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The Critical Role of Men in the Lives of Young Children

"A dad is someone who wants to catch you before you fall, but instead picks you up and brushes you off, and lets you try again." - Unknown

Men play a very very important role in the development of young children. There has been growing awareness, particularly over the past ten years, of the role that fathers can play to support their children's development. Fathers play a significant part in fostering the cognitive, social-emotional, language and motor development in the lives of their children, even before their children are born.

Across the country, early childhood programs have begun to reach out to parents specifically to promote father involvement and leadership in the early education process. Head Start programs, for example, are now a national leader in linking father involvement to early childhood development and education. Even for children growing up in single-parent homes headed by single mothers, "parent involvement" can also include other supportive male role models in children's lives.

Fathers and other important men in children's lives tend to play more one-on-one rough and tumble games, which encourage large motor development and children's sense of their capabilities. Fathers tend to promote children's independence and ask more clarifying questions that build communication. Fathers and other positive male figures tend to inspire children to explore their world and to play with toys in new ways, fostering curiosity and creativity. These nurturing men are critical in raising children to grow up strong, healthy, well-adjusted and able to enter kindergarten ready to thrive.

Men's involvement in early childhood goes beyond the home. Early educators can make an impact by hiring male staff, encouraging men to consider careers in child development and education, and recruiting male volunteers in preschool classrooms so that children see men in a variety of roles.

Here at Connections For Children, we applaud all the dads and other father figures who are making a difference in their children's lives by involving themselves in their child's development and education. Check out our June issue of Connecting with Connections, which focuses on Men in Child Care.