. i.e “Could you tell how much this can of soup costs in your shop please?” Or, “Can you tell me about the treatment you are going to give my dog at your vet clinic please?”
  • Engage in physically active play – opt for activities such as tickling, chasing, and piggy-back rides – fathers physical play is what is important.
  • Go on play adventures – walks in the bush, the park, by a local river or at the beach.
  • Allow for some unstructured, unplanned play. They need the opportunity to explore, experiment, figure things out for themselves. Be encouraging and supportive so they feel comfortable to explore!
Mondays with Fathering Project founder Dr. Bruce Robinson
We want to foster connection, sharing, and collaborating in this time of isolation and need. The Fathering Channel is an online community hub and a source of research-based advice, support, and information. Tune in every Monday for Bruce’s weekly video – packed with fathering advice and tips.
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