I recently wrote a book with the wonderful Alice Sharpe to celebrate the importance of Dads. With so much negativity about men at the moment its worth bringing some balance to the debate.
Getting Dads involved from the start has many benefits. Pleasingly, I am noticing more Dads delivering and collecting their children at nursery and staff definitely have more casual conversations with Dads.
Why? Dads involvement in the life of a family has many advantages from birth onwards. Here are some of the benefits:
- New fathers have a paternal hormonal response to becoming fathers, including increased oxytocin, oestrogen, prolactin and glucocorticoids, which creates a natural protectiveness toward the baby and is strengthened the more time they spend holding their newborn babies.
- Dads involvement in families is associated with lower levels of child neglect even in families that may be facing other factors, such as unemployment and poverty, which could place the family at risk for maltreatment.
- Dads are better able to create a family environment that is more conducive to the safety and necessary care of their children.
- The support of a Dad helps childbirth and infant feeding practices including successful breastfeeding which is associated with the best outcome for many new mothers and fathers.
- Dads are helpful throughout childhood with is associated with psychological wellbeing and lower levels of delinquency and less likely to do drugs (Rosenberg et al 2006).
- Dads are interested in different things and enriches children's skills and knowledge by broadening their horizons, increasing the child's interest and learning.
- Dads who read to their children are consistently associated with benefits to their children's literacy.
- Dads engagement appears to be a powerful catalyst for mathematical enquiry and will provide a strong starting point to support and extend their mathematical thinking. This is particularly relevant for girls as it has been linked to more confidence with maths while boys who have actively involved fathers tend to have better grades and perform better on achievement test.
- How a Dad treats their children's mother sets a lifelong attitude to their attitudes to women and for daughters the sort of man they seek out.
Alice and I wrote our book to encourage Dads to get involved in nursery and at home through activities. The book provides a range of activities which can be used both in the nursery and at home. We recognise that many Dads may have limited time and energy so this book is designed to support staff to show Dads how simple actions whether the routine bed time story, learning together in the garden, dads in the nursery day or making games and toys together can make a big difference to their children's potential.
The activities are written on a step to step basis to help Dads complete the activities. In addition, these activities can be shared on a parent notice board, be part of regular Dad's Activities information, sent home on home learning sheets or just discussed in casual pedagogical conversations.
Good staff know their parents well and can suggest ideas that are both relevant and possible. These ideas can be done in the nursery as a practice so that when sharing the ideas, staff have tested and refined them. You may even have a pack for some of the activities as part of the home learning approach.
So, do a bit more to support Dads. They matter especially to their children.
June O'Sullivan is chief executive of London Early Years Foundation. This blog first appeared on the LEYF website