When dads play, kids grow stronger!

By David Hawkins


When the summer sun is shining in the blue sky, it’s easy to head outdoors and roll on the grass with your kids. But what do you do when the cold of a Melbourne winter settles in? If you’re like me, you hide inside where the heaters are warm and cuddle up with the family for TV and popcorn. Now, there’s nothing wrong with some lazy family indoor days but, in winter, kids might be missing out on one of the most important things they need to grow into wonderful and healthy adults: rough and tumble play with their Dad.

Dads are amazing at playing with their kids. We love to jump, run, tackle and tickle our kids from the moment they can crawl. And now researchers have discovered that dads don’t just play for fun – we also use play to help our kids develop into awesome adults!

Although the research is still developing, professionals have found that something as simple and enjoyable as playing with your child can have long lasting effects on their life. And you wouldn’t believe the kinds of things that playtime with Dad can help develop.

Rough and tumble play can help children learn how to manage their emotions. During play kids will go from calm to giggly-screaming hyper-stimulated and then back again in a matter of seconds, which assists them in becoming used to big emotional changes. It has also been linked to children being less aggressive and having fewer behavioural problems as they grow up.

A surprising benefit of playtime with Dad is that it helps your child learn how to socially interact with others. Kids who rough and tumble play with their dads are often more confident and more popular with other children. This kind of play has even been connected to children doing better academically at school!

You can start having rough and tumble playtime with your child from around the age of one and all the way up to their teens. It’s not important how long you play for but doing it regularly will help your child develop positively for their future.

Take advantage of being inside during winter by playing on the couch, on the carpet and on the beds!

How to make the most of playtime:

  • Take turns – remember to let your child be on top and take charge at times. There is nothing as exciting as feeling like you have defeated a giant!
  • Be warm & supportive – play isn’t about winning. It’s about having fun and showing your child how important they are to you.
  • Lots of cuddles – the best kind of play to help your kids develop is physical. Kicking a ball is good but cuddly tackles and roll-about wrestling is even better.
  • Girls & boys – rough & tumble playtime is important for girls too! So, grab your daughter and tumble her around.
  • Dad is the referee – the adult is the only one who thinks about consequences. It is up to you to keep your child safe, no matter how much fun you’re having.

Rough & tumble playtime ideas:

  • Pillow-land wrestling: make an arena of pillows and cushions, then find out who is the cuddle-wrestling champion!
  • Footy challenge: who can get the ball out of Dad’s hands? This works best when you are down at their level.
  • Stop the Giant: Your job is to stand up; the kids have to keep you on the ground. It’s pile-on time!
  • Tickle monster: a game of tiggy where the person who is in has to grab and tickle everyone else.
For more information, check out the “rough play guide” at www.raisingchildren.net.au

David Hawkins is a Peninsula-based stay-at-home-dad who realised that he needed to improve his Dadding. So he set himself the simple task of being an Awesome Dad. He now challenges all dads to be awesome dads, by doing something out-of-the ordinary with their kids.

Peninsula Kids – Winter 2020


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