Involving Dads in Childcare – Top 13 Ideas From Dads

Dads being involved in the lives of their children is one of the hot topics in parenting. Society has changed and as child care centres we can welcome greater involvement of Dads in the family role and in the day to day routines of children at our centre.

However, in our desire to be all inclusive, and embracing of Dads in child care, we often bypass or forget the fathers’ perspective. In general, Dads are more involved in the life of their children than previous generations. They enjoy being part of their child’s daily routine, and sometimes this is not just an enjoyment, but a necessity with many Mums in part or full time work. Child care services see more Dads dropping off and collecting their children. However, does this mean that Dads want to be more involved in our child care services?

The options of working from home and more flexible employment may support Dads being more involved in child care services. However, we need to be sensitive to Dads who are stretched for time already with work schedules and outside demands, and we need to look for ways of embracing a greater role of fathers in children’s lives while respecting their time and other commitments.

How can we help Dads be more informed about their child’s day without giving them a 15 minute blow by blow description of the child’s day when they collect them? How can we support them to feel welcome and valued without asking them to spend their family day manning the preschool fete?

The Top 13 Ideas From Dads on Their Role In Child Care
We asked Dads to give their feedback on how they would like to feel welcomed, valued and an integral part of their child’s life in the child care centre. This is what we found:

1. Fathers want to be acknowledged by name. This was the most appealing strategy to Dads, and reflects the normal professional behaviours in any workplace.

2. Email Photos to Dads. Most workplaces have computers, and this helps Dads to have a window into their child’s day and can be looked at in lunch breaks or a quiet moment in the day. (You will need to ensure you follow standard centre policies and procedures in terms of privacy)

3. Make Tasks Clear. Ensure Dads are aware of and confident with their role in tasks such as arrival and departure. Collecting bags and belongings, signing sheets, farewelling playmates etc can be daunting to anyone who doesn’t collect the child on a regular basis. Balance this with not patronizing Dads undertaking this task for the first time…support what Dads know through common sense while explaining the procedures unique to the centre.

4. Informal Conversations. Child care is a female dominated workplace. I have watched female work colleagues interact with Dads anywhere from “flirting” to being shy with them. Be professional in developing informal friendly conversations which briefly describe the child’s day and then allow Dads to either ask further questions or move on with the rest of their commitments.

5. Acknowledge Fathers Efforts in Newsletters. Acknowledge ways in which Dads contribute to the centre. As well, we can acknowledge external achievements such as the local fireman who fought hard in recent community bushfires or the Dad who ran the community triathlon and won.

6. Communication of Newsletters. Where appropriate, and where parents are separated or Dads are travelling for long periods with work, send copies (post or email) of newsletters to Dads.

7. Ask Specifially For Fathers’ Feedback. Surveys can include a section for feedback from both mothers and fathers so Dads feel welcome to give opinions.

8. Hold Specific Events For Dads. Here is where centres need to be really creative to ensure Dads feel welcome in the centre but their time is valued. Saturday Dad’s Barbeques can impinge on family time or other commitments such as coaching the local soccer team. Think of events which are easy to attend and can provide additional benefit to the Dad such a coffee night meeting the local footy hero, or a weekday breakfast barbeque and business networking time.

9. Put Male Oriented Literature in the Foyer / Entry. Are there ways that literature and resources can appeal more directly to Dads?

10. Posters and Pictures on the Wall. It’s interesting that this falls as number 10 on the list, and yet it’s often the first and / or only thing we do as child care services to make Dads feel welcome. It’s important that Dads see themselves reflected in the centre, but make this an enhancement or addition to the other strategies suggested in this list.

11. Ask More Questions on Enrolment Forms about Specific Members of the Family. This allows us to gain a greater picture of the whole family and their role in raising the child.

12. Employ More Male Staff. As hard as it is for the industry to attract male workers, this holds a key place, not only to making Dads feel connected with the centre, but also in providing additional father figures in the lives of the children.

13. Communicate Equally with Dads. We must never assume that certain information is for the mother only. This even includes delicate situations such as babies with nappy rash or toddlers showing their bottoms. While at times we may feel more comfortable discussing this with Mums, we need to maintain professionalism in communicating information equally.

Cassandra Eccleston is a dedicated and experienced childcare professional and writes for Onsite Early Childhood Training who produce cutting edge Child Care Staff Training by DVD. You can visit our website for more free resources, downloads, forums and information on dads in child care and the latest childcare staff training available.