How Dads Play


The way Andrew plays with our boys is so different from the way I play with them. He is rougher (of course, still careful not to hurt them), more boisterous, louder, and just generally crazier! I love watching him toss them around or wrestle them while they collapse into fits of giggles. Sometimes he pushes them just to the brink of something, which must be a dad thing, because my own dad used to play this way, and I see so many of our friends/family members parent in this way. But particularly the dads!

I used to have to turn away sometimes, worried that someone would get hurt, or that they didn’t like to be manhandled. But they keep going back for more, so there must be something fun or engaging about it. They must be getting something out of it!


He’s a bear. A snarling bear.


… And now Emil is about to be devoured! Oh no!


And there is something to it. Reading this article hit a chord with me — ah, ha! Dads roughhousing with children is crucial for early development!

From the article:

“Rough and tumble play between fathers and their young children is part of their development, shaping their children’s brain so that their children develop the ability to manage emotions and thinking and physical action altogether,” said Fletcher. “This is a key developmental stage for children in that preschool area between the ages of about two and a half and five. That’s when children learn to put all those things together.”


The researchers believe that “the most important aspect of this play is that it gives children a sense of achievement when they ‘defeat’ a more powerful adult, building their self-confidence and concentration. However, fathers who resist their children, can also teach them the life lesson that, in life, you don’t always win. The act of a stronger adult holding back that strength also helps to build trust between father and child.”

Fascinating, don’t you think?

3 thoughts on “How Dads Play”
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  1. Exact same situation at our house. We always joke that I like organized fun – board games and arts and crafts. Brian prefers, in the words of Charlie, to mash ?

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