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Age-Appropriate Father-Child Activities

— Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center
Updated on Feb 19, 2010

Be sure to schedule father-child activities on a regular basis. The best investment is time spent thinking of creative, interesting things fathers can do with their child. Father-child lunches or dinners, especially those with themes, are a good start. But much is needed. Arrange situations and interactions where fathers can help their children enjoy new experiences and develop new skills. The fact that their fathers were there when they experienced these new activities will stay in each child’s mind for a lifetime.

Below are some ideas that can be incorporated into a father involvement program, divided by ageappropriateness.

Activities fathers can do with infants and toddlers:

  • Babies love to be held close to their father’s chest. Holding a baby close and rocking her helps the baby to feel secure. Develop experiences that are physical.
  • Babies also love to be lifted and gently tickled by daddy. It can be thrilling for them and they also learn, as daddy holds them safely, that daddy is there to take care of them. They learn trust and security.
  • Talk to your baby. Father’s voice is different from mother’s voice, and children can detect the difference from the earliest weeks. They learn to trust you by hearing your voice. Name objects that you and your child encounter. This helps your child learn the connection between names and objects. Develop experiences that are verbal.
  • Sing favorite songs to your child. Your baby loves to hear familiar songs over and over again. Make up your own special songs. Young children enjoy songs with motions and finger-plays.
  • Babies are fascinated by faces. Make sure that yours is very expressive when you interact with your child. Let them touch your face as you make funny faces. Create activities that involve real “face-to-face” interaction.
  • Say “I love you” often! Let your child, from earliest days, know why she or he is special to you. Encourage dads to never stop doing this. Create activities that help you find ways to say “I love you,” realizing that the best way is just to say it. Don’t be like the man who explained to his wife after she complained he never says “I love you,” “For goodness sakes, I told you I loved you 20 years ago…and I’ll let you know if that ever changes!”
  • Babies love to watch you and mimic what you are doing. Get down on the floor with them and do some funny movements. Encourage them to copy you.
  • Talk to your baby as you go outside for walks. Point to things and name them. Talk about what you see in your neighborhood.
  • Let your child see you interacting with other children and adults. This builds confidence in interacting with others.
  • Read! One of the most important things you can do with your child, even the day you bring her home from the hospital, is to read to her. Put your child in your lap and cuddle her. Choose simple hard-board books with bright pictures. Point out objects and name them. Tell what is happening in the story. You are teaching your little newborn in this exercise that reading books can be a great way of being close with daddy. You are also getting him or her comfortable with books. Children will learn instinctively that books are a very good part of their lives. As your child gets closer to one year of age, she or he will start developing language skills, and reading is one of the best ways to promote this.
  • Reading to, cuddling, and talking to your child are three of the most important activities to do with your infant and toddler to stimulate healthy development.
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