Back-to-School: Easy Ways to Encourage Family and Parent Involvement

Back-to-school brings the excitement of arranging classrooms, planning lessons, and learning about students and their families. Set the tone for a positive experience by involving parents and families from the start!

(Throughout this article I’ll use the terms family and parents, but please know that I’m referring to any adults involved in raising a child and supporting their development. All families are unique and different and should be welcomed to participate in the student’s early childhood education program regardless of their titles or biological relationships.)

What Role Do Parents Play in Early Childhood Education?

Before we jump into strategies, let’s review the importance of parental involvement in early childhood education programs. Research shows there are several benefits to a system where teachers, parents, and families are actively involved in a child’s early years. For example, when children feel supported by their families from a young age, they have more motivation to learn and reach their full potential. Here are some more benefits.

Benefits of Parent Involvement in Early Childhood Education

Social Emotional Skills: Parent involvement fosters a sense of security and emotional support. Children feel loved, valued, and cared for, which positively impacts their emotional well-being. This foundation helps children develop strong friendship skills, as they learn to interact with new people.

Academic Achievement: Family involvement has a significant impact on a child’s academic performance. When parents are actively engaged in their child’s learning process, they can reinforce and extend what is being taught in the classroom. This support can lead to improved academic skills and a more positive attitude towards learning.

Communication and Language Skills: Regular interactions and conversations with parents expose children to a rich vocabulary and enhance their language skills. This lays a strong foundation for literacy and language fluency later in life. If families speak a different language at home than is used in the classroom, this should be encouraged. Research shows that children are fully capable of learning and using multiple languages at once. Being multilingual can stimulate additional brain development and increase social-emotional skills like empathy.

Positive Attitudes Towards Education: Showing interest and enthusiasm in a child’s school experience conveys the message that learning is important and valued. Children are more likely to develop a positive attitude towards school and education when their parents are involved.

Parent-Teacher Collaboration: Partnerships between educators and families offer a holistic approach to understanding a child’s strengths, opportunities for growth, and how they learn.

Cultural and Individual Identity: Family involvement helps children maintain a strong connection to their cultural heritage and individual identity. By incorporating cultural practices and traditions into their learning experiences, children gain a deeper appreciation for their background. In turn, they develop a strong sense of self and can recognize their unique gifts in their classroom community.

Behavioral and Emotional Support: Best practices in early childhood education recommend partnering with families to support positive behaviors and self-regulation. This ensures everyone is on the same page with clear expectations and strategies. Share Pyramid Model techniques and tips with families to support all children in your program!

Continuity of Learning: Learning does not stop when a child leaves the school premises. Family involvement ensures that learning continues at home, during vacations, and in various day-to-day activities. This school to home connection helps reinforce concepts and strengthens a child’s knowledge and understanding.

How to Encourage Parents to be Involved in Their Child’s Education

Now let’s look at some ways to encourage parents to participate in your early childhood community. Keep in mind every community is unique and involvement may look different depending on the parents and families in your group.

Parent-Teacher Communication: Establish open and regular communication channels between teachers and parents. Use a variety of methods such as emails, newsletters, parent-teacher conferences, and phone calls to keep parents informed about their child’s progress, activities, and upcoming events.

Parent Workshops and Seminars: Organize workshops where families can learn about early childhood development and ways to support their child’s education at home. Topics can range from literacy, math skills, and social-emotional development to parenting techniques.

Home Learning Activities: Provide resources and materials for home learning activities that align with what is being taught in the classroom. Include book recommendations, educational games, art projects, and simple experiments that parents can do with their child to reinforce and extend learning.

Parent Volunteering: Encourage parents to volunteer in the classroom or school events. Having parents actively participate in school activities fosters a sense of ownership and strengthens the bond between parents, teachers, and students.

Parent Leadership Opportunities: Support and encourage the establishment of Ps or similar parent groups. These associations provide a platform for parents to collaborate with educators, share ideas, and actively participate in decision-making processes related to their child’s education.

Celebrate Cultural Diversity: Embrace and celebrate the unique cultural backgrounds of students and their families. Organize events where parents can share their traditions, customs, and cuisines, creating a sense of inclusivity and respect.

Parent Reading Partnerships: Initiate a reading program that involves parents reading with their children regularly. Provide age-appropriate books and encourage parents to ask questions and discuss the stories with their child.

Parent Support Groups: Establish support groups where parents can share experiences, challenges, and insights about raising children and supporting their education. These groups can provide emotional support and create a network of parents who can help and learn from each other.

Parent Feedback: Seek feedback from parents about their experience in your program. Actively listen to their suggestions and concerns, and implement changes when appropriate.

Use Technology: Utilize technology to involve parents, such as through a parent portal or mobile app that provides updates on their child’s development and upcoming events.

School Involvement Empowers Parents to Take an Active Role in Their Child’s Education

Ask parents if they’d be interested in participating in your program and provide several different examples of how that might look. Some family members might love coming in to read a book to the group while others prefer opportunities out of the spotlight.

Tips for Positive Experiences with Family and Parent Involvement

  • Invitations should be available in print such as flyers or posters, digital formats like email, text, or communication apps, and in the home languages of the families.
  • Offer multiple ways to participate including in-person, at-home, or at off-site locations.
  • Include virtual participation opportunities.
  • Survey parents and families about their knowledge, skills, and talents. Many parents and family members have incredible things to share!

Events and Activities that Encourage Involvement

  • Invite parents to learn more about you, your staff, and how your center, school, or family child care home operates. Include the opportunities for parent involvement in your tours with prospective parents. Share flyers and add a blurb to your family handbook about how you include families and their input in everything you do.
  • Offer a sign-up sheet for “A day in the life of a preschooler” – invite parents to (one at a time) spend a day in their child’s classroom, to understand the schedule, the routine, and how teachers facilitate children’s learning in the preschool setting. Plus, they’ll get to learn what the favorite toys and cool playground activities are!
  • Meet the teacher events are not just for the beginning of the year. Schedule these every few months so families can meet and build relationships with new and veteran staff. Make them fun by adding themes. For example, have an ice cream social, family craft night, or host a virtual video scavenger hunt. When possible, provide food, child care, and interactive activities to keep both children and their families engaged.
  • Provide chances for parents to attend educational trips or field trips. For programs that do not take trips, share places families can visit in the community that offer ways to extend lesson plan topics.
  • Invite parents to celebrate any holidays, school events, or activities, like end-of-the-year promotion or field day, with their children. When special guests come to visit, provide a way for parents to be present, either in person or via video.

By implementing these strategies, teachers can foster a strong partnership with parents and create supportive, nurturing, and responsive environments. