From helping with the chores to riding alongside mum on the emotional rollercoaster of new parenthood, the bonds a dad can make in the earliest years can set up a parent-child relationship that lasts a lifetime.
Turn tasks into fun experiences so your new baby learns to love your voice and your gentle touch.
• Sing nursery rhymes while changing a nappy. Your baby will soon recognise favourite tunes and if the nappy requires some serious cleaning up, a few extra animals added to ‘Old MacDonald’s Farm’ will come in very handy!
• Make bathtime a sharing experience, giving your baby’s bath toys names and making up stories with them.
• By seven to nine months, your baby can sit up. Get down on the floor so you’re at his or her level and play building-block games and peekaboo.
Once your child is on his or her feet, you’ll need all the energy you have!
• Take a small ball wherever you go. Whether you’re visiting family, waiting for nursery to open or just in the back garden, kicking a ball about is brilliant for physical development and coordination – and fun!
• Be a willing servant. Toddlers love to organise things and people, whether that’s rows of toy cars or playing shop with tins in the kitchen. Let your toddler take the lead and tell you what you do.
• Read to your toddler. Simple picture books that explore themes like colours, everyday object-naming and counting are fantastic for first learning skills.
There are lots of great ways to spend time together that develop into much-loved family habits. Simply make the same activities gradually more complicated as your child gets older.
• Learn something together. Whether it’s finding out more about dinosaurs or bird spotting, how to build something in the back garden or just making a chart for the football season, sharing the journey of discovery is what counts.
• Cook up a storm. Small children can easily mix together cake ingredients or cut fun shapes out of biscuit dough, and older children like to invent things like weird fruit juice cocktails. Why not show them how to make your signature dishes?
• Make time for bedtime stories – even if you only have 10 minutes to spare. Sometimes you’ll find that they actually just want to chat about what’s on their mind during this precious quiet time with you.
From the age of about 10 onwards, kids start to navigate their own way in the world. They might not need you to play piggyback any more, but it’s still good to have you around.
• Get sporty at weekends. If your child has a real passion for something like cycling, tennis or football, offer to spend some extra time in the garden or at the park, helping them develop their skills.
• Master their gaming skills. If your child is a whizz at computer games ask them to show you how to play or for insider tips to improve your scores. But be prepared to be a good loser!
• Offer your help. Teenagers naturally spend more time on their own and with friends at this age, but there are times when you’re still their go-to guy. Maybe you can help redecorate a bedroom, or offer guidance on finding something they really want on Gumtree or eBay, for example.