Hooray for dads!
It’s official: dads are top of the pops in their children’s lives!
Here’s something nice for you for Father’s Day: as a dad you play a massive role in how happy and successful your child is. Of course we all knew this anyway but it’s great that recent research backs this up, as well as showing that children whose dads are involved with their lives from early on are:
Finding the time
Mums and dads often complain that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to spend quality time with their children but it’s not too hard to find moments here and there, even while you are doing other things like shopping, gardening, housework or walking or driving to or from places.
But babies don’t understand what I say… do they?
Many mothers and fathers believe that because babies don’t talk using words they can’t understand what their parents are saying to them. Therefore, they don’t think it makes sense to read or to chatter away to them from an early age. The reality is that most human brain development takes place between birth and two years of age. Amazing, isn’t it? So all this time when you think you’re talking to yourself, your baby is soaking up your words, firing up parts of the brain that are responsible for communication.
Any person can feel daunted by the idea of talking to someone who doesn’t seem to understand a word they are saying so you’re not alone! But if you follow these simple steps, you can really help with your child’s development.
You can find out more here.
The best bedtime stories
For many children, bedtime stories are a highlight of the day and not necessarily because of the story. It’s a chance to unwind, relax and cuddle up to their mum or dad and share some quiet time together. Some say that that in itself is why the stories are so important. It gives you a lovely opportunity to put behind the rest of the day and just be close together for a while, away from noise, rushing around, television and other distractions. You can start reading bedtime stories when your baby is young; some mums and dads even speak to their unborn child and read them stories to get them used to their voices!
If you cringe at the thought of reading aloud you’re not alone.. Take a look at our tips for reading aloud. You may find, as your confidence grows, that you start having fun with all the different characters’ voices and no one will be able to stop you!
Lead by example
The best way to get children into reading is for them to see you sitting down with a newspaper, a magazine or a book – hard copy or electronic. Children naturally want to copy their parents, and boys especially are influenced by what their dads get up to. This doesn’t mean you have to have your nose stuck in a book all evening but even a few minutes here and there reading the headlines or browsing through a book can have an influence, no matter how small. And there is no need to feel that you have to stick to classic books – choose subjects that you and your child both enjoy. For example, if you love football and are reading the sports pages, share this with your child – boy or girl. Explain what the articles are about and read one aloud if you want to. Let them ask you questions about it and ask them their opinion too. This opens up a friendly and fun conversation and kids love it when parents respect them enough to listen to what they have to say. Check out this page for lots of great football ideas and activities to do with both boys and girls and read bestselling thriller writer James Patterson’s advice on encouraging reading.
It’s not just about books
Books aimed at children of certain ages can be useful because they have words that are suitable for the age group they are aimed at. But you don’t have to stick to books to share reading with your child. Magazines, newspapers, comics, websites – anything with words on it is reading material. Even a takeaway menu offers a good opportunity – you can check out the menu together, if your child can read, and see how the different dishes are described and say which you think would be the best… and worst!
If you’re a technology whizz, you can also download lots of fantastic reading and writing apps for little ones and word games for older children. You can play each other at Scrabble, for example, or share a picture book with fun pictures and other interactive features. You can also read online books for children aged two to six at new website Magic Town.
Television: friend or enemy?
In debates about child development, television often gets bashed for not being educational enough or stimulating. While it is true that TV doesn’t stimulate a child as much as other activities that they actively take part in (such as reading and writing), you can use the time when you’re sat down together watching a programme in a good way. For example, you can talk about what is happening on the screen. In films, you could ask what they think will happen next, or what they think of the main characters. With educational programmes, you could discuss what is being said and try to remember interesting facts. By making television watching more dynamic, you can help your child learn more from the experience.
Read our parents’ guide to television.
A fun way to encourage your children to read and write is by sitting down and getting creative with them. At Words for Life, you can find plenty of activity sheets with ideas of things to do, to colour in and to make for different age groups. While you do this, you’ll find conversation flows easily, either about what you are doing or about other stuff in their lives – you could be chatting about school, nursery… even what they ate for breakfast!
It’s good for you, too
While all these activities definitely benefit your children, you will also be getting something good out of it, too. Research has shown that dads who get involved with their children’s life:
For more information visit:
Working With Men has worked with fathers since 1988 and has always been at forefront of campaigning for fathers rights and for how important they are in a child’s life. All our work is underpinned by evidence based practices and children’s and father’s needs are always our top concern. We currently have five fathers’ projects, including three young fathers’ projects in Lewisham, Southwark and Greenwich and general father’s projects in Westminster and Islington. All our services provide support and advice for fathers, as well as offering activities and trips for fathers and their children.
Why Fathers Matter
Fathers matter to children’s development; father-child relationships – be they positive, negative or lacking – have profound and wide ranging impacts on children that can last a lifetime; particularly for children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Research shows that where fathers have positive early involvement in a child’s life there is a positive relationship to later educational achievement and there is an association with good parent child relationship in adolescence; It can be a challenge to involve fathers and other males in support services (both universal and targeted); fathers are not accustomed to using many of the services available; may be unaware of them or think they are not for them; and may lack confidence in coming forward – this is especially true of groups of fathers who are vulnerable and excluded such as young, minority ethnic and non-resident fathers.
Barriers to fathers’ involvement can include:
There are also numerous studies showing that when men assume positive active roles in raising their children, they play a critical part in enhancing and facilitating child growth and development (see Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004 for a review). Recent research has suggested that both the quantity and quality of father-child interactions during the early childhood years can lead to more positive social developments (Frosch, Cox and Goldman, 2001), fewer behavioural problems (Jaffee, Moffitt, Caspi & Taylor, 2003), greater emotional self regulation (Roggman, Boyce, Cook, Christiansen & Jones, 2004), increased language development (Magill-Evans & Harrison, 2001) and greater cognitive functioning (Gauvain, Fagot, Lee & Kavanagh, 2002) for young children.