Children’s emotional control boosted by physical play with dads

A Cambridge University study has found that physical play with dads helps children learn to control their emotions.

Researchers from the university’s faculty of education reviewed data from 78 studies to find out how mums and dads play with children under the age of four and how it affects their development.

They found that dads are more likely to take part in physical play such as tickling, piggy-back rides and chasing.

The researchers say these activities help children to learn how to control their feelings.

The studies they examined were conducted in the US and Europe over the 40 years from 1977 to 2017 and found that there was a consistent correlation between the children who played with their dads and those who could control their feelings later on.

The researchers stressed that children who live with their mums only do not need to be disadvantaged because all parent-child play contributes to children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development.

Professor Paul Ramchandani, Professor of Play in Education, Development and Learning at the University of Cambridge, said: “Physical play creates fun, exciting situations in which children have to apply self-regulation.

“You might have to control your strength, learn when things have gone too far – or maybe your father steps on your toe by accident and you feel cross.

“It’s a safe environment in which children can practise how to respond. If they react the wrong way, they might get told off, but it’s not the end of the world – and next time they might remember to behave differently.”

Jonathan Smart, Deputy CEO at Excelsior MAT, added: “It is no secret that play has a vital role in children’s development.

“It is an important part of what we do in our schools but is also an area where parents are crucial.

“We encourage all of our parents whatever gender to get involved in physical play as an important part of child development.”