As Father’s Day approaches, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate “playtime with dad.” Mike Hall, founder of Strong Fathers and author of a previous Play Today guest blog, “Dads teach through play,” points out:
“Research and observation has shown us that, because of their masculine nature, fathers interact with their children in more playful ways. They tend to encourage children to explore. From the time their children are very small, fathers want to do something with their child. The father-child interaction is exactly that—interactive. It is active, engaged involvement between two people.”
Of course, the ways that mothers play with their children provide important developmental benefits, but it’s important to recognize what dads bring to the table, too. As a fascinating recent article in The Wall Street Journal points out, “The way dads tend to interact has long-term benefits for kids, independent of those linked to good mothering.”
We asked nearly 100 fathers across the country to share a fond memory or anecdote about playing with their children. As our way of saying “Happy Father’s Day!” here are just a few:
“I have three girls who love to spend time with their Wackydad in the outdoors playing. I love watching my kids succeed at play—when they climb a high jungle gym at the park or slide down the "scary" fireman pole, they build confidence. They try more new things and open up their day to new experiences. They have also built many strong friendships through play. Going on outdoor adventures with friends, playing on the swingset, working out who goes next in a game, sharing toys... all of these experiences are all opportunities for my girls to learn how to get along with other, “play nice,” and build healthy, productive relationships. So here's to lots of play with my girls and here's to continuing to play as we grow up!”
“My three-year-old does things her way, and that independence is one of the many reasons why I love her. In early spring we got out to the park after a heavy rain. It was still pretty chilly, but we bundled up and headed out. When we got to the park, there was a massive puddle that immediately attracted her attention. I told her that if she went in, she would get wet and we would have to go home. She didn't care. She proceeded to splash around and soak her pants, socks, and shoes to the core. We stayed at the park for another 30 minutes, and it wasn’t until she told me she was hungry and wanted a snack that we left. That's some determination to have fun.”
Matt, author of DC Urban Dad
“When my twin girls were 18 months old, I presented them with a pair of trikes that I had made out of plywood for their Christmas presents. Getting used to riding them was a little scary for girls, as it demanded a lot of strength, coordination, and focus. On one of the first outings on the trikes, I completely lost control of the situation. Twin A went hurtling down a hill, but landed softly, rubber-side-down, in a patch of ivy. As I was running to check on Twin A, Twin B, who was trailing behind us, ran off the sidewalk about halfway down the same hill. She did not have such a soft landing. She wound up in a pretzel with the bike on top of her and a handlebar-shaped impression in her cheek. Of course I felt terrible that she was hurt, and ashamed that I had let her get into danger. But I also worried that she would never want to ride a bike again. She was practically inconsolable when I swept her into my arms, and was wailing gibberish. But as soon as she caught her breath a little bit, and the sobbing subsided enough for her to become more or less intelligible, it became clear that she was saying, ‘Bike! Bike! Bike!’ and pointing at her toppled machine. As soon as I put her back down, she rushed to her trike, righted it, and rolled away. I was as proud as I had ever been of her.”
Andy Hinds, author of Beta Dad
San Diego, Calif.
“There are so many moments that stick out but one of my favorite memories is from last fall. My kids chased me around a soccer field. I have this vivid image of them working together to try to catch me. It was a beautiful moment—watching them run together and listening to them laugh when they finally caught up to me.”
Jack B., author of The JackB.
“I still have many experiences yet to come, as I only have a 9-month-old daughter, but every opportunity we get, we take a walk to the local park and push her in the swings and take her down the slides. She's already grown to love the outdoors because we're dedicated to finding activities that are mentally stimulating and fun, rather than monotonous television-watching or video games. By getting her outside, we've grown to enjoying the outdoors more and continue to find new and exciting activities for the whole family the more we get out.”
Fort Collins, Co.
“The weekend is the only time I have the whole day with my family. Since my daughter was born four years ago, we have always spent Sunday as our play day. In nice weather, this usually means spending time outdoors. The Boston area has a lot of playgrounds, and we make an effort to go all over and try out as many as we can.”
“I recently went to the Christie Pitts playground in Toronto with my 28-year-old daughter and her love. We had a great time on the roundabout and swings. We’re never too old for play, or for fun. I’ll be taking home photos and film of Toronto playspaces for my younger children to get them psyched for weekend playgrounding.”
Alex Smith, author of PlayGroundology
Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia
“I lost my own father when I was six. I have very few memories of him and even fewer of us playing together. Being the father of boy/girl twins who are now five, I do all I can to make lasting memories by playing with my kids.”
Matthew Henry, author of Child's Play x2
Chula Vista, Calif.
“Any moment one of the children discovers a new ability or succeeds at something they had been trying so hard for—whether it’s hitting a ball, catching a ball, or pedaling their bike solo for the first time—being a witness and part of that joy is a treasure.”
Virignia Beach, Va.
“I bought a large playset when my oldest daughter was three. It was one of the really cool ones with a fort, slide, swings, monkey bars, a rock wall, and a little picnic table all built in. I couldn't wait to start putting it together—I figured this would be my Father's Day gift. My wife and daughter went to the grandparents’s house for the day to celebrate Father's Day. My goal was to put the playset together in our backyard and then meet up with them for dinner later in the day. It was hard work and it was hot outside too. I had completely underestimated the amount of work it would take to put this thing together. I missed dinner, and finally at 8:30 p.m. I told my wife she and my daughter could come home, as the only thing I had left to do was put some shutters on the window of the fort. My daughter's eyes lit up as she saw the playset and she screamed as she ran toward it. We played until 10:00 p.m... well past her bedtime. So, the year I missed my own Father's Day celebration and got a sunburn that lasted for days was one of the best playdates I've ever had with my daughter. I never did get those shutters on…”
“Some of my fondest memories are of playing outside with my son and daughter. My son loved to dig holes in the backyard and hide anything—from his Hot Wheels cars to my leather work gloves (I think he was part mole!). My daughter loved to play catch. There wasn't much time for video games because we spent most of our time outside.”
Let's continue celebrating playtime with dad! Dads, what are your favorite play memories with your children?