Colorado Department of Human Services
The Bawmann Group
August 1, 2007
The Positives of Play for Fathers and Children
Denver—July 30, 2007—Research has shown that playing with children is central to their development as it teaches patience, turn taking and countless other fundamental skills. Moreover, it has been shown that fathers influence their children primarily through play and generally spend the greatest percentage of time with their children doing playful activities.
“One of the things I have learned as a son and a father is that it is not the major moments that count the most but rather the consistent, small moments spent playing together,” said Rich Batten, fatherhood specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services. “It is important for fathers to just be there with their children, not only watching them grow but growing with them as well.”
How can fathers make the most of playtime with their kids? According to the ParentCenter, an online educational resource, the following are ways in which play matters and tips on how to encourage such behavior at any time of the year.
- Play builds the imagination. Pretending, or imaginative play, is one of the cornerstones of a young child's world. Almost anything can spur your child's imagination, including everyday objects.
- Keep a box of everyday items that your child can use during pretend play. Kid versions of adult objects, such as play telephones and plastic dishes, help facilitate role-playing and open-ended objects (toys that have more than one use), such as colored blocks, stretch the imagination with unlimited possibilities.
- Play promotes social skills. As toddlers, children play side by side without obvious communication. During the preschool years, they start to interact with each other by creating complex story lines together. As they do this, they learn to negotiate, cooperate and share.
- Once children settle into preschool, they will need their parents’ help to extend relationships outside of school. The easiest way to build newfound friendships is to schedule playdates or set up a playgroup for your child and his or her friends. Get the ball rolling by introducing games or activities and then unobtrusively monitor their behavior and progress. After the playdate, you'll know which social skills your child is mastering (sharing, cooperating, assertiveness, etc.) and where they might need some guidance.
- Play advances physical development. Different types of physical play help develop different skills: skipping takes balance, for example; climbing monkey bars builds strength; and sports activities involve coordination.
- The best way to get your child moving is to set a good example. This starts at home by engaging in physical activities rather than sedentary ones such as watching TV. Indoors, you can play hide-and-seek, toss beanbags, or play some danceable music. Outdoors, build a castle in the sandbox, kick a soccer ball back and forth, ride your bike/tricycle together.
- Play helps kids work through emotions. Long before children can express their feelings in words, they express them through physical play, storytelling, art and other activities. When children have experiences that are hurtful or hard to understand, they review those experiences again and again through play.
- During play, your child will expose little bits of behavior he or she needs guidance with or doesn’t understand. You can respond in kind, mimicking the right type of response.
In October 2006, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Works Division was awarded a $10 million federal grant over five years to strengthen father/child relationships and improve parenting. Colorado is one of two locations nationwide, including Washington, D.C., to receive this federal grant. The Responsible Fatherhood Initiative has distributed community awards of up to $100,000 each to 19 agencies throughout the state to provide programs and direct services to fathers. For more information, please visit www.cdhs.state.co.us/coworks/prf.htm.