Fathers who change diapers, build block towers and spend time with their kids…no, it’s not every mom’s fantasy come true, but a real-life sign of the times. According to a recent Pew Research study, the number of dads who are at home with their children has nearly doubled since 1989 to 2.2 million.
But even for those fathers who work outside the home, many dads are still actively involved in their children’s day-to-day routines, from changing diapers to grocery shopping and preparing meals. In a recent NBC News poll, nearly two-thirds of the dads say they are more involved with their kids than their fathers were with them.
Diapers and dinners aside, dads also need to experience the benefits of bonding with their young children. Whether it’s shaking maracas with your toddler or getting into the pool at the local swim center, the options for daddy/child together time are endless.
Baby Boot Camp
From the moment a father first lays eyes on his newborn child, it’s the prime opportunity to foster a lifelong relationship. But since some dads may not necessarily feel that paternal instinct right away, getting close to your own baby can prove a bit daunting.
Recognizing this concern, father Greg Bishop set out to change all this with the creation of his national program, Boot Camp for New Dads (www.bootcampfornewdads.org), which pairs dad-to- be with fathers of 3-6 month olds. “It’s just men and babies, like a nursery in a locker room,” he explains. “The veterans show the rookies what to do…and the rookies leave thinking ‘I can do that.’ They then return as veterans with their own babies to show the next group of men the ropes.”
Getting involved from the get-go is essential to cultivating a good relationship between a child and his father. “Any concerns about bonding can be put to good use for dads-to-be by learning cool things babies can do, even at an early age [like] imitating sticking your tongue out,” offers Bishop. “A baby with 1 billion neurons ready to fire at any new experience is a natural playmate for a dad who is full of surprises.”
Making Music Together
Banging pots and pans at home might not sound like the ideal way for a new dad to bond with his toddler, but the positives of exposure to music at a young age outweigh the negatives. According to Kindermusik, an international music education initiative, early childhood experts have indicated that music helps brain cells make connections for early literacy, social-emotional development and creative play.
Programs like Kindermusik (www.kindermusik.com) and Music Together (www.musictogether.com) offer classes for parents and children from as young as a few weeks old, as well as family music classes for multiple ages. To get more dads involved, special classes geared toward fathers and their children are being offered throughout the year. “We have more than 200 families in our studio,” notes Amy Munsell, a Kindermusik educator in
While your newborn may not be ready to shoot hoops or toss a baseball around just yet, it doesn’t mean you can’t be active together. When pushing a stroller in the park just doesn’t cut it, consider a different kind of workout: at a kids’ gym like Gymboree (www.gymboreeclasses.com) or The Little Gym (www.thelittlegym.com). Infant/toddler classes at The Little Gym are geared for 4 months-3 years, and teach parents how to boost their child’s fine and gross motor skills. In Gymboree’s Play & Learn classes, kids 6 months and up are exposed to a wide range of age-appropriate activities, including music and art. Free trial classes are available through both national venues.
And with summer right around the corner, it’s the perfect time for dads to get into the swim of things. Local swim schools and the YMCA (www.ymca.net) offer parent/child aquatics classes that teach water safety and beginner swimming lessons. Getting into the water with your little one is a great way to show fearful little ones that the water is a great place to be on a hot day, especially when you’re with your dad.