Dads and daughters – Sharing a passion for football

Like many other dads of daughters, I don’t see the fact that my child is a girl as a reason not to share my hobbies, interests, and passions with her. When I was a child, I had zero interests in common with my parents and that has carried on to adulthood. For me, it’s wonderful to (so far) be able to bond with my daughter over shared interests.

But it’s not only selfish reasons why I do this. I see genuine value in the things I am encouraging her to engage in, that will help in her growth and development. Increasingly, Football is one of these areas where dads and daughters are bonding over.

SSE, sponsors of the Women’s FA Cup, shared with me the story of 12-year-old Daisy McGregor and her father Kenny. He is a passionate football fan, and has been taking her to see his beloved Peterborough United since she was 5. She loved it.

At age 6, Daisy was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, a condition which causes her to to have various involuntary spasms such as coughing and twitching. It’s been a very stressful thing for her to live with – but Daisy found something that helped her cope with it: playing football.

Starting with simple kickabouts with her dad, he then encouraged her to join the local all-girls side Yaxley Football Club. The positive effect on her symptoms has been huge.

Check out more on their story in this video, the latest in the SSE Dads and Daughters series:

So what started out as simply a dad sharing his passion for football with his daughter, has developed into a life changing activity for her. Us dads shouldn’t feel uneasy about engaging our daughters in this way. Just because it’s something we as men love, which hasn’t been considered a ‘girly’ activity or interest in the past, doesn’t mean it can’t be something that girls won’t engage with fully too.

It’s great that Daisy was able to find a girl’s club near her. The girls’s game is getting a tremendous boost from The FA SSE Girls Participation Programme, with more than 60 clubs taking part around the UK, giving a much needed boost to the number of girls only football settings.

I’ll support any campaign with the goal to increase girls participation in sport, boost their confidence, break down gender stereotypes, and celebrate the positive outcomes when dads bond with their daughters.

For more on Daisy and Kenny McGregor, and the SSE’s Dads and Daughters campaign, head to their website.

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with SSE, one of the UK’s leading energy companies, supplying energy to around 8.21 million customers throughout the UK and Ireland.

 

Encouraging Physical Play in Girls (and Boys)

I use the term ‘stay-at-home dad’ a lot in reference to myself and my fellow fathers who are the ones looking after the kids while their partners are gainfully employed. It’s a counterpoint to ‘working mother‘ I suppose. When have you ever heard the term ‘working dad’?

Anyway, one of the ironies of the name is that us at-home dads rarely stay at home at all. Even a couch potato like me (my marathon running wife is the physically active adult of the house) is keen on attending playgroups, playdates, outings – and simple trips to the local parks.

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Afternoon outing 😊

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My daughter adores going to our nearby playgrounds – whether large or small. Each piece of apparatus presents to her a challenge to overcome, an activity to be enjoyed again & again, or something to practice on to improve her skills.

So despite my couch potato ways, I do like to ensure our daughter gets a lot of physical activity. This is also backed up by her nursery, where the kids are frequently playing outside, whether it be organised football, planned assault courses, or simple old fashioned free play.

Girl on nursey slide

I hope this continues when she heads off to school, but a report by Liverpool John Moores University paints a different picture.  It finds that “the average amount of physical activity taking place during PE lessons was remarkably low”, and that as much as “68% of a child’s PE lesson is spent stationary”.

Childhood obesity continues to be an issue that worries parents. While it is only part of the solution, encouraging physical play is vitally important in combating this problem.

Girl leaping in playground

ESP Play, a provider of outdoor playground equipment in the UK, commissioned the research. They found that following their one of their installations, physical activity in all children increased.

One fact in particular jumped out at me: “Initially the playground had more impact on the activity levels of boys, but over time the girls increased their activity levels more.”

Continuing to encourage physical play in girls is incredibly important as they grow older. While toddler and preschool girls are regularly tearing around the playground, you see the proportion of girls lessen as they get older. There is a stereotype of boys being far more physically active than girls – who are seen as preferring less physical activities.

Fellow dad blogger John Adams recently wrote how he feels school uniforms could dissuade girls from physical activity. He suggested leggings would be a good addition to the uniform arsenal. I know my kid loves playing in hers…

Girl Playing on swing

To be fair, I have no need to doubt that my daughter’s new school will not provide adequate opportunities for physical activity – they are a forest school and have masses of outdoor space. They also let girls wear trousers as part of their uniform, and from what I see many choose to do so.

But it does keep me mindful of the need to stay aware of the amount of physical activity she gets. I don’t want her to turn out to be a couch potato like me.

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Disclosure: The is a sponsored post in collaboration with ESP Play.

Why I think Inside Out is One of Pixar’s Best Movies

John Lasseter, one of the founding directors of Pixar animation and the man behind some of their biggest hits, has always stated how inspired he was by the legendary Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki, and the films of Studio Ghibli which he helped set up. Both men have been responsible for some of the greatest animated movies created.

