I’m a proud dad of two boys, Cillian and Ethan aged five and eight. Finding ways to build really strong bonds and great relationships with them as they grow has been so important to me. I’ve been able to use educational support and learning to be cornerstones to create and strengthen these bonds.
Being a parent is not easy, as everyone who’s ever been a parent has said. Still, despite everything busy parents have going on, there are opportunities to bond with our children every day by engaging in their education and learning. I want to share a few areas and practices that have been successful for me.
Discovering their interests
In Early Years education, everything is focused on learning through play. Children in nurseries and reception classes are encouraged to follow their interests and develop their skills through playing. Practitioners know this approach naturally leads to the development of key skills; cognitive, social and emotional, speech and language, fine and gross motor.
As a dad who wanted to be present, and was fortunate enough to run my own company, I changed my working patterns to four days a week. This meant I could have a weekday with both of my children in their early years, and they could spend more time with a parent than being in nursery school. This allowed me to nurture their creativity at home and build on the interests shown in their nursery. Their Learning Journey observations showed a love of nature and animals.
I could support this on my day off through day trips to the Natural History Museum. Or at-home creative play like building dens and watching Savanna animals roam through finger-binoculars. As well as watching TV programs like Octonauts and using apps like Earthcubs or being dinosaurs in the park. This time together, having fun and creating memories led by them allowed me to develop strong relationships and bonds with them both as their dad.
Educational support through a love of reading
Any educator will tell you that for young children, the most significant impact you can have on their learning and language skills is to read to them (and with them as they grow).
I was diagnosed with dyslexia in my 20s and avoided reading books unless I was forced to read them. When my eldest was born, I knew this had to change as I understood its importance in their development. What I didn’t expect was what that time together would mean to me. So I began looking through books and reading bedtime stories to them. We would sit cuddled up together and with no distractions – no phones, no screens, no work. As the boys grew, they would laugh at the funny voices, repeat lines from the stories. What parent can’t name the stages of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt? They loved this time together when I was totally present and engaged with them.
As they grew, one of our favourite rainy-day trips would always be to the local library. They’d pick out a selection of books to read, some there and some for bringing home. Again it gave them the freedom to explore their interests with me. There were the stories chosen for fun, the fact books on bugs or dinosaurs that helped them learn.
As an eight-year-old, Cillian is now an avid reader. He loves learning and reads a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction. At 5, Ethan is quickly developing his phonics and reading skills. No matter what kind of day I’ve had or how distracted I might be, every day ends with bedtime stories. It’s as much for me as for them! They continue to develop their language, but I get that quiet, joyful time with them.
Bonding and learning through everyday moments
For primary aged children, education is as much about physical and emotional development as it is about reading, writing and maths. Opportunities to develop their fine and gross motor skills alongside social and emotional skills is another way to spend time, learn and bond together.
As many Dads will recognise, certain routines and daily tasks can be a source frustration for you and your child. One of ours was getting dressed in the morning. Doing this when we’re all trying to get organised and out the door was a daily challenge. I wanted to change this situation and turn it into an opportunity to play together and positively impact their development. With a few minor adjustments and a common focus, we were able to turn getting dressed around. I was able to create an activity to make this fun, and take away the stress.
And so, Jake the Snake was born. Ethan and I created this activity together. Each of his limbs became animals he chose, and he’s get dressed using their movements. For example, slithering snake arms into a jumper! This simple approach meant our mornings were now filled with laughter. All while developing his gross and fine motor skills. The hack was so successful that the activity ended up making its way on the EasyPeasy app.
The role of technology in educational support
So much is made in the press about the perils of screen time. I understand why. But screen time can be positive for children too. There are so many educational games, or activities available online or television. I don’t think screen time shouldn’t be ruled out altogether. Although, I do agree it shouldn’t be unlimited. Balance is best!
I work in the tech industry, and enjoy it a lot! So I’d be mad not to introduce my boys to something I enjoy too. It is great that we can find common interests in the tech world. And that they can understand a bit of what daddy does at work all day. So I put a bit of time into finding the best educational support apps, and websites to share these with my children.
I’ve learned about technology that supports skills like coding and game creation (Cubetto and Hackaball), risks, construction and engineering and music-making (Odd). All of these are brilliant ways of spending time with your children and having fun exploring their creativity. Its another opportunity to provide educational support. While
Parental engagement at school
One of the ways in which I have been able to have an impact on their formal education has been in becoming a parent governor. Attending meetings with the governors allowed me to understand the inner workings of the school. I also learned the value they place on parental support and engagement with the school, the teachers and the children.
Teachers do a fantastic job of educating children in that environment, but without parents who reinforce that learning at home, children won’t develop to their full potential. I make sure I provide educational support at home through reading together and helping with homework. Then the Home learning through lockdown extended this beyond anything we were prepared for! But I knew how they liked to learn. So I started from there!
Most importantly, my children know I will always support them in anyway I can. Whether that is from being there to see them in the nativity. Or celebrating their spelling test results. Or helping with challenging maths questions. They know I am there to provide educational support – and this will help them as they continue to learn and grow.
Being an EasyPeasy dad
My journey as a dad has been supported and challenged by my current job. I’ve been working with EasyPeasy as a Senior Product Designer for two and a half years. The role has allowed me to reflect on how I’m doing as a dad and how this differs from the dad I aim to be. We work with and learn from the organisations we collaborate with that work and support families with 0-5 years olds. These people have allowed me to get perspective and refocus on what it means to be a dad to Cillian and Ethan. And highlighted how education can be the perfect way for me to create a strong bond with them.
EasyPeasy is an evidence-based app of parenting tips and activities ideas. All personalised for you and your 0-5-year-old, with content from our playful community of parents and experts. One of the things that first attracted me to EasyPeasy was the mantra of ‘Learning through play’. As I mentioned previously, this resonated with me and matched the ideas of the parent I was trying to be. But more importantly, how I wanted my children to see and experience their early years of life.
At EasyPeasy, we want to make learning through play accessible to all. We do this by having a community creating activity ideas and tips that don’t require a parent or carer to have anything special. Our activities are based on things you’ll find around your home, daily moments and should fit into your everyday routine. The content is easy to digest, playful and helps improve your child’s development areas, all without feeling like learning.
I’m really excited to be able to announce our brand new ‘dad’ tag on the app. Where you can head to find loads of activity ideas and tips specially curated for dads and children aged 0-5.
More On The Subject of Educational Support!
If you’d like to learn more educational support for our kids, Martin joined us on Dad Chats Live, our weekly parenting chat hosted on our Instagram Account. Martin shared more information about his experiences, and how he uses the Easy Peasy App to provide educational support. Head over there now!
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