Play is an essential component of childhood. It could even be considered a basic survival need much like shelter, food and touch. Of the many, many benefits play imparts, one of the most far-reaching and long-lasting effects could be in the preparation of future fathers.
Children learn by doing; and often, what they do, is what they see. A lot of what they see is a parent or caregiver tending to a younger sibling or baby. Children incorporate this into their pretend play. Pretend play offers children a chance to practice social situations, adult roles and even play out fears and anxiety in a safe space and way. Pretend play allows children to deal with their emotions—both positive and negative—reducing aggression, developing politeness and empathy which leads to self-regulation of their behavior. As children role-play they are given time to practice, practice, and practice some more their social skills as their emotional intelligence is also being developed and refined.
The Women’s Movement began in the 70s. Even so data still show women continue to have responsibility for the majority of child care.
So how can play make a difference for our future fathers?
By adding baby dolls to their pretend play! It offers children, little boys specifically, opportunities for learning about themselves, others and the world around them.
When Little BOYS Play with BABY DOLLS They:
Develop Care-taking and Nurturing Skills
Play is the way children begin to understand and make sense of their world. Playing with baby dolls allows a little boy to model what they’ve seen or re-enact what’s been done to them or a sibling. By swaddling and rocking their baby doll, or changing and feeding, he is practicing taking care of a ‘loved-one’. He develops a sense of empathy as well as gains another’s perspective, that of Mom–or hopefully Dad—the more he plays in this way.
Develop Fine Motor and Self-Help Skills
Playing with dolls is useful in developing a little boy’s sense of grooming and hygiene. In dressing his baby doll, he is improving his pincer strength, precision and toning other fine motor muscles all the while learning the mechanics and sequence of dressing—putting on shorts and shirt, socks and shoes; steps he’ll be able to translate to dressing himself. These skills he’ll draw on later if he babysits as a teenager and/or put into practice as a father! Similarly when he’s bathing his baby doll it reinforces his own bathing routine plus gives him ‘experience’ in bathing an infant.
When A Toy is A Good Toy It’s A Good Toy:
Doll play has traditionally been seen as a girl’s activity, but it is important for boys too. It imparts life-skills even as it allows them a way to understand day-to-day events that occur in their homes. Understanding, compassion, kindness and caring are qualities we all want to see more of in each other—as children or adults. We want caring, involved fathers. Studies show when children have involved fathers they do better in almost every measure of child well-being than children without involved fathers. Let’s lay the ground work for our boys by encouraging doll play!
Yours in Play!