This Father’s Day, a group of dads in Salford are encouraging others to talk to and communicate with their child from before they’re even born, through the launch of a new animation.
The Speaking Dadly project, delivered by social enterprise Unlimited Potential, explored how dads can best be supported and encouraged to help their child develop their speech, language and communication skills from an early age.
Engaging with a range of dads across Salford, the project found that early years support is often focussed around the needs of the mother, which is impacting on dads participating with early years services and activities currently on offer.
Greater Manchester is now working with dads to shape early years services that recognise the positive role of the father in a child’s development. This includes creating more personalised support, more male-friendly groups, investment in health, wellbeing, and skills, and training for staff working across services for children and families.
As part of this, a short animation has been produced to help address some of the issues and encourage dads to talk to and communicate with their child from birth.
The film identifies a range of ideas to incorporate language and communication into everyday activities which we know is one of the best ways of supporting the communication development of young children.
Voiced by local children, the animation encourages dads to tell stories to their children, chat to them when walking the dog or going to the park, and sing, talk and pull funny faces at their babies.
Chris Dabbs, Chief Executive at Unlimited Potential said: “The majority of fathers recognise that speech, language and communication is crucial to their child’s general well-being and future opportunities and helps build confidence and independence.
“Through the launch of the Speaking Dadly animation, and the wider work we’re doing, we want to support all dads to take simple steps to help develop their child’s speech, language and communication from an early age.
“I want to thank all the dads, and the children who have voiced the film, for being involved in this important piece of work which will benefit families across Greater Manchester.”
This work is part of Greater Manchester’s ambition to ensure every child starts school ready to learn.
Greater Manchester’s Lead for Children and Young People, Councillor Eamonn O’Brien said: “Greater Manchester has led the way in tackling the issue of school readiness to ensure that no child is left behind.
“If the first three years of a child’s life aren’t filled with talking and language, they will struggle to thrive in later life. That’s why speech, language and communication is a particular focus of the school readiness work.
“We know dads have an important role to play in supporting their child’s development, but they are often overlooked. Through the Speaking Dadly animation and wider work to support dads, we are giving them the tools and confidence to talk and communicate with their children from before they are born.”
Data from before the Covid pandemic showed that Greater Manchester had started to close the school readiness gap between children from our most disadvantaged communities and the rest of the country as a result of our investment in early years. However, Covid-19 has had a significant and detrimental impact on children’s learning and development and we are starting to see the impact of this.
Our work to ensure no child is left behind is part of our ambition for Greater Manchester to be a place where everyone can live a good life, growing up, getting on and growing old in a greener, fairer more prosperous city region.
The Speaking Dadly work is complemented by the BBC’s Tiny Happy People campaign, developed in partnership with the GMCA, to help close the pre-school language and communication gap. Tiny Happy People is a suite of free digital resources aimed at parents and professionals working with pre-schoolers, and comprises tips and advice, activities and short films about the science and facts behind language development.
Greater Manchester has also developed Ten Tips for Talking, a set of evidence-based key messages for families, early years practitioners and the wider community which promotes interaction between young children and their families, from birth to age five, to support early years development.
GMCA is also working with Dad Matters, a project delivered by Home-Start HOST, which offers workshops, targeted groups and one to one support across Greater Manchester to help dads with attachment and bonding, mental health, and how to access services from birth onwards.
You can view the animation on the GMCA website.