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A study from Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education and the LEGO Foundation has found that children whose fathers spend time playing with them at a very early age may find it easier to control their behaviour and emotions. The research used data from 78 studies in Europe and the USA between 1977 and 2017 to look at how mothers and fathers play with children aged 0 to 3 years and how play affects their development. The study found that fathers spend a large proportion of their time with their children engaging in play and that play tends to be more physical and boisterous compared to mothers e.g. tickling, chasing, piggy-back rides or rough and tumble. It also found that early father-infant play is linked to positive social, emotional and cognitive outcomes in children. Children who had “high quality” playtime with their fathers appeared to be able to control their aggression towards other children and were less likely to show signs of hyperactivity or behavioural or emotional difficulties. Professor Paul Ramchandani said: “Physical play creates fun, exciting situations in which children have to apply self-regulation. It’s a safe environment in which children can practise how to respond.” The study points out that children of single mothers are not at a disadvantage as mothers can also take part in physical play and all play interactions during early years are linked to positive cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes for children. However, the research highlights the need to vary the types of play children have access to and to ensure fathers have the time and space to play with their young children. Read more here.

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