The benefits of dad play

Most of us instinctively know the benefits of dad play. From a scientific point of view, there is no shortage of research on the benefits that dads bring to their little ones’ lives! Loving engagement from dads helps little ones to regulate their behaviour and gives them emotional stability too.

There’s a few ways that dads contribute to baby’s development. In general, the way that men play with their little ones is somewhat different from moms. These differences have great advantages for development:

The benefits of Dad Play: Sensory experiences

Dads tend to have a different sensory threshold from moms. Dads are more likely to be the sensory-seeking parent. In this way, they encourage more physical and sensory types of play.

Messy faces and muddy feet don’t faze dads as much as moms. Getting dirty exploring the muddy puddles, investigating rock pools and building sand castles and/or searching for bugs in the garden are fabulous sensory experiences that builds body awareness and creativity.

Play Idea: Fill a large plastic shell with sand for a sandpit or even beans or jelly. This sensory pit will engage your little one’s need to explore with the sense of touch.

The benefits of Dad Play: Push physical boundaries

Dads love moving their little ones through the air like an airplane. Your baby or toddler feels safe in your strong arms, and they will delight in the vestibular stimulation. You will see it on their face and gummy grins! 

Dads also tend to have less anxiety for their child’s safety and allow their toddlers to push boundaries more – climbing higher and going faster. This encourages little ones’ gross motor development and sense of autonomy as they experiment more and come up with more creative ideas for play.

The benefits of Dad Play: Imaginary play

There are few things better than to watch a dad play ‘pretend play.’ “Train driver” or “Builder-builder” or “Mommy-baby” play are wonderful ways that dad can assume a role they are not usually in. Get down on the floor with your toddler and play imaginary games. This encourages creativity as well as helps your baby and toddler to develop language and social skills.

Dad, whatever you do, play with your baby and toddler – the benefits are lifelong and won’t be the same as those that come from mom.

Get the Parent Sense app for a daily play idea to encourage your baby’s cognitive and motor skills development. 

Disclaimer: In writing this article, I acknowledge that there are certain accepted gender stereotypes that are portrayed. Of course, the roles can be reversed and mom may well be the sensory-seeking, boundary-pushing, playful parent.

Meg faure

Meg Faure

Hi, I’m Meg Faure. I am an Occupational Therapist and the founder of Parent Sense. My ‘why’ is to support parents like you and help you to make the most of your parenting journey. Over the last 25 years, I’ve worked with thousands of babies, and I’ve come to understand that what works for fussy babies works just as well for all babies, worldwide.