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Die Kraft des Spielens mit Papa

von NFI Redaktion

Playing with dad creates more than just fun memories – it promotes brain development. Exciting new research from the UK reveals the overlooked way in which a father’s playful involvement uniquely equips children for academic and social success.

„When fathers take time for active play and engagement, the benefits of involving fathers are noticeable,“ said psychologist Dr. John Gottman, co-founder of the Gottman Institute. „Playtime with dad is a unique opportunity to strengthen children’s cognitive, emotional, and social skills.“

The Major Study Revealing the Impact of Dad’s Play

The new findings come from a large study conducted by the University of Leeds, examining the effects of father-child play from early childhood to age seven.

Titled „Paternal Involvement and its Effects on Children’s Education (PIECE),“ the study analyzed data from nearly 5,000 families in the UK over a seven-year period. The PIECE study, published in 2023, linked fathers‘ play involvement to benchmarks such as school readiness tests and assessments of children’s social competencies throughout their primary school years.

The key insight was that engaged play with dad early in a child’s life brought lasting benefits. We sat down with Dr. Gottman to get his opinion on the results and understand why father’s play is important.

Why Focused Playtime Makes a Difference

The study found that targeted educational play activities such as shared reading, craft projects, or playing logic games had the greatest impact on children’s cognitive development. This type of engaged play was more strongly associated with better grades and test scores than free play alone.

„Father’s focused play naturally provides enrichment that stimulates young minds,“ explained Dr. Gottman. „This interactive learning arises instinctively through playing with fathers.“

But why does it matter whether these activities are done with dad or mom?

Mothers contributed significantly through emotional support and other means. This highlights the complementary developmental roles of parents. The diversity of maternal and paternal interactions led to additional skills.

„Fathers tend to motivate children through physical problem-solving play, which fosters different skills,“ said Dr. Gottman. „Children benefit when they have both experiences.“

Why Starting Early is Important

An important finding was that regular father-child playtimes established patterns of engagement early in a child’s life. Early engagement resulted in more play interactions as children grew older.

„Consistent, engaged playtime shows children that they are a priority within the father’s duties,“ advised Dr. Gottman. „And the developmental progress demonstrates how much children benefit from this shared time.“

Researchers even recommend 10-15 minutes of targeted play with dad per day. Consistency is key, as is targeted interaction. Treat playtime as valuable time that enriches your child.

Putting Playtime into Action

For fathers, the message is clear: Harnessing play is an effective way to positively influence your child’s potential through active engagement. Make time for it regularly.

Encourage mothers to play with dad and emphasize its value for children. Fathers can take inspiration from mothers who demonstrate play and highlight its importance.

For parents, unlocking the full potential of play begins with making the most of targeted shared playtime. Discover the fundamentals of developmental play with our new interactive parent toolkit. Start activating the power of play today.

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