By: Abby Jones, PT, DPT – Physical therapist at The Warren Center
It is evident from birth that the role of the mother is vital in an infant’s life and throughout development. As a culture, motherhood is highly valued and rightfully so. It is understood the great responsibility and role a mother plays in nurturing, supporting, and helping children thrive. Moms are amazing on so many levels and their role should never be diminished or taken any less serious. However, one of the topics that is talked about (and perhaps valued) less, and even less so in infancy/early childhood is the role of a father.
Moms have very direct and natural ways of caring for their children through pregnancy, breast feeding, and bonding. For a father, the avenues of caregiving are less direct and natural. From the perspective of a physical therapist, I have had a front row seat to seeing the various family dynamics and have become increasingly aware of the special and valuable ways an active father can greatly impact the development of their children throughout development.
Dads are simply able to take the risks most moms find it difficult to bare. They encourage their children to take brave steps, do the next new thing on the playground, and motive their children to move in new ways. Dads will more likely be the ones to toss their little ones in the air, spin them around, and hang them upside down – just to see the big smiles and giggles – typically while Mom’s aren’t far away gasping. From a motor and sensory development prospective, this input is such an integral part to increasing body awareness, giving input to the inner ear, and helping babies understand themselves and the world around them in fun and memorable ways.
As their children develop further, Dads become the tickle-monsters and wrestling partners, giving toddlers chances to crawl, run, and roll during their daily play routines. At the playground, Dad’s (like most PTs) often are the one’s who break the unwritten rule of not climbing up the slides, encourage jumping down from a higher step, and are there to give the high fives and hugs for bravery and new experiences.
So this Father’s Day, our physical therapists at The Warren Center want to give a special shout-out to all of our TWC dads: for being our partners in being silly, taking risks, and pushing those motor and sensory milestones! We see you and are so thankful for you! We will also continue to be there encouraging moms through the gasps and worry – your kiddos are so resilient and brave and their daddies will keep them safe!
For the moms and dads looking for more ways to give their kiddos vestibular play opportunities, here are some ideas:
– rough play like tickling, gentle tosses in the air overhead, or “falling” on the bed or couch
– rolling down couch cushion inclines
– crawling over pillows
– jumping on trampoline
– spinning in a chair or while being held
– upside down play