father son playA playful daddy crouched low on hands and knees and growled. His four young children squealed, jumped up and down, and pounced. They were saving their dog from the jaws of a mountain lion. Of course, dad was the lion and the children were heroes. The patient dog lived to see another day.

Good old-fashioned horse-play is what dads do best. This spontaneous fun with pillows, couch cushions, and imagination is actually great for children’s self-esteem and physical development.

In fact, the more dads engage with their children overall, the more likely their children are to flourish. Stephanie Pappas reports in her article, Fatherhood: The Science of Dad, that dads make a big difference in the lives of their children. The father-child relationship is essential for a child’s sense of well-being, happiness, life satisfaction and perseverance.

Pappas also includes in her article a report from Bradford Wilcox, author of Gender and Parenthood. “Dads are more likely to roughhouse than moms, a style of play that helps teach kids to control their bodies and emotions. Fathers are also more likely to encourage their kids to embrace risk, both on the playground and in life. This influences the ambitions of children over the long run.”

So dads matter and their parenting style matters. Dads who listen to their children, play, and use imagination in storytelling have a powerful affect on their children’s emotional and physical development.

Put another way, researcher Laura Padilla-Walker told LiveScience, “That doesn’t mean going on fancy vacations, it can be playing ball in the backyard or watching a movie with your kids,” she said. “Whatever it is, just make yourself available and when you’re with your children, be with them.”

boys readingI’ve created a list of ten of the best 2014 storybooks for parents of children birth to age 5.

I look for exceptional quality and books that are perfect read-alouds for little ones.

These stories, with their familiar themes, playful rhyming words, and stunning artwork will capture your children’s hearts.

To get your copy of the list, click the button.


189303Making holiday gifts together, whether homemade cookies or a picture to hang in the window, is a meaningful way to involve your child in giving. Let your child choose the paper and have fun wrapping together. There’s a lot of love in a child’s off-center and scotch-tape-smothered packaging.

There is also a lot of learning when a child measures, cuts, tapes, and decorates. Have a “wrapping tub” just for your child with extra paper, ribbon, bows, and old gift cards to cut up. The process is always more important than the product.

Playful Early Learning

  • Arrange a play place at home where a child can safely explore and create whatever catches her fancy.
  • Make a “wrapping tub.” Use a plastic tub and fill with all sorts of wrapping paper pieces, ribbon, tissue, bows, old gift cards and labels.
  • Wrap gifts together and don’t fret about how they look.
  • Save holiday gift magazines and stickers. Put them in a tub with child safety scissors and construction paper. Make holiday gift tags and cards together for family.

Read aloud storybooks on giving: Dream Snow by Eric Carle, Merry Christmas Maisy by Lucy Cousins, Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell, Bright Baby Touch and Feel Hanukkah by Roger Priddy, and Happy Sparkling Hanukkah by Elizabeth Spurr