Do You Know the Power of Playtime with Dad?

that Boost Children’s Cognitive, Emotional, and Social Skills

Playing with dad does more than just create fun memories—it fosters essential brain development and provides a foundation for future success.

Surprising new research from the UK highlights the unique ways a father’s involvement in playtime equips children for both academic and social achievements.

Gottman certified therapist Shivani Sadhoo says, “When dads devote time to active play and engagement, the benefits are significant and multifaceted,” said psychologist Dr. John Gottman, co-founder of The Gottman Institute.

“Playtime with dad is more than just fun; it represents a golden opportunity to bolster children’s cognitive, emotional, and social skills in ways that are often overlooked.”

Research indicates that when fathers engage in playful activities with their children, it stimulates critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, enhancing cognitive development.

These interactions also foster emotional intelligence, teaching children how to manage emotions, develop empathy, and build healthy relationships. Social skills are further honed through cooperative play, where children learn to communicate effectively, share, and navigate social dynamics.

Dr. Gottman emphasizes that the distinct style of play often exhibited by fathers—characterized by physical activity, spontaneity, and an element of challenge—encourages resilience and adaptability in children.

This unique form of engagement helps children learn to cope with setbacks and develop a positive approach to challenges, preparing them for academic tasks and social interactions.

A father’s active involvement in playtime is a critical component of a child’s development, offering diverse and substantial benefits that contribute to their overall success and well-being.

Groundbreaking Study Unveils the Impacts of Dad’s Play

New insights from a major study at the University of Leeds reveal the impacts of father-child play from toddlerhood to age seven. The study, “Paternal Involvement and its Effects on Children’s Education (PIECE),” tracked nearly 5,000 UK families over seven years and was published in 2023.

It found that fathers’ involvement in playtime significantly enhanced children’s school readiness and social skills. Dr. John Gottman shared his perspective on why this early engagement with fathers is crucial for lasting benefits.

Why Focused Playtime Makes a Difference?

The study found that purposeful educational play activities such as reading together, doing craft projects, or playing logic games were particularly effective in enhancing children’s cognitive abilities.

This type of engaged play correlated with better grades and test scores compared to free play alone.

“Dad’s focused play naturally provides enrichment that stimulates young minds,” explained Dr. Gottman. “This interactive learning occurs instinctively through play with fathers.”

Why is it important whether these activities are done with dad versus mom?

Mothers contribute profoundly through emotional support and other means, highlighting the complementary developmental roles of parents. The variety in maternal and paternal interactions introduces a broader range of skills.

“Fathers tend to engage kids through physical, problem-solving play that develops different capabilities,” Dr. Gottman noted. “Children benefit from experiencing both types of interactions.”

couples and family therapist in india_shivani sadhoo
Why Beginning Early Matters?

A key finding was that regular father-child playtime early in a child’s life established lasting patterns of involvement, leading to more play interactions as children grew older.

“Consistent, engaged playtime shows kids they’re a priority,” noted Dr. Gottman. “The developmental gains highlight the profound benefits of this time together.”

Researchers recommend even 10-15 minutes per day of focused playtime with dad. Consistency and purposeful interaction are crucial, treating playtime as valuable child-enrichment time.

Implementing Playtime Strategies

For dads, the message is clear: harnessing play is a powerful way to positively influence your child’s potential. Make time for it consistently.

For mothers, encourage dad’s playtime and highlight its value for kids. Fathers can take cues from moms by observing and emphasizing the importance of play.

For parents, unlocking the full potential of play starts with making the most of purposeful playtime together. Start activating the power of play today.

This article has revolved around Dr. Gottman’s study and research. India’s leading Couples therapist and family counselor Shivani Misri Sadhoo who is a Gottman Certified Level -3 therapist has quoted this study done by Dr. Gottman on kid’s playtime with dad.