Support group aims to help dads spend time outdoors with their kids

Conan Evans attends Nature Nurture Community Forest School
Conan Evans attends Nature Nurture Community Forest School

Many more men these days plan to be fathers and want to be the best dads they can be to their children.

However, they often feel that local support groups, information and advice services, drop-ins and play sessions are focused towards mums-to-be and new mums and therefore can feel that their needs as a new dad, perhaps also struggling to cope with the massive changes parenthood brings, are somewhat overlooked.

Our Knighton Fund recently made a grant of £4,775 to the Nature Nurture Community Forest School in Mid Sussex to support its new Dangerous Dads project. The sessions are specifically for dads, male carers, stepdads, uncles, grandfathers, providing opportunities to play, eat and have fun together, outside with their children, in a supportive environment.

The funding enabled Nature Nuture to pay for forest school leadership training for Kevin Fuller.

“The training has enabled me to consider a big change in my career,” said Kevin. “I had worked for the same company for over 30 years but have now taken the huge step of leaving and working in forest schools, principally running the Dangerous Dads sessions which I have been doing since last summer.”

Fathers and their children enjoy activities such as fire lighting, tool use and the mud kitchen. However, it is also the simplicity of walking, exploring and being outside that they love. A large percentage of dads who attend the sessions are now spending more time in nature with their children, outside of the sessions. Kevin said: “The sessions have reminded fathers of the enjoyment they used to get from being in the woods. They also reported an increased confidence using fire and tools and many feel they have better communication with their children or simply had ‘more to talk about’.”

There is much discussion these days about whether or not ‘helicopter’ parents are mollycoddling children who will turn into risk-averse adults. “I consider myself a confident dad anyway and it has been interesting to see how other dads react to risk,” Kevin said. “I have always allowed my son to have a go at anything but obviously with me assessing danger and managing risk.”

He has seen initial wariness from dads in relation to some of the activities at the Dangerous Dads sessions. Fire lighting is an example. He said: “I have seen dads go from outright refusal to let their kids take part to, gradually over time, allowing them to take part and, in some cases, the kids turning up with their own fire steels.”

The Dangerous Dads Network is a social enterprise that supports dads’ groups around the country. In addition to regular activities, it employs experienced staff who can offer a range of specialist consultancy for organisations who want to create more ‘father-friendly’ services and reach a broader cross-section of the local community. Visit www.dangerousdads.org.uk/groups