The WSJ recently ran a terrific article, “Roughhousing Lessons From Dad”, on the deeper benefits of dads hanging out and physically playing with their kids. Boys or girls, the benefits of having a father that plays with his kids seems quite obvious. This article reminds us that what starts out as a pick-up game during half-time is really a learning opportunity for children. The father that throws his baby up in the air while the baby screams in delight (and a lot of moms cringe) is creating a teaching moment. Apparently learning to do risky things, follow the rules when playing rough, and taking turns being the one in charge are lessons that last a lifetime.
The WSJ article did mention that mothers can and have provided this kind of play, but even though I know many athletic and risk-taking mothers, I have seen very few really embrace the type of play that comes so naturally to dads. Our children just light up when their fathers play wrestle with them, and research supports it.
As an occupational therapist, I recommend this kind of play for children with sensory processing issues. The ability to practice moving and balancing, getting excited about moving and managing that excitement is so valuable. Having all that fun while practicing those skills is, like the ads say, priceless.
Here’s to the unique ways that fathers enrich their children’s lives!