Four Ways to Be Involved
Fathers and children will play in different ways, depending on their personalities and interests. But regardless of style there are four roles a father can take on in children’s play: observer/companion, entertainer, teacher and playmate. These roles are not completely separate. You will slip in and out of these roles or combine them as you play with your children.
Observer/companion: You are nearby and available, but not directly involved in what your child is doing. You may be watching, as parents do when they take young children to the playground. Sometimes you may be cheering on their efforts or admiring their work. Other times, the two of you may be side by side but doing separate things.
Entertainer: You can also be an entertainer: read a story, put on a puppet show with silly voice or make a big building with blocks – something that interests or thrills your child and that he couldn’t do on his own. Both fathers and children enjoy this kind of play some of the time.
Teacher: There are two ways to teach children through play. One is by giving direct instructions: “This is the right way to hold a hockey stick.” The other is to lead by following. The child is in still charge and you are providing ideas and suggestions designed to help him accomplish his goal. The idea is to help without taking over.
Playmate: You are playing with the child and doing what she wants. If she says, “You be the dragon and I’ll be the queen, ”you do your best dragon imitation. You may offer suggestions – “Would the queen like a dragon ride?” – but she is in charge. You are simply a playmate.
Another tool for parents
It’s not always easy to get kids to cooperate with us. Parents need lots of strategies. Don’t forget about play. It can sometimes be a positive way to engage children’s interest so they will want to do what we need them to do.
How Should I Play With My Child?
The essence of interactive father-child play is simple: Watch to see what your child does. You do something based on his action. How does he respond to what you did? He might show excitement or approval for your idea, or he might change the direction of the play. The pattern continues. The idea is to follow the child’s lead. Use his behaviour and responses as your guide. Don’t just pay attention to his words and actions – watch the expression in his face and eyes. Children’s faces tell you a lot: what they are interested in and how they are feeling. Is he excited, absorbed, frustrated or confused? Is he looking to you for help or an idea?
What are some ways you like to play with your children?