Background: Any invested father realizes the same phenomenon. Once their children turn around four years of age,they become their child’s favorite “toy” and seem to never get enough of them until they turn around ten years of age. Just last week, my three kids decided to bypass the high spirited children’s program on a Princess Cruise altogether for me to be their 24/7 entertainer, playmate, coach, and teacher. They explained to me that I was “more fun” than any program and that all they wanted to do for seven days was hang out with me. So after about 30 games of shuffleboard, 25 games of ping pong, 7 or 8 visits to the arcade, hours of swimming everyday, various board and electronic games, story telling and reading, and much more, the cruise was over and school and work resumed. My kids expressed that it was one of the best trips ever. During the trip, I also spoke with other “toy dads” and found similar experiences from them as well. Together we concluded that it was a wonderful, yet at times, tiring experience, but all concluded that the observed benefits in our kids were numerous. Such common observations were: less acting out; a greater interest in learning various activities; greater self-confidence; and an increased sense of independence. One father I spoke with who had been retired for the past two years told me that the hardest part of him retuning to do some consulting work was the effect it was going to have on his sons who have bathed in his attention and are saddened by the change.
Such real-life experiences support the research on the multi-benefits when fathers play with their children. Due the differences in the way fathers play with their kids, as compared to mothers, namely dads tend to be more physical and utilize friendly competition, such influences correlate with greater self-esteem, easier experiences with separation from mother, greater assertiveness, and a heightened desire to learn new tasks.
In contrast, before the age of 3 or 4, most children prefer playing and bonding with their mothers due to the fact that they have been the primary object in the life of the infant and toddler. But as the young child becomes more comfortable with him or herself, they desire more independence and are able to break away from their mothers. It is at this time when fathers become popular and essential in this process. Unfortunately, some fathers experience “rejection” from their young infant and toddler child and then resist the new opportunity to get involved when the time is right. It is very important that fathers understand how development unfolds in the lives of their children, so they do not feel left out or unimportant. The truth is that after the age of about 3 or 4, the impact of the father’s influence remains essential throughout all of childhood and adolescence, which can be very rewarding if one immerses themselves in the process.
Taken together, the “dad toy” becomes a child’s favorite past time if made available and plentiful, especially between the ages of 3 and 10. No need for trips to toys stores and amusement parks – just get out there and play with your kids.
1. Fathers are the kids favorite toy from ages 3 to 10.
2. The benefits of dad play are numerous in the development of children
3. Make weekly “alone” dad time available for your kids
4. Enjoy it while it lasts – once a teenager, friends will replace you!