Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Playing dad's way

Her big eyes widen in surprised delight every time she’s lifted up high above your head. And she beams as she comes down, caught safely in your warm hands. You’re laughing and she’s laughing, and it feels good to be a dad.

Often, this ‘rough and tumble’ is seen to be a dad-thing, enjoyed by both dad and child. Encouraging risks in play - climb the tree a bit higher, balance on the wall – are the kinds of risky play that are often viewed as stereotypically ‘dad’. But many fathers want to play this way. James thought that the risky side of play was “probably what being dad’s all about” because it was something that dads often did differently to mums.

Tony, who shared the childcare of his toddler with his wife, said:“I play rough with James in a way that my wife doesn’t. Women don’t get male rough play, but male animals just enjoy - and it’s fun. It’s fun for me to throw James around and he loves it. There are ways that men play with children which are different from the way women do. And there are ways men are with children which are just different from the ways women are.”

Charlie, a full-time childcare worker with a new baby wondered whether men were more involved in the “physical play and things with children. I’m very much a rough and tumbler with Jasmine - even though she’s so tiny. And Anna (ed. his wife) to a certain degree does, but Anna’s very much more strokey, strokey, carey, carey.”

Others fathers have commented how some activities – like coffee mornings and chats – are enjoyed more by mums than by dads. And other research with fathers who take on primary childcare roles often point out how dads tend to do activities with the children that are linked to the father’s interests, like sport (Brandth & Kvande 1998, Doucet 2006).

What do you think? Do you play with your children in ways that are different to your partner? Would you rather roll around with your children or paint a picture? Is rough play a dad-thing? And does it depend on the time of day?

Add your thoughts in the comments box below.

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