Games for Dads and their Kids


“Play is the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers

Play is an essential aspect of a child’s life, facilitating their learning, development, and overall well-being. While playtime with both parents is valuable, the role of fathers in children’s play cannot be understated. Engaging in play with their children not only strengthens the father-child bond but also offers numerous benefits to children’s cognitive, emotional, and social development.

1. Strengthening the Bond:

When fathers actively engage in play with their children, it fosters a stronger emotional connection. Playtime provides an opportunity for fathers to interact, communicate, and build a deep bond with their children. This bonding experience promotes trust, understanding, and a sense of security in children, which forms a solid foundation for their emotional development.

2. Cognitive Development:

Play serves as a natural learning platform for children, promoting their cognitive development. When fathers engage in imaginative and problem-solving play, it stimulates their children’s creativity, critical thinking, and decision-making skills. By encouraging exploration and curiosity, fathers contribute to the development of their children’s cognitive abilities, enabling them to learn and adapt to new challenges.

3. Emotional Development:

Play is an emotional outlet for children, allowing them to express their feelings, experiences, and thoughts. When fathers actively participate in play, they create a safe space where children can freely express themselves. This emotional support helps children develop a healthy emotional intelligence, empathy, and self-regulation skills. It also enables children to understand and manage their emotions effectively, leading to healthier relationships and improved mental well-being.

4. Social Development:

Play is a social activity that helps children develop crucial social skills. When fathers play with their children, they provide opportunities for social interaction, communication, and cooperation. Through shared play experiences, children learn important social concepts such as taking turns, sharing, negotiation, and conflict resolution. Father-child play also encourages children to build relationships, develop empathy, and understand social norms, preparing them for successful interactions with peers and in society.

5. Physical Development:

Playtime with fathers often involves physical activities, which contribute to children’s physical development. Whether it’s playing catch, roughhousing, or engaging in outdoor activities, fathers help children develop their motor skills, coordination, strength, and overall physical fitness. Regular physical play with fathers also promotes a healthy lifestyle, instilling positive habits and a love for physical activity from a young age.

What happens when children don’t play enough

Unfortunately, our (Asian) culture has devalued play. Our attitude towards play can be encapsulated in this line from an ancient Chinese classic: “Diligence has its reward; play has no advantages.” (Three Character Classic)

Children who are deprived of play experience several negative consequences. Lack of playtime can hinder children’s cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development. It may lead to increased stress levels, reduced creativity, impaired problem-solving abilities, and difficulties in self-regulation. Play deprivation can also negatively impact a child’s mental well-being, leading to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression.

“The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression.”

Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, in the middle of his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.


Father’s play plays a vital role in children’s learning, development, and overall well-being. Engaging in play with their fathers provides children with a range of cognitive, emotional, and social benefits that are crucial for their holistic growth. It strengthens the father-child bond, fosters cognitive and emotional development, enhances social skills, and promotes physical fitness. Recognizing the significance of father-child play and ensuring ample playtime for children is essential for their optimal development and lifelong success.

Seeing that it is essential for fathers to play with their children, we have included below a list of activities to facilitate play between dads and their kids (1-6 years old) . Each of the activities will involve one of the sixteen types of play developed by Bob Hughes.

Watch: 5 Reasons for Kids to Play Outside

Watch: The Benefits of Free Play

Get Started

How old is your child? 1-3 years old or 4-6 years old

Share Your Ideas

We are always looking for new activity ideas that dads can engage in with their kids. If you have one, we invite you to share it with us. Your contribution might be one of those listed here. Click on the Submit button and tell us more.


1-3 years old

Where is ….

Type of play: Communicative
Objective: Ask questions to elicit clues on where something is hidden
Materials Needed: Optional and mainly household things or in outdoor environment
Take turns to ask questions ‘Is it … ‘ to get clues on what the thing is and where it is eg ‘Is it cold? Is it in the box? Is it blue? Is it used by mummy?’ etc and ask questions until child or parent is able to guess it correctly


4-6 years old

Grab the Tail

Type of Play: Rough and Tumble
Objective: To get the other party’s “tail”
Materials Needed: String; piece of cloth/paper
1. Use the string to tie the cloth/paper around the adult’s & the child’s waist (act as a belt)
2. The adult & child will stand opposite each other
3. Create a perimeter for the child & adult to run around
4. The adult & child will then move around whole trying to grab the tail of the other party
5. Either set a time limit to see who can obtain the most tail or the game ends once one party’s tails have been snatched