29th November 2018 All Posts

Any man can be a father

Any man can be a father.

But let’s celebrate the importance of dads! 

Any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a Daddy.” 

Anne Geddes

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. 


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.

Take a look at the book by June O’Sullivan and Alice Sharp: 

50 ideas for enagaging dads - june osullivan alice sharpe
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About the Author

June O'Sullivan MBE is Chief Executive of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF), a social enterprise which currently runs 37 nurseries across eleven London boroughs. An inspiring speaker, author and regular media commentator on Early Years, Social Business and Child Poverty, June has been instrumental in achieving a major strategic, pedagogical and cultural shift for the award winning London Early Years Foundation, resulting in increased profile, new childcare model and stronger social impact over the past ten years. As CEO and creator of the UK's leading childcare charity and social enterprise since 2006, June continues to break new ground in the development of LEYF's scalable social business model. She remains a tireless campaigner, looking for new ways to influence policy and make society a better place for all children and families.