This October, Koru Kids are launching a campaign to highlight the inequality of paternity leave. Currently, in the UK it’s set to 1–2 weeks paid at £156.66 per week or 90% salary, whichever is lower. But dads said this is not enough: to mentally adjust, to support their partner in post-birth recovery, to bond with the baby, and to support the wider family (like older children).
The inequality for dads in childcare doesn’t just stop after paternity leave. Phrases like ‘Mummy and Toddler Groups’ or ‘Mum’s approved’ advertising slogans are commonplace, so it’s little wonder that dads can feel excluded from their child’s early years journey.
To us, it’s more important than ever to buck the gender stereotypes. It’s not easy—but for children’s bonding, as well as making dads feel valued, it’s crucial. As a childcare provider, we can have a huge impact on this.
Here are some practical tips to help include dads in their little one’s childcare journey.
Make dads feel welcome
Invite dads into your home nursery for tours, settling sessions, celebrations and special days (graduation parties, Father’s day, birthday celebrations etc). Not only will this help Dad get to know the environment where their little one spends a lot of time, but it can also help children settle into the new environment quicker.
Talk to them
Try to engage them in conversations right from the start. A home nursery can be an intimidating environment for some dads. Try to shake those feelings by getting to know the dads too. It’s easier to break the ice on day 1, than day 50, so start early and get to know them.
- “How has your day been?”
- “Any nice plans for the weekend with your little one?”
- “How did your little one sleep last night?”
Include dads in communications
Don’t forget to keep them updated too, verbally at drop off/pick up, but also in any written communication. When you are sending emails to Mum, include Dad’s email address. Make sure they are in the WhatsApp groups so they can hear all about their little one’s day. Tag them in things that their child has said about them; ‘Daddy likes planes’ or ‘Daddy plays with me’ etc. Actively encourage them to read, and fill in, any written communication that you may have, such as daily diaries.
The good, the bad, and the difficult
Making sure that dads are included in all conversations about their child not only makes them feel valued, but can also allow them a better understanding of their child’s development. Did their child have a ‘wow’ moment today? Tell them. Did their little one settle for their nap without any fuss for the first time? Tell them. It’s also crucial to involve them in difficult conversations. Do you have concerns about their little one’s development? Talk to them about it. It’s never easy to have that conversation, but the more open and honest you are, the better.
Use their skills and knowledge
Dads often have a little nugget of information, or technique that may help you understand the little one better. Do they have a tried and tested technique for getting the little one to stop crying? Do they know the best tickle spot? What is the best aeroplane noise when you are trying to get the little one to open their mouth for food? Ask the dad, and take the time to listen and appreciate their input!
Take inspiration from their interests
Can you involve Dad in childcare by doing activities inspired by their interests? Maybe Dad is a chef; you could cook together ‘like Daddy does’. Or maybe he works in an office; why not set up a pretend office and see how the children pretend to be Daddy? Make sure you send the photos to Daddy.
Don’t forget the importance of Father’s Day
Why not invite them into the home nursery for a special day where you celebrate with them. Maybe you could do coffee and homemade cookies, or activities such as story time with Daddy (think about specific Daddy books), or invite them to join you all on an adventure such as trips to the zoo, park, or farm etc.
Of course, it is worth noting that not every child will have a dad in their lives, so why not include granddads, step-dads, uncles, brothers, cousins etc. This advice (if appropriate) can be applied to any significant male role-model in the little one’s lives.
For more ideas about how to include dads in childcare, check out this article.