University of Newcastle's Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads program uses science to improve lives
18 October 2020
Active play between dads and their children has profound physical and mental benefits, research shows.
More than 80 Hunter dads are seeking to tap into these benefits at the University of Newcastle's Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads program.
The eight-week program, funded by Greater Charitable Foundation, began on Saturday at Wallsend and New Lambton.
The evidence-based program involves rough and tumble play, fundamental movement skills [helping dads teach kids to throw, kick, catch and strike] and fun aerobic and muscular fitness.
Merewether's Brett Blacker and his four-year-old son Lachlan were among those participating in the program.
Mr Blacker said it was a good opportunity to spend quality time together, while learning sport and motor skills.
"It's instilling values around activity and sports in a fun way. He [Lachlan] loves to play games and do things together."
Mr Blacker said rough and tumble play helped him bond with his son.
"It's an opportunity for playfulness, connection and tumbling around," he said.
University of Newcastle Professor Phil Morgan said rough and tumble play had "a fascinating scientific basis".
"It's a form of high intensity exercise and leads to structural changes in the brain of the child. It's been demonstrated to improve their emotional regulation and social skills."
Studies had shown that animals deprived of rough and tumble play become more aggressive and less likely to be social and control their emotions.
"The quality rough and tumble play is where the evidence is. It's not just wrestling with your kids," he said.
"Many dads have to be taught to do it in a way where the child wins most of the time and works for the victory, as opposed to the dad winning all the time."