The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has advised fathers to play and engage their children in deepening early learning process.
The fund gave the advice in its new analysis report which revealed that many fathers did not play or engage in early learning activities with their children.
The revelation by UNICEF New York, Communications Specialist, Ms Georgina Thompson, is contained in a statement to commemorate Father’s Day on June 18 in about 80 countries.
Thompson stated that the analysis showed that 55 percent, approximately 40 million, of children aged between three and four years in 74 countries were affected.
The statement, quoting UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy, Ms Laurence Chandy, said that the numbers showed fathers were struggling to play an active role in their children’s early years.
“We must break down the barriers that prevent fathers from providing their babies and young children a conducive environment for them to thrive, including love, play, protection and nutritious food.
“We must ensure that all parents have the time, resources and knowledge they need to fully support their children’s early development,’’ Chandy stated.
She said the analysis used Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) data on parenting behaviours. According to her, MICS is the largest collection of comparable data on parental behaviours in the world. She said that the analysis looked at whether children aged three and four engaged in any play and early learning activities with their fathers.
“The activities include having their father read to the children, tell them stories or sing with them; taking them out, playing with them; and naming, counting or drawing with them,’’ she said.
Chandy said that UNICEF urged governments and the private sector to increase spending and influenced policies to support early childhood development programmes. She stated that such programmes should focus on providing parents with the resources and information they needed to provide nurturing care to their children.
“Advances in neuroscience have proven that when children spend their earliest years in a nurturing, stimulating environment, new neural connections can form at a once-in-a-lifetime speed of 1,000 per second.
“These connections help determine their health, ability to learn and deal with stress and even influence their earning capacity as adults.
“Research also suggests that exposure to violence and a lack of stimulation and care can prevent neural connections from occurring.
“Also, when children positively interact with their fathers, they have better psychological health, self-esteem and life satisfaction in the long-term,’’ she advised.