Unfortunately, dads aren’t always seen as being as crucial to infants’ lives as their mothers are. But luckily for dads who want to be there for (almost) every bedtime, every giggle and burp, there are numerous ways to get involved in their kids’ lives from the very start — and remain a fixture forever. Because, aside from a father’s selfish desire to hold his giggling bambino all day, research shows a father’s love and presence has different beneficial effects from a mother’s.
1. Establish A Daddy Bedtime Routine
Especially until they graduate from toddler-dom, kids often ask for mommy to put them to bed. Fair enough, but that shouldn’t happen every night, because neither you nor your kid want to get in the habit of shunning dad from bedtime. Starting from infancy, instate a routine where dad puts the kids to bed two to three nights a week. Get started ASAP, because you’ve got years of books to read them, stories to spook them with and tales of your adventurous life to impress them with.
2. Go Nuts On Their Bedroom
Don’t stop at putting the crib together and painting the nursery. Get crazy with it. Install a baby rock climbing wall. Populate it with near-life-size Pixar characters. Make it the magnum opus of your model train-building career. It’ll be a while before they can thank you with their own words, but when they can, you’ll both be glad you did it.
3. It’s Not Just About Diapers
Diaper changing isn’t the only opportunity to be a hands-on dad. Dressing, changing, bathing and settling are perfect opportunities to establish presence and convey caring and affection (also to you partner, with whom you’ll win points for granting them some off-duty time).
4. Play Physical
It’ll be a few years before you can roughhouse with your baby. But it’s never too soon to get physical during play time. Research has shown that kids learn different skills from a father than a mother during play, like what kinds of things are off-limits (biting, hair-pulling) and how to take safe risks.
5. Let Your Bond Grow Over Time
It’s not your fault, or your baby’s, if your bond isn’t immediately magnetic. It might be, or it might not. Both are natural, and if your kid doesn’t automatically see the benefit of having a dad as amazing as yourself, just wait. Eventually, they’ll come to realize that life isn’t only about mom, milk and mushy foods. And as long as you don’t get frustrated or disappointed in the time it takes for that to happen, you can fall for each other any time.