Want smarter kids? Have them play with dad.

One of the most classically dad things is playing–physically–with the kids. Now along comes another study that proves that imaginative play with dad is good for kids’s brains too. When you encourage your children’s imagination, their vocabularies are larger and they do better in math.

What’s unique about this particular study, which was done at Utah State University, is that the researchers went to the trouble of, gasp, including dads. Most previous play studies had looked at mom-child interactions.

So how do you boost the amount of imaginative play? Start by encouraging make believe and fantasy. Then, when your reading stories, don’t be shy about acting out some parts or talking about what’s happening in the illustrations or why particular characters are doing what they’re doing. Plopping your kids in front of the TV (or even watching silently with them) or reading books straight through from beginning to end without any commentary won’t help.

A bit more detail on the study here:

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=19524630&title=study-shows-playtime-with-both-parents-crucial-to-child-development&s_cid=queue-6

 

Is there a perfect time to have kids?

21 years ago, when I was a young, first-time dad I thought it was a perfect time to be a parent. A few years later, when my second was born, I thought that was a perfect time. And then 10 years after number two, that was perfect too. I was right all three times. And wrong.

First time ’round I may have had better knees and backs and can bowl their kids on the slip-n-slide faster and farther than older dads. But I was preoccupied with career, scraping together down payment money in the insane Bay Area housing market. As I got older, my relationships with the kids changed. By the time my youngest was born I wasn’t as worried about career and money and could actually take time to just watch all the amazing things she did. We still do plenty of physical things together, but we also spend a lot of time just playing–board games, Barbie–yes, I admit it, I have actually brushed Barbie’s hair and slipped her out of her tennis togs and into an elegant evening gown).

Still, a new study from UCSF found that overall, parents think the 30s are the ideal time. What do you think?

Interesting piece on the study here: http://news.yahoo.com/best-age-raise-kids-older-parents-30s-161601262.html

Fitness equipment for kids? Naaa

We often talk about how important it is for kids to get enough exercise–60  minutes every day–but what they really need is play. What’s the difference? According to Dr Tony Okely, associate professor at the University of Wollongong in Australia, “Exercise is defined as physical activity that is structured, planned, and repetitive with an aim of increasing one or more components of health-related fitness.”  The problem is that a lot of parents get their kids all sorts of mini exercise equipment–stuff like treadmills and weight benches. But what they really need is to be sent packing to ride their bikes with their buddies around the neighborhood, or to just go to a park and run around like loons.

Reminds me of what a dog trainer once told me: “A tired dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog is an obedient dog. Same goes (well, almost) with kids. A tired and sweaty kid is a healthy kid. What they need to be doing is having fun. gym memberships are over the top.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/play-not-exercise-for-fit-kids-20120307-1uk01.html#ixzz1ogeahcT9

Does your child really need fitness equipment–treadmills,

A Bird, a Plane, SuperDad

Dear Mr. Dad: A good friend of mine, Rich, is a single father of a 4-year old boy, Max. Before becoming a dad, Rich had never spent any time around kids, and he has no idea what to do. He’s very serious and says it just isn’t any fun getting down on Max’s level and playing. At the same time, though, he feels bad that he isn’t spending enough time involved with Max. Any suggestions I can pass on?

A: The best “cure” for what you’re describing is for Rich to get out of his work clothes the moment he comes home. Did you ever watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood? If so, do you remember how he started every show? He’d come in, take off his nice jacket, hang it up, and put on a sweater; take off his dress shoes and put on sneakers instead. No question that what you’re wearing affects your behavior (think of Superman and other superheroes who change out of their work clothes and into their costume—can’t very well go around saving the world in a fancy suit and tie).

Once Rich is in play mode, it’s time to start rolling around on the floor. It may feel weird for a while, but he’ll eventually get used to it. And even if doesn’t like that kind of play, there are plenty of other ways for him to spend quality time with Max. But the most important thing is to jump in. Rich may be feeling the need to entertain Max all the time and that could be what’s keeping him away. The reality is that all Max really wants from his dad is to be together. It hardly matters what they’re doing, just as long as they’re doing it together.

If you’re looking for some specific ideas, check out the winners of our Seal of Approval program at mrdad.com/seal. Browse the lists–there are some really terrific games/toys/activities that Rich and Max will have a ton of fun doing together.

Dear Mr. Dad: I’ve been divorced three years, and have had a couple of serious relationships. My 11-year-old son, who lives with me half time, has met these women and a couple others, and seems pretty indifferent when the subject of my dating comes up. My ex thinks it’s reckless and harmful for my current girlfriend to be in contact with him. For now, I’m respecting her wishes. Still, I worry about this pattern continuing. For the record, in three years I’ve had a woman stay over exactly once when he is with me.

A: My advice is to keep kids and new partners apart until the relationship can be truly considered “serious.” Of course, that means different thing to different people. The problem is that kids form attachments very quickly (even if they, like your son, seem indifferent), and the last thing your son needs now is yet another breakup. I know it’s a tough situation–you don’t want to feel that your ex is running your dating life. But think about it as something you’ll do for your son. The fact that you’ve only had one girlfriend spend the night means that you won’t have to make any big changes. Could you confine your dating to the days your son is with his mom? When I was a single dad, I tried to do exactly that. That way, when my kids were with me, I could be there 100 percent for them, and when I was with a girlfriend, I could be with her 100 percent (or close to it).

Oh What a Difference

Dear Mr. Dad: A Korean family has recently moved in next door and our 8-year-old son became friendly with their boy, who is the same age. However, he now says that he no longer wants to play with this child because he “looks funny.” How do we teach our son to look beyond the differences?

A: If you live in a small community or a rural area where there haven’t been very many people of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, it’s understandable that your young son may be confused by a child so visibly different from anyone else he’s used to seeing.

What you have here, however, is a great opportunity to teach your boy some valuable life lessons, the kind that will, hopefully, instill in him a little cultural sensitivity, tolerance, and open-mindedness. After all, diversity is part of our national identity and should be embraced rather than shunned.
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Adopting Daddy

Dear Mr. Dad: When I married my husband, my biological son was 5. My husband adopted him two years later. My husband is financially and spiritually supportive, but he doesn’t seem interested in playing or doing “dad” type stuff with our son. I would love for him to initiate catch, going to batting cages, or anything family oriented, but he doesn’t. I’m starting to resent that all he wants to do is work on the house on weekends. Help me understand him.

A: There are all sorts of reasons that could explain your husband’s behavior. When he became part of your son’s life, he had already “missed” five years, along with the familiarity, confidence, and competence that comes from being there from the very beginning. As a result, he may simply not know what to do with the boy. This is especially true if he was an only child or had little or no experience with young kids.
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