Saturdads father and toddler group

21 June 2006

Spending quality time with the kids is something one parent and toddler group in Batley, West Yorkshire offers exclusively to dads.

Saturdads was set up three months ago by Batley SureStart and it already has a regular attendance from keen dads wanting to spend more time with their children away from home, just like mums at ‘mothers and toddlers’ groups.

Dads like 34-year-old Lee Wade and his brother Andrew, 33, insist they have as much of a part to play as their partners.

"It’s not often you see these dads and toddler groups. Most are for women," said Andrew, who brings five-month-old Scott to the group.

Not just single dads

Lee, a warehouse manager, said: "One guy asked me if it’s all single dads who go. But it’s a mix of everyone. It’s not aimed at just one-parent dads who have got access at the weekends.

"When me and Andrew come here our wives can get on with what they want. My wife’s with Emma all week. This gives us time to interact with the kids on our own."

Lee said his daughter, 15-month-old Emma, now finds it easier to mix with others.

"Me and Emma get a lot out of it. Everyone is really friendly here. There are still some out there who think it’s a woman’s job. But it’s good dads have got somewhere to go with like-minded people that understand dads have got a part to play in their child’s early development."

Pre-school role

SureStart’s Nick Hart set up the weekly group after seeing a need in the community: "I’m a dad myself and I’ve seen that these groups are not readily available. Dads are often left out of the provision for family activities at the pre-school age but have a vital part to play in offering family support and emotional security to their children."

He said the group offers a fun, friendly place to be, with plenty of toys, activities and games, as well as advice and support for dads.

Batley Bulldogs recently visited the group, and there will also be a fun sports day at their grounds in July in association with Saturdads. There will also be Leeds United football coaching, swimming trips, and talks by community groups.

Barry Owen, 37, has been attending the group with 23-month-old Hannah since it started. The dental technician said he is at work during the week and misses out on the time partner Sharon gets to spend with their daughter.

"I go to work and it can be depressing when you find out what’s been happening at home, and now I get the chance to spend time with her. This is ideal for me."

Bonding time

Altaf Daji, 40, development officer for Kirklees Racial Equality Council, also gets to spend important bonding time with his children: seven-year-old Salman and five-year-old Sadia.

"I’m at work all the time so it’s good getting quality time with the kids. A lot of parents get old and think they should have spent more time with their children before.

"With a lot of Asian fathers, they worked at the textiles factories at night, like my father, and then in the morning they’d be sleeping, so children hardly used to see their fathers.

For more information contact Jan Wallis, Batley Sure Start, Batley Resource Centre, 90 Commercial Street, Batley WF17 5DS, tel: 01924 326392 or email Jan Wallis.