For some parents, it may be tempting to lie on the couch instead of playing with their children after a hard day at work.
But parents who spend time doing fun, interactive activities with their son or daughter give them an educational advantage in school, a new study shows.
Data from nearly 5,000 households revealed that reading, playing, drawing and even singing to children as young as three helped improve their academic performance at the age of five.
And while mothers can also improve their children’s academic skills, they generally have a greater impact on young children’s emotional and social behaviors.
Fathers can have a “unique effect” on their children’s development, researchers at the University of Leeds said, but they often feel less able to do so because of the demands of their work.
Children do better in primary school if their parents regularly spend time with them in interactive activities such as reading, playing, telling stories, drawing and even singing or making music (file photo)
Dads participate! Ideal activities with your children.
– Tell stories (not from a book)
– Play or listen to music, sing or do other musical activities.
– Draw, paint or make things.
– Play with toys or games inside.
– Play physically active sports or games outdoors or indoors
– Take the child to the park or outdoor play area
The new study was led by Dr Helen Norman, a researcher at the University of Leeds Business School.
“Mothers still tend to take on the role of primary caregiver and therefore tend to be the ones who care for children the most,” she said.
“But if parents are also actively involved in childcare, the likelihood of children achieving better grades in primary school significantly increases.
“That is why it is essential to encourage and support fathers to share childcare with the mother, from an early stage in the child’s life.”
The team’s results are not just due to the fact that “two heads are better than one” when it comes to raising a child.
“Fathers bring something different” to child development, as they tend to interact with their children in different ways than mothers, the study states.
For example, parents are more likely to engage in increased physical involvement and activity, which helps develop risk-taking and problem-solving behaviors in children.
This could be building a fort out of furniture, kicking a soccer ball outside, or having a pillow fight.
For the study, the team analyzed a sample of 4,966 two-parent households in England, all with a mother and a father, both still in a relationship.
The study did not take into account single-parent families, children of divorced people living in different homes, or same-sex couples with children.
Dads contribute to their children’s development when they set aside time to do any fun activity with them, even if it is an outdoor activity (file photo)
The data was taken from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which collected information on children born between 2000 and 2002 as they grew up.
Each parent’s involvement with their child was measured in the same way when the children were five and seven years old.
Both parents were asked how often they participated in various activities with the child, such as singing, painting, reading and telling stories, playing with toys or games, and taking them to an outdoor playground.
Parents responded to each on a six-point scale from “never” (1) to “every day” (6), and researchers added and compared the scores.
Overall, the team found that father involvement in preschool (when the child is three years old) helped increase their performance in school when they were five years old, in areas such as mathematics, literacy and motor skills.
Parental involvement at age five also helped improve scores on seven-year-olds’ Key Stages Assessments (commonly known as SATs).
Meanwhile, mothers’ involvement had a particularly strong association with reduced behavioral problems in children and better prosocial behavior, such as good social skills and the ability to share easily.
According to the findings, the positive impact of a parent’s involvement was independent of the child’s gender, ethnicity, age in school year, and household income.
The graph shows the proportion of children who achieved a good level of achievement at age five based on how often parents read to them at home.
For busy, working dads, just 10 minutes a day could have educational benefits, according to the team, but more than that is ideal.
Researchers recommend that parents spend as much time as possible engaging in interactive activities with their children.
They acknowledge that parents are likely to be hampered by work demands, but this is partly due to outdated “social expectations”.
Unfortunately, the expectation that mothers take primary responsibility for the care and education of children “continues to dominate” modern society, and employers are to blame.
Dads are less likely to be at home, because parental and paternity leave is shorter and because the mother must assume the role of primary caregiver.
Researchers say the “social expectation” that mothers should take primary responsibility for the care and education of children “continues to dominate.” This graph shows which parent a child’s school/daycare/preschool will communicate with most frequently about various topics (dad = yellow; mom = light blue; both = dark blue) according to parents
The authors say: “The traditional ideal of mothers assuming primary responsibility for the care of their children is perpetuated by many schools and child care providers, which often place the mother as the first point of contact in communications about the child”.
Experts call on all employers to offer more generous paternity and parental leave for fathers, which “can also help increase employee engagement and productivity.”
They also recommend that schools and nurseries routinely take the contact details of both parents, if possible, and develop strategies to involve parents.
The research paper, titled ‘What a difference a dad makes’, can be read in full on the University of Leeds website.
Why ‘Dad Jokes’ Are GOOD for You: Embarrassing Jokes Teach Kids How to Survive Embarrassment, Study Finds
Try not to roll your eyes at dad jokes; They can be an example of good parenting.
Dad jokes are important for helping children learn to feel embarrassed by their fathers, says expert Marc Hye-Knudsen of Aarhus University.
This hardens them because they survive the embarrassment of their father making a terrible pun and realize that the embarrassment isn’t so bad.
Dad jokes are usually simple puns presented as a phrase, either told with sincere humorous intent or to intentionally provoke a reaction.
Hye-Knudsen said: “By mockingly attacking their children’s egos and emotions without indulging in bullying, parents build their children’s resilience…”
‘[They] train them to resist minor attacks and attacks of negative emotions without becoming upset or misbehaving, teaching them impulse control and emotional regulation.’