Is this true for your childcare program? There are a few parents, usually moms, who are extremely involved and supportive of your school... and then there is everyone else. They drop off and pick up their children and rarely stay long enough to say, “Hello.”
If you would like to spark broader parental involvement, you have here at your disposal a variety of methods to help parents connect with their child and your program. From school events to up-to-the-minute mobile news, you can put together a welcoming atmosphere that lets parents know you appreciate them and want to bring their family together in learning.
The benefits of parent involvement in childcare programs
Obviously, parents have the most impact on their children’s learning, so involving parents creates benefits that last for years.
- Parental involvement extends the lessons from the classroom.
- The children have more positive school experiences.
- The children then perform better in school and a positive feedback loop forms between school and the home.
- Parents who are involved with their children’s childcare or preschool are more likely to remain involved when the children reach elementary school.
The role of the parent is to show their children how the lessons learned in preschool can be applied to real-world situations, reinforcing what the children are taught. Also, parents remain abreast of their children’s competencies and skills in various areas.
Ideas to increase involvement
Parental involvement can be sought in different ways. School events, outreach efforts, in-school tips, and community involvement are all areas ripe for engaging with parents.
Regular school events
Starting with school, you can arrange events to welcome parents, interact with them, and gather families for food and fun.
- Hold regular parent meetings in a restaurant or somewhere other than the school.
- Have a regular evening for working on an academic topic, such as creating a math night for parents and children. You can include games to make learning fun.
- Plan a parent barbecue and invite the families to bring their favorite sides and desserts.
- Celebrate the birthdays of favorite authors. A ready-made opportunity is the Read Across America project that takes place annually on or near March 2, the birthday of the great Dr. Seuss.
- Plan a holiday meal or dinner theater event.
- Hold open houses several times a year to show off the children’s work.
- Offer parenting classes such as a workshop about limiting screen time for children.
- Many churches and youth groups hold “lock-ins.” You can have your own Overnight Read-In with parents and their children.
- Give Brown Bag Seminars about various parenting and child development topics.
Create a calendar of events and send early notifications as the dates approach. The more parents hear about it, the more likely they are to attend.
Beyond events at the school, you can reach out to parents and families using email, postal mail, and other electronic means to provide information about your school and to offer classes and other reasons to get together.
- Offer parenting classes in the evening.
- Reach out to new families using volunteers to talk about your childcare program.
- Establish a Parents' Hall of Fame to showcase parents involved with their children at your facility or one of the events mentioned above.
- Establish parent advisory groups to help keep the school relevant and up-to-date.
- Provide Fact Cards for parents to take home that have the school name, address, and phone number. Include the name of the principal, the school secretary, the school nurse, the head of the parent advisory group, and any other relevant information they might need.
- Send home taped messages in the parent’s own language if you work with many ESL families.
- Ask parents to volunteer a skill to share or teach at your preschool.
- Open your computer lab or library to parents after hours.
- Develop videos of the kiddos in action.
- Use a newborn project or similar program to contact future parents when their baby is born.
- Publish a school calendar.
Above all, praise parents for helping, joining in, or simply being present.
At the childcare center, you can create and develop several ways to encourage parents and staff to engage as much as possible.
- Have teachers provide a daily report on each child.
- Do not allow teachers to wait until it is too late to give parents bad news.
- When holding a parent conference, stress the importance of an agenda to ensure they cover all the topics needed.
- Share your own parenting experiences.
- Ask parents to help you develop a school handbook and a newsletter.
- Greet guests as soon as possible. Ask for volunteers from among the parents to act as a greeter.
- Put up parent-friendly signs to guide the way to the office.
- Display artwork and schoolwork throughout the hallways and classrooms. Select work from all the children, not just the budding artist or mathematician.
- Create a "Parent Place" where parents can wait or visit without disturbing class or staff, but that belongs to them.
- Provide an in-service where staff can discuss single parenting.
- Conduct surveys to learn how you are doing.
Parents will come to expect frequent news about their little ones and ask for more. If you use volunteers, always be supportive and sensitive while providing specific direction and expectations of their service.
Partnering with the community at large can spread the word about your services and market your program to surrounding employers.
- Ask the school district for a written policy on parent involvement you can use as a guide for your own.
- Encourage funding for parental engagement.
- Link with other social service agencies to help parents.
- Encourage businesses to allow time for parents to attend conferences and events at the school.
- Touch base with hard-to-reach parents at their places of worship.
Your school is part of the fabric of the community and many of the children you care for come from the surrounding area. Partnering with community leaders helps you coordinate your events and lessons with the school district and others.
There are more ways than ever to reach out to parents and get them involved with their children and your childcare program. The ubiquity of mobile phones provides a way to connect immediately and intimately at all times. You can send brief videos, schedule changes, weather closings, and other time-sensitive information. You can offer online bill pay that can be performed from a home computer or a smartphone. You can even promote autopay as a convenient method of keeping up with tuition payments via mobile or bank draft.
Parents are busier than ever, but they are also more involved than ever with their children's lives. Encourage their engagement with your childcare program to enrich both the children and your preschool with additional resources.
As a bonus, you won’t have to rely on the same few parents for all your volunteer service.