Studies have shown that strong partnerships with families is a critical component of a quality early childhood education program. Programs that are truly family-centered serve as a catalyst for healthy child development, while providing opportunities for parent growth. Since the family is the constant and the center of a child’s life, aligning your program with a family-centered philosophy is a win-win situation for staff, children and parents. Learn the names of parents and family members and communicate with them as much as possible about the daily activities of their child. There is never a shortage of information to share since children are learning and doing so many things each day! Practitioners have the unique opportunity to provide a vivid glimpse in to the day of a child – one that should be exercised as frequently as possible through verbal or written communication.
No two families are alike – each comes from different backgrounds, experiences, lifestyles and cultures. As early childhood educators we are taught to value and respect these cultural and individual diversities. A great way to show respect for these differences, whenever it is appropriate, is to use them as an opportunity for learning. By supporting children’s growth and development while keeping the child’s family dynamic in context, providers are better equipped to understand and meet the needs of the children in care.
Many children spend a substantial part of their day in center-based care. We should all strive for our center, school or facility to be a place that children and families WANT to visit – not just a place that is limited to the dropping-off or picking-up a child. To do so, it is imperative that we create a respectful, unconditionally welcoming environment where families feel valued because of the most important job they have – being the parent or guardian of a young child. This means getting to know them and providing opportunities for them to be involved in the care and education of their child through activities the school provides.
The following are several activities and events that many schools use to encourage parental involvement:
- Informal and formal classroom observation
- Breakfast or lunch with their child
- Festivals or celebrations at the school around holidays or events
- Week of the Young Child activities (to find out when Week of the Young Child is each year visit www.naeyc.org/WOYC)
- Monthly group meetings with parents to discuss a particular topic
- Guest readers in classrooms
- Parent resource library (books and videos)
- Offering enrichment activities that invite family participation
The more ways you involve parents in the school-life of their child, the more likely you are to enhance learning and solidify a partnership that benefits the child, the parent or guardian and you as a caregiver/educator.