Dads Who Play With Their Toddlers Make Them Smarter

dad tossing kid in airSomewhere in your child's second year of life, she's going to start imaginary play. This means adults get to play make believe without anyone looking at them funny. My daughter loves to put her baby doll to bed in her play cradle. She rocks baby to sleep and then "tucky ins." I have to do the same to Elmo. My son loves reading this fruit and vegetable book we have and he "eats" and "feeds" me the deliciousness along the way complete with "that's so good!" and "yum" remarks. Kids can be really adorable, can't they?

You know what's even better than an adorable toddler? An adorable toddler who grows up to be an adorable big kid who does well in school. And it turns out that the level of dad's involvement in the little one's imaginary play can affect grades.


Listen up, dads!

Gina Cook, a research assistant professor at Utah State University’s department of family, consumer and human development, learned from her study on 299 low-income kids that a father's involvement, particularly if dad lives in the home with mom and child, can have a positive affect on grades through elementary school.

Cook said that most research looks at mom and how she interacts with her kids during play, but this time they looked at dads. The toddlers whose parents played pretend "tea party" or any imaginary type of play ended up with better grades. This was true only for dads who lived with their kids but that wasn't because if dad lived outside the home he wasn't stimulating his child's brain -- it's just that they didn't see their kids as much so the impact wasn't as great.

This doesn't have to be unfortunate news for kids whose parents are divorced, but it should just give more incentive to make sure kids get more of this type of play with mom and other family members. So this means just sitting there while your little one plays isn't enough -- we have to put on our own imagination cap and play, too.  Especially dad. And for any dad reading this, keep in mind that when you do engage in playtime with kids, it does make mom fall in love with you even more.

Does your child's dad engage in imaginary play with your kids?


Image via mikebaird/Flickr

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