Dads Do Matter

Toddlers need their dads … and research convincingly shows that they need them for more than the 30 minutes a day that some studies show they spend.

What makes a dad so important to a toddler and what does a dad do that a mum doesn’t do? Researchers don’t suggest specific things that dads do that mums don’t. However, what they have shown is that having Dad around and involved in both positive parenting and play with toddlers makes a massive difference in their childhood.

An active, present, and positive father has been shown to:

  • Reduce behavioural problems in boys
  • Reduce psychological problems in girls
  • Reduce later criminal behaviour in children
  • Enhance intelligence, curiosity, reasoning, and language development
  • Decrease the incidence of children smoking (as teens)
  • Have better friendships and social skills
  • Even have better marriages (at age 33) if their relationship with Dad was good at age 16.

This is only a brief snapshot of a handful of the positive behavioural aspects when Dad is involved in parenting, rather than absent or merely a spectator. Kids are happier and they function better when they have their dads involved in their lives. The earlier the involvement begins, and the more constant the involvement remains, the better the children’s outcomes.

If you have a toddler, or even an infant or a preschooler, now is the time to get Dad involved as much as possible.

How can dads spend more time with their toddlers?

Here are some activities that dads can do to make sure that they’re spending time with their toddlers and building real relationships.

  • Daddy and toddler bonding: One-on-one dad time.
    Make sure dad schedules some toddler time and try to make it regular each week. Try to avoid just watching movies – there’s not much communication when you stare at a screen. Encourage Dad to take their toddler to the local park or playground , go for ice-cream, walk on the beach, just go out and be together (this can be important for kids whether they’re aged 2 or 22!).
  • Daddy and toddler bonding: Make one night a family night.
    Encourage your child’s father to set aside one night a week for family time, make this night a special time where phone calls are ignored, television and internet are turned off, and the focus is entirely on your toddler and family. Use it as a time to talk about issues that your family needs to be concerned about, or that you want your children to learn about.
  • Daddy and toddler bonding: Read stories together.
    Toddlers love their dads reading stories to them. Read slowly and ask questions about how the characters are feeling, or what your toddler would do in similar circumstances. This will turn father/toddler story time into a fun experience.
  • Daddy and toddler bonding: Develop a project together.
    A great way to boost daddy and toddler time is to do a craft or activity together, be it build a raft, a model, a dolls house, or a toy your child can play with, or something more simple. If Dad isn’t handy or crafty your child will not mind. It will still be a great bonding and learning experience for both child and father.
  • Daddy and toddler bonding: Just be around and involved.
    If Dad is simply ‘there’ and available if needed, this can make a huge difference to their toddler’s childhood. Fathers who are around may suddenly find themselves involved in a rowdy wrestle on the lounge room floor right before dinner or helping patch up some hurt emotions.

Life as a parent is hectic, with priorities competing and demanding our attention. Dads may be preoccupied with long hours, pressures, and doing what they can to contribute to the family. Plus, most dads love a bit of time to tinker in the shed or release some energy via sport. In the hustle and bustle, it can be easy to forget just how important they are in the lives of their children, and just how big the impact they have on their children is.

This article was originally written for by Justin Coulson, Ph.D with editing by Kidspot NZ. Justin is a relationships and parenting expert, author and father of five children. Find our more at

Read more on Kidspot:

One Comment

  1. Angelgirl081 27/11/2017 at 8:24 pm

    I love this article and it is something I feel strongly about. Although I separated from miss 4’s dad when she was 2. I have made sure to include him in everything and drove her to visit him. I still invite him on family outings and we are still good friends. I have a really good relationship with my dad and wanted her to have the same. She loves him to bits and I am so glad we have been able to co-parent. He now treats my second child just like his own and has even offered to have her on over night stays with big sister, when she is a bit older. That bond is so important.

Leave A Comment