Children want ordinary activities with dad

14 June 2004

Britain’s children want not expensive holidays, computers or bikes from their dads, but shared time playing football, chatting at bedtime, being helped with homework, "messing about", being cooked for, attending the mosque, going shopping.

Britain’s children want not expensive holidays, computers or bikes from their dads, but shared time playing football, chatting at bedtime, being helped with homework, "messing about", being cooked for, attending the mosque, going shopping.

That’s the verdict of more than 2,000 primary-aged children who have offered their views on what they like from a "Day with Dad". The winners of the competition for Fathers Day (June 20) will be presented with awards – free family tickets to Legoland – today by Margaret Hodge, Minister for Children, at the London Eye.

The winning messages from children are displayed on by Fathers Direct, the national information centre on fatherhood, which, along with the Department for Education and Skills, ran the competition in May 2004 in Britain’s primary schools.

The survey backs up recent research at Lancaster University showing that more than half of British children want more time with their dads doing ordinary activities. "They want to do mundane things with dad, playing, hanging out, what other researchers have called ‘doing stuff’," according to Charlie Lewis, Professor of Developmental Psychology, who co-authored the Lancaster University research.

(Family Understandings, Langford W, Lewis C, Solomon Y, Warin J, Joseph Rowntree Foundation)

Duncan Fisher, Director of Fathers Direct, said:

"A lot of us worry that being a good dad means paying for the latest new computer game or toy. It puts pressure on us to work harder when in fact our children most want us involved in activities that cost nothing more than time."

Today’s survey’s findings are backed up by research that shows:

the more regularly fathers engage in such routine activities with their children, the higher their children rate them as "good dads"1

children who don’t live with their fathers gain greatest benefit from contact when they "do family things" together [ii] – often described as "normal but nice"3

children greatly value both indoor and outdoor "play" with their fathers – and enjoy it when their dads turn every-day caretaking activities into play4

children need to feel close to dad: those who don’t include their fathers in drawings of "my family" often exhibit behavioural/emotional problems5

Examples of ‘A Day with Dad’ winning entries:

I love my daddy very much
He’s a funny, happy guy
He paints and mends and even cooks
And makes a super chicken pie

And sometimes when I get upset
He gives me a lovely cuddle
He’s clever and he helps me out
With my homework when I get in a muddle

Rosie, aged 7, Basingstoke

Jammin in Jamaica under a tree
At the market my dad and me
Messing around all the time
At home at half-past nine.
In the kitchen my dad and me.
Cooking for everybody.

Alex, 10, Balham, south London

A little girl needs daddy
For many things:-
Like holding her high off the ground
Where the sunlight sings!
Like being the deep music
That tell her all is right
When she awakens frantic with
The terrors of night.

Ayan, aged 10, Wembley, north London

Thank you for taking me to the mosque and
Buying me a masala
And a nice Koran.
I wish you’d take me again
To the mosque.

Zara, 10, High Wycombe

Mum, you may think he is clever and funny but he is amazing. When you were away, he looked after me with all his heart and helped me when I was stuck with some work. He prepared the food (it was delicious) and he washed my clothes. I thought it was going to be very relaxing and it was! We went on interesting walks to places I hadn’t been before. One night we went to the cinema too! He is the best dad in the world. You made the right choice for a husband and I hope you have learnt something about him.

Sophie, 10, Durham

He’s just like a dad to me,
He cooks, he cleans, he helps me,
He puts me to bed too,
He’s just like a dad to me.

Jazmin, 11, Stamford, Lincs

Notes to Editors:

Fathers Direct is the national information centre on fatherhood. A charity, established in 1999, Fathers Direct aims to create a society that gives all children a strong and positive relationship with their fathers and other male carers and prepares boys and girls for a future shared role in caring for children.

"A Day with Dad" was supported by the Department for Education and Skills. More than 2,000 children took part in May 2004. Details and winners

Fathers Direct, Herald House, Lambs Passage, Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TQ 020 7 920 9491 Registered charity no 1075104.


1 Galinsky E (1999) Ask the Children: What America’s Children Really Think About Working Parents. NY: William Morrow and Co 

2 Dunn J (2004) ‘Children’s relationships with their nonresident fathers’, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(4)p.659 (Professor Dunn is at the Institute of Psychiatry, in London) 

3 Smith M (2004) ‘Relationships of children in stepfamilies with their non-resident fathers’, Family Matters, no 67 pp.28-35 (Dr Smith is as the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, London) 

4 Russell G, Barclay L, Edgecombe G, Donovan J, Habib G, Callaghan H, Pawson Q (1999) Fitting Fathers into Families. Canberra, Australia: Commonwealth Dept. of Family & Community Services

5 Dunn J, O’Connor TG & Levy I (2002) ‘Out of the picture: A study of family drawings by children from step, single-parent, and non-step families’. Journal of Clinical Child Adolescent Psychology, 31: 505-512