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Kids benefit from rough and tumble play with dads

Jun 10, 2014 |

Ahead of Father’s Day, a UBC researcher says dads shouldn’t shy away from a little roughhousing

Father and DaughterRough play is important for children’s development, says a UBC expert in prevention of child injuries. Mariana Brussoni, an assistant professor in the Dept. of Pediatrics and the School of Population and Public Health who studies the influence of injuries on child and family health, explains the developmental importance of risky play for children.

Fathers often engage in rough play with their kids, but doesn’t that expose kids to risk of injury?

I consider risky play an injury prevention strategy. Risky play, including roughhousing, provides children with important developmental and physical benefits. Children who have the opportunity to engage with risks in a secure setting with minimal hazards and appropriate supervision learn lessons that will serve them in good stead when they encounter risks in the “real” world.

Do fathers engage in more physical play with their kids than mothers? If so, why?

Compared to mothers, fathers spend a larger percentage of their time playing with their children. Men’s approach to caring involves doing activities together and taking kids out to play. They don’t feel the same pressure to deal with household chores that women do, nor is there as much expectation that men are in charge of these aspects of family life as there is for women.

Do fathers and daughters play rough or are girls missing out on the developmental benefits of risky play?


Mariana Brussoni

Our research shows that it depends. We talked to dads in urban and rural parts of B.C. and Quebec. Most fathers reported treating their children the same, though sometimes girls were less interested in taking risks. We do think it is important that girls get these opportunities too. Our next project looks to promote outdoor risky play for both boys and girls.

What do fathers need to know about keeping risky play safe for their kids?

First and foremost, fathers need to be supported in their desire to go out and play with their kids – in whatever form that takes. There are simple things they can do to prevent serious injuries to their kids while at play. These include using protective gear, getting training—for something like rock climbing, for example–and being aware of their children’s needs and abilities so they can let kids try new things but not get in too deep.

Mariana Brussoni is an assistant professor in UBC’s Dept. of Pediatrics and the School of Population and Public Health. She is a scholar with the Child & Family Research Institute and the BC Injury Research & Prevention Unit. Brussoni is funded by a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar Award