What Dads Can Do With Babies
- Hold your baby close to you and rock him to help him feel loved and secure.
- Lift and gently tickle your baby.
- Talk to your baby. Name objects and things that you and your baby see. Dad’s voice is different from mom’s and babies can tell the difference at even a few weeks old.
- Sing songs to your baby. Young children enjoy songs with motions and hand movements. You can also find age-appropriate tapes, CDs or videos at the public library.
- Let your baby touch your face as you make funny faces. Babies like faces that show lots of expression.
- Say “I love you” often! Let your child, from the earliest days, know that he is special to you. You can never say “I love you” too much.
- Get down on the floor with your baby and do some funny movements. Encourage him to copy you. Babies love to watch and mimic.
- Let your baby see you interacting with other children and adults. This builds confidence in interacting with others.
- Invite family or friends who also have young children to spend time with you and your baby. This will help your child learn how to play with other children.
- Read to your baby, even the day you bring him home from the hospital. Choose simple hardboard books with bright pictures. Point out objects and name them. Tell a story from the pictures. As your baby gets closer to 1 year old, he will start developing language skills, and reading is one of the best ways to promote this.
What Dads Can Do With Toddlers
(2- to 3-Year-Olds)
- Provide safe places where your toddler can play and run -- inside and outside. Take her outside as much as possible to run in the yard or a park.
- Give your toddler a “ride” on your shoulders. Almost all children love “shoulder riding” -- it gives them a chance to be bigger than grown-ups.
- Read to your toddler every day. Read books, magazines and signs you see on the street. It is important for her to be close to you, listen to you speak and see that words go with pictures and make a story.
- Play ball with your toddler. Teach her to catch, throw and kick a ball in age-appropriate ways. This teaches coordination.
- Help your toddler learn to use the toilet. Help her understand that all boys and girls make mistakes when they are potty-training. Never punish a child for an accident -- it is part of learning!
- Continue saying “I love you.” It can never be said too many times.
- Encourage your toddler to ask questions. Answer them with short, simple answers using words she can understand.
- Teach your toddler which words are OK to use and which are not.
- Teach your toddler that being kind, polite and honest are some of the most important things in the world.
- Let your toddler know what you expect and why, including the “rules” at your house or how you want her to behave, etc. Be consistent.
- Let your toddler explore.
- Invite family or friends who also have toddlers to spend time with you and your child. This will help your toddler learn how to play with other children.
- Learn your toddler’s favorite things to do and do those activities with her.
- Take your toddler with you when you run an errand and let her help you as much as she can and in ways that are safe for her, such as putting letters in a mail slot. Be sure to let her know how much she is helping.
- Make up a special ritual with your toddler, perhaps at bedtime or whenever you see her. This ritual could be a question, a handshake or something else you come up with together.
- Arrange to have lunch with your toddler at preschool or daycare if your schedule allows.
- If your schedule allows, talk with your toddler’s preschool teacher or childcare provider about how you can participate in activities during the school day (e.g., going on a field trip, being a guest reader, etc.).
What Dads Can Do With 4- to 6 Year-Olds
- During meals, ask your child what the best thing about his day was. Answer the question yourself in return.
- Play ball with your child. Teach him how to catch, throw and kick a ball.
- Meet and be interested in your child’s friends.
- Ask your child about things he would like to learn and then make plans to learn them together.
- Make regular visits to the library and discuss his favorite books.
- Read to your child every day. Help him learn that reading is a normal and natural part of life.
- Talk to your child about his or her dreams and share your own dreams. Children also like to hear what dreams their parents had when they were children (“I wanted to grow up and become a....”).
- Tell your child stories about when you were little. Let him know about mistakes you made and things you did right.
- Talk to your child about what he wants to do when he grow up and visit workplaces where he can learn about different jobs.
- Let your child know what you expect and why, like how you want him to act at the store or how he talks to or treats his siblings. Be consistent.
- Listen to your child’s favorite music or watch his favorite TV shows with him.
- Take your child to meet your neighbors who have children.
- Play board games with your child.
- Help build your child’s imagination by making up creative stories with him. Start a story and let him add in key parts: “Once upon a time….”
- Make a meal with your child.
- Make up special nicknames for each other.
- Make up a special ritual with your child, like a question, handshake or something else that you come up with together.
- Mail a surprise card to your child that says that you love him or that tells him what a great job he has done with something.
What Dads Can Do With 7- to 12-Year-Olds
- Make your child’s favorite meal with her.
- Plan a picnic with your child. Have her help you pack the lunch and find a local park or outdoor spot to go for the picnic, even if it’s your own yard.
- Listen to your child’s favorite music and watch his or her favorite TV shows and movies with her.
- Encourage or support your child’s interests and schoolwork by asking her to share with you what she is learning. Spend time with your child as she completes her homework.
- Encourage your child to read in her free time. Take her to the library and let her get her own library card.
- Play board games with your child.
- Be physically active with your child. Go for a walk together or play basketball or catch.
- Tell your child stories about when you were little. Let her know about mistakes you made and things you did right.
- Talk to your child about what she wants to do when she grows up and visit workplaces where she can learn about different jobs.
- Meet and be interested in your child’s friends. Talk to her friends’ parents by phone or in person if your child will be spending time at their home.
- Let children know what you expect and why, like how you want her to behave in school or at home. Be consistent.
What Dads Can Do With Teenagers
(13- to 18-Year-Olds)
- Don’t assume your teenager does not want to be hugged. Ask him what would make him feel comfortable and continue to express your love, through your words, tone of voice and body language.
- Ask your teenager what he enjoys doing for fun and then set a time to do these activities together.
- If your teenager’s schedule doesn’t fit yours, try to find even a small amount of time to spend with him. He will appreciate knowing that he is important enough for you to spend time with him.
- Attend your teenager’s extracurricular activities (sports, plays, club activities, etc.). If you can’t be physically present at the event, give your teenager a call before or after the event to show your support.
- Take advantage of car rides and other opportunities to “touch base” with your teenager about what is going on in his life.
- Listen to your teenager. Be respectful of the thoughts or feelings he shares with you.
- Talk with your teenager about sexual activity and the use of drugs and alcohol. Make sure he is very aware of your feelings on these issues. Talk about these subjects more than once -- they are not one-time-only conversations.
- Create opportunities or make suggestions for your teenager’s friends to spend time at your house.
Adapted from Building Blocks for Father Involvement: Building Block 5: Bringing a Fatherhood Plan to Life and Building Blocks for Father Involvement: Father and Child Activity Book, Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Head Start Bureau, June 2004, www.brightfutures.org/tools/