But there was one aspect that marked Miyazaki’s work apart from others, which Pixar failed to replicate – the prevalence of female protagonists.  The majority of Studio Ghibli movies had leading female characters, whereas Pixar movies had hardly any.

While Brave was an early attempt at a female led movie, it was with Inside Out that Pixar finally fulfilled their debt of inspiration to Miyazaki.

It’s hard to pick which character is actually the lead one of the movie. It’s about Reilly, an ice hockey loving 11-year-old girl whose family has just relocated from Minnesota to San Francisco, and who is just trying to fit in.

But for the most part, the movie takes place inside Reilly’s head (Inside Out – geddit?), and this is where the most likely candidate for female lead exists.

The crux of this story is that our emotions have personalities, and their competing demands for their way helps shape our personalities. Reilly’s most dominant personality is Joy, and she is voiced by one of my idols, Amy Poehler.

Joy pretty much controls what happens in Reilly’s head, while the likes of Fear, Anger, and Disgust all have their part to play. But it is the role of Sadness that comes to be the most problematic for Joy. Their struggle becomes the struggle for Reilly’s persona, and it resolves itself in a way that has enlightened me. I think it’s a sure sign of a great children’s film when it can inspire kids and adults alike.

The animation is bright, the script is sharp, the voice cast & performances are top notch, and to my mind this is one of the best Pixar movies ever. It truly is glorious, and made all the more gratifying because they have finally lived up to the promise of their love of Miyazaki  – and Studio Ghibli in general – and given us a wonderful fantastical tale with a little girl at its heart. And its head.

Inside Out and other great family movies are available to watch on NOW TV

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Disclosure: I receive free access to NOW TV in exchange for blogging about the service. They also sent my daughter this Joy doll in exchange for this post. 

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Joy 💙💛

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Do Dads Encourage Their Daughters as Much as Their Sons?

I like to think I’m pretty good at encouraging my daughter to explore the world away from traditional gender stereotypes – but a recent survey about dads & daughters got me thinking. It seemed to indicate that fathers treated daughters significantly differently to sons – when it came to Football.

It found that dads are less likely to play football with their daughters, or even watch it with them compared to sons. Only 1% of fathers surveyed think their daughters would pick a career as a footballer, if given the choice. It also found that “fathers are far more likely to spend time playing computer games or tablets indoors with their daughters than go outside for a kick about”. Sounds familiar…

Dads and Daughters: Kelly and Bernard Smiths story

Women’s football is getting more and more attention, and the story of Kelly Smith and her father Bernard (pictured) is pretty inspirational. In the female game, Kelly is England’s all-time top goal scorer and six-time Women’s FA Cup winner (with Arsenal Ladies).

While her success is immensely impressive, the part of her story that touched me more than that was her relationship with her father.

Kelly cites her dad as the key influence that inspired her career, but they both also speak of the strength of their relationship that emerged during his encouragement that began in her youth.

Whether she had gone on to footballing success or something else, it seems clear that this bond would have been fundamentally important in whatever Kelly opted to achieve in her life.

While any English dad would surely cry like Bernard did at the sight of seeing his daughter in her England kit, singing the national anthem, on her international sporting debut, we would likely be just as teary over their success at anything we had supported them to work towards in their lives.

So, do dads encourage their daughters as much as sons?

There are no simple answers to this. I am not a fervent football supporter, so it is unsurprising that I haven’t been proactive in this respect. But it was the gender split that got me. I only have a daughter, so it’s a tricky one for me to answer myself – so when I see a poll like this, I wonder.

Football is such a big part of British life, that it is pretty inescapable. My daughter has watched a few internationals on TV with me – but it has been more about me watching it while I am looking after her as opposed to me introducing it to her.

And the issue is that while she is already learning football at nursery, she has only seen men playing it as adults – whether her sports teacher or on TV. She has yet to make reference to this, but I’m sure she will have noticed.

This isn’t about pushing her into a career in football. I simply don’t want her to dismiss football – or any other activity – as something that only males do.

I shouldn’t just rely on sharing my passions with her, but encourage her to explore areas outside my broad interests too. As this survey suggests, I AM more likely to do something indoors with her than go outside for a kick-about or similar.

So if I don’t want her to dismiss a career in STEM or other male dominated fields, I should probably introduce her to the Women’s Football game – so she understands that nothing is off limits to her because she’s a girl.

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This is a collaborative post with SSE Energy, who are sponsors of The Women’s FA Cup and the FA SSE Girls’ Football Participation Programme. They commissioned the OnePoll survey referenced in this piece.

Find out more about Kelly in the video below, and read more of her story here.

