Physical Play and Self Control

Self-control is an important part of emotional development. It is what allows children to manage their feelings and regulate their behavior.

The University of Cambridge did an interesting review of 78 studies that had been conducted between 2007-2017. What they found was that children who had more playtime with their fathers had better self-control, were less likely to show hyperactivity, and were less likely to lash out at other children at school.

The study identified “quality play-time with father” as the connection to this positive area of child development.

However, it wasn’t specifically that it was “male” playtime.
It was that fathers typically have more physically active play time with their children! The “quality” of play was based on physical play– “With babies, that may simply mean picking them up or helping them to gently raise their limbs and exert their strength; with toddlers, fathers typically opt for boisterous, rough-and-tumble play, like chasing games.

The review posits that these types of physical play are not only fun and exciting but also encourage children to use self-regulation. It’s a safe environment where children can practice responding to things like controlling strength and reacting when play “goes too far.”

The study emphasized that it’s not only Dads who can engage in this type of play.
Mothers can and do support physical play with their children with the same results.

family having fun


Annabel Amodia-Bidakowska, Ciara Laverty, Paul G. Ramchandani. Father-child play: A systematic review of its frequency, characteristics and potential impact on children’s development. Developmental Review, 2020; 57: 100924 DOI: 10.1016/j.dr.2020.100924