by Bryan G. Nelson -

[MenTeach: This article is published on, a updated site hosted by Dr Sarah-Eve Farquhar. Dr. Farquhar, who lives and works in New Zealand, has been a pioneer in researching the importance and challenges facing male teachers. You can join her site by linking here. Great job Sarah!]

I remember working (we call it teaching now) with infants and toddlers for several years and loving how interesting it was to see such young humans learn to walk, talk, eat and actively play in the world. It wasn’t long before I knew this was important work and that spending my time with them was a significant contribution to the world.

So at first, it really surprised me that there weren’t more men doing this significant job. I knew it was fun and interesting so where were all the other men?  And that’s when I decided to do something about it.

Back in the early 1980s I started offering workshops at professional conferences on the topic of men teaching and several men (and supportive women) would show up. At one national conference, I met one man, Tom Masterson, who had been inspired by articles I had written so he applied and received a research grant to interview programme directors about their attitudes about men. While meeting with directors he realised he needed to find an easy way to promote the work that we do.

That’s when Tom came up with the slogan, Men Who Change Diapers, Change the World! He offered it to as a tool to get the word out and we have used it ever since. And of course, my friends from Australia, New Zealand and other countries explained that in their part of the world ‘diapers’ are called ‘nappies’.

If you think about it, when a man decides to care for young children, especially a younger child, he is giving that child and people around him a message. It’s a message of: I value that person, I care, and I want the world to be a better place.

And on a deeper level, we are making differences and statements about men and women’s role in the world. If you think about it, what message do children receive when there are few men around children? Children are very smart and the message can only mean that either (a) men don’t care about young children (which isn’t true) or that (b) children aren’t important enough for men to spend their time with.

We often put our time and energy into activities that we care about – some of us men play sports and are passionate about our teams. If we put similar energy into young children – especially caring and nurturing – I believe both the message AND what happens for children and families will change the world for the better. So men, do keep on changing those nappies and make a difference to the world.

And mums and dads when deciding on an early childcare education service don’t forget to ask first if male teachers are employed and if they are allowed to be fully involved in the children’s care.

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