 

While Mum’s at Work, Dad’s Gone to Iceland to Get Dinner

There were two things I knew about UK supermarket Iceland:

  1. Much of its produce is frozen (‘Iceland’, geddit?)
  2. Only mums can shop there

Ok, no. 2 isn’t strictly true, but linking the brand with motherhood has historically been a strong theme of their advertising. The tagline ‘That’s why mums go to Iceland’ will be familiar to UK shoppers.

It’s an association that relies on traditional gender stereotypes, and can wind up mums and dads alike with the assumption that only mothers take care of the shopping – and by extension the household.

Is this brand focus shifting? Perhaps. I noticed that Iceland had been working with a lot of mum bloggers on their #PowerOfFrozen campaign, so I figured it was business as usual. However, Iceland recently got in touch and wanted me to give them a try too.

However, the hook for this was football, more specifically the Euro 2016 contest. Is it another gender stereotype that dads love football? Of course it is. But the fact is that I do like football, especially international tournaments.

While I’ll be cheering on England, it’s also very English to have a plucky underdog – sorry, another plucky underdog – to support as well. What does this have to do with anything? Well (as I’m sure you know) Iceland is also a country, and for the very first time they have qualified for the European Championship. With a population of just 300,000 they are the smallest nation ever to do so.

So in a nice bit of brand synergy, Iceland (the supermarket) is sponsoring Iceland (the national football team) in the tournament – and they are making the case for them to be your second team.

Iceland (the supermarket) challenged me to prepare a football feast that you might eat while watching a game – using only ingredients from their supermarket.

Challenge accepted. The also sent me through a few Iceland (the supermarket) and Iceland (the national football team) themed goodies, the most useful of which was the shopping bag (pictured).

So that’s why this dad’s gone to Iceland.

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My challenge had a few conditions, which included a couple of specific products, keeping it within a £30 budget, and making something that’s convenient to feed the masses while watching the footy.

While it would have been easy to create a ‘fake-away’ of Iceland ready meals, I thought I’d attempt to cook something. I only used one frozen ingredient and included a number of fresh ingredients available in the supermarket, including lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Anyway, this is what I came up with:

Chicken Fajitas Football Feast

While Mum's at Work, Dad's Gone to Iceland Chicken Fajita Football Feast #PowerofFrozen finished dish

Makes 12 wraps (we would serve 2-3 per person, or 1-2 per child).

Total prep and cooking time was about 30 mins.

Ingredients (from Iceland)

  • Iceland Breaded Chicken Breast Fillet Strips (650g)
  • Old El Paso Fajita kit (12 wraps, seasoning, salsa)
  • Red onion x 2, diced
  • Peppers x 3, sliced
  • Lettuce (small head x 2), shredded
  • Tomatoes x 3
  • Cheese (mild cheddar), grated
  • Red wine (Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon), large glass
  • Olive oil (1 tbsp)
  • Chillies (to taste), chopped

Method

  1. Cook chicken in oven as per packet instructions (typically 180c for 20-25 mins)
  2. In the meantime, in a large pan heat oil on a medium flame. Fry onion for a few minutes, then add chillies.
  3. After 5 mins add the peppers and cook for a few more minutes, then the fajita seasoning. As the peppers cook, they will release water into the pan.
  4. Crank up the heat then add the wine, loosening any bits stuck the the pan
  5. While the pan is sizzling, shred the lettuce, slice the tomatoes, and grate the cheese, ready for fajita construction.
  6. Enough time should have elapsed to remove chicken from oven (but check properly cooked).
  7. Heat up wraps according to packet instructions.
  8. Construct your fajitas, combining all the elements as desired – for each one I started with pepper/onion mix, 1-2 pieces of chicken, lettuce, salsa, cheese, and topped with more lettuce.
  9. Roll up each one up, slice in the middle, and they’re ready to eat.

So there you have it – a tasty football feast using a mix of fresh and frozen ingredients from Iceland (the supermarket).

Now, this feast cost about £15 (with 2/3 bottle wine left over). I blew the remaining half of my budget on a mini beer keg (5l) of Budweiser (no, not the rancid US one but the original and far tastier Czech beer, aka Budvar).

While Mum's at Work, Dad's Gone to Iceland Chicken Fajita Football Feast #PowerofFrozen packshot

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I was happily surprised that I could make this dish using only ingredients from Iceland (the supermarket). I was also happily surprised that I – a dad – was welcome to shop in Iceland too 😉

They have also swayed me towards supporting Iceland (the national football team), who are 150-1 outsiders to win the tournament.

It reminded me of Euro ’92, when the similarly small Nordic country Denmark won – they were such outsiders that they hadn’t even qualified, and only got in when Yugoslavia was disqualified (for not existing as a country anymore). Denmark beat the mighty Germany 2-0 in (what I remember as) a thrilling final.

As the triumph of Leicester in the Premiership this year has shown, football remains a funny old game.

So c’mon England – and failing that, c’mon Iceland. Their first game is against Portugal on June 14th, a mismatch made in football tournament heaven.

Remember the Danes Iceland…

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This is a sponsored post.