Increasing parent engagement at your early learning center benefits parents, children, and your program as a whole. In the following guide, learn about the importance of parent involvement in Early Childhood Education and explore seven practical ways you can grow parent involvement at your own childcare center. Read on to find out more.
Parental Engagement Is a Key Component of Successful Early Childhood Education
Parents who are actively involved in their child’s early learning center discover several benefits for their child and their family as a whole:
- Parent involvement at the preschool level increases the likelihood of parent involvement throughout the school years.
- Parent involvement fosters continuous reinforcement of early learning skills in the classroom and at home.
- Parent involvement cultivates a stronger relationship between parent and child, as well as a stronger relationship between families and their child’s caregiver.
As an Early Childhood Education professional, you will find that encouraging parent engagement at your early learning center will help you grow a community of caring individuals that supports and nurtures the child in his or her critical developmental years.
What are some practical ways you can encourage parents to become involved in your ECE program? Let’s take a look.
7 Ways to Grow Parent Engagement at Your Childcare Center
Invite Parents to Volunteer
Do the same one or two parents seem to volunteer themselves for all areas of need at your childcare center? While there will always be your “frequent flyers” in terms of parents who are willing or able to volunteer their time and talent at your center, other parents may be ready and willing to help out if they know about a need they feel they can meet. That’s why it’s important to regularly communicate your parent volunteer opportunities.
Get creative and offer a variety of volunteer opportunities for parents. Maybe Charlotte’s mom can volunteer to make cupcakes for the Valentine’s Day party while Nathan’s dad can sign up to read during story hour. Every parent will have a different level of availability for commitments, but when you provide lots of opportunities for parents to volunteer in big and small ways, chances are, you will get more takers. The saying applies: “You don’t get what you don’t ask for!”
Ask Parents to Share Their Special Skills
Another great way to get parents involved is to invite them for educational demonstrations at your childcare center. Consider parents’ various interests, skills, and educational backgrounds. What can they share from their area of expertise that would enrich their children’s learning experience?
For example, Andy’s mom might be a dental hygienist. Consider inviting her to your program to demonstrate correct teeth-brushing habits. Cora’s dad might be a science teacher. Maybe he could lead his daughter’s class in an age-appropriate science activity. When parents have the opportunity to showcase their special skills, they are more likely to feel connected to their child’s learning experience at preschool.
Find Ways to Keep in Touch
You can help parents feel involved with their child’s early learning program by keeping them up-to-date on their child’s progress, as well as happenings at your center. Choose the communication channels that work best for you: a printed or digital newsletter, a bulletin board in the entryway at your center; and a digital parent communication system are all great options for helping parents stay in-the-know. Whichever way you choose to stay in touch, make sure your updates are regular and timely.
Providing opportunities for in-person touch points is just as important as sending one-way memos home to parents. Consider hosting a quarterly open house where new parents and well-established families alike can come and interact with you, ask questions, and learn important updates about their child’s education. Regular parent-teacher conferences are another important way to individualize each child’s preschool experience, address questions or areas of concern, and develop learning goals that you and parents agree on. Whether digital or in-person, class-wide or individualized, your parent communication efforts are some of the biggest ways you can help parents feel more involved in their child’s care.
Take Families’ Unique Needs into Consideration
Every family you serve through your childcare program is coming to the Early Childhood Education table with completely different backgrounds and needs. Maybe you have several multicultural families at your early learning center whose native language is something other than English. Maybe you care for children with special needs, dietary restrictions, or medical conditions. Or maybe you work with children who have a very difficult time separating from their parents during early morning drop-off time. Take some time to really get to know the families you serve and see how you can better meet their unique needs.
Consider providing your childcare center information to multicultural families in their native language. Or make extra effort to make detailed progress reports related to a child’s medical condition. Or discuss with parents what may help sooth their child with separation anxiety and try different things until you find something that works. Personalizing the way you address the unique needs of the families you serve will foster a sense of compassion and community with parents.
Host Fun Events That Parents Can Participate in With Their Child
What better way to get parents involved at their child’s early learning center than by putting on a fun event they can enjoy with their little ones? Host a holiday party, movie and pjs night, dessert night, read-aloud event, potluck dinner, multicultural show-and-tell, or any other creative get-togethers you can think of. Of course, since parents are working during the day while children are at school, set up these events in the evenings or on weekends. Providing a meaningful way for parents to make memories with their young children helps you give them the feeling of connection with their child, their child’s early learning program, and you.
Be Present and Make Yourself Available
A very simple way to promote parent engagement at your childcare center is to be present and make yourself available to parents for conversations, updates, questions, concerns, and so on. Use the parent pick-up/drop-off times to greet families by name and foster a welcoming atmosphere. Understandably, these chaotic moments are less than ideal for long conversations with parents, but you can make yourself accessible in other ways.
Consider having drop-in office hours on certain days and inviting parents to call or drop in to touch base with you. Make it a priority to help new families get plugged in quickly by following up with them regularly. Make every effort to return phone calls and emails promptly. Check in with parents you haven’t connected with in a while. These efforts go a long way in helping parents feel connected to their child’s preschool by creating a community where all feel welcomed.
Help Parents Get to Know You and Your Staff Better
How well do parents know you and your childcare staff? Help families get to know you on a more personal level! In addition to including a professional bio on your website, marketing materials, and parent handbook, consider putting “Teacher Features” in your newsletters or on your social media pages. Spotlight one member of your childcare team by sharing not only their educational background and childcare experience but also some fun facts about them too! You might be surprised how much of a difference this can make in helping parents feel like they can relate with you and trust you with the care of their children.
Increasing parent involvement at your childcare center takes time. We hope this guide will be helpful to you as you consider different ways to help parents engage with their child’s early learning experience at your school.
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