Young children's interest in learning at school can be boosted if their father takes part in a simple activity - and it's so easy, it can take just 10 minutes to make a difference.
Whether it's playing with one of the Top Christmas toys for 2023 or the best Black Friday toy deals, research suggests that fathers who read and play with their children help them do better at Primary school.
When looking for things to do with the kids, from reading and playing to telling stories, drawing, and singing - any one of these interactive methods of at-home learning can boost their potential in the classroom.
A report, published by Leeds University Business School, suggests it's dads who have the biggest chance of helping their children do well at school - contrary to popular belief that it is mums who take up the primary carer role.
The study analysed primary school test scores for both five and seven-year-olds, and they discovered that a sample of 5,000 mother-father households in England from the Millennium Cohort Study, which collected data on children born between 2000 and 2002 as they grew up, showed that dads who regularly drew, played and read with their three-year-olds helped them do better at school by the age of five.
Dads being involved from a young age also helped children achieve a higher Key Stage Assessment score.
Research leader Dr Helen Norman explained, "Mothers still tend to assume the primary carer role and therefore tend to do the most childcare, but if fathers actively engage in childcare too, it significantly increases the likelihood of children getting better grades in primary school. This is why encouraging and supporting fathers to share childcare with the mother, from an early stage in the child’s life, is critical.”
It looks like the dad's involvement plays a huge role regardless of the child's gender, ethnicity, school age, and household income, according to the report.
Mums have an important role to play too but the study brought different results when they took part in the same activities - with mothers having more of an impact on their child's emotional and social behaviours.
But even though it's recommended that fathers set aside as much time as possible to play with their kids, the interactions don't have to be lengthy – simply 10 minutes a day could be enough to have educational benefits.
Just one of the ways schools are being urged to encourage dads to become more involved is by taking both parents' contact details and developing ways to engage fathers as much as possible - so much so that Ofsted - which inspects learning in schools - actually takes account of levels of father engagement in its inspections.
Study co-author Dr Jeremy Davies, Head of Impact and Communications at the Fatherhood Institute added, "Our analysis has shown that fathers have an important, direct impact on their children’s learning. We should be recognising this and actively finding ways to support dads to play their part, rather than engaging only with mothers, or taking a gender-neutral approach.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Gwynne MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood, added, "This study shows that even small changes in what fathers do, and in how schools and early years settings engage with parents, can have a lasting impact on children's learning. It's absolutely crucial that fathers aren't treated as an afterthought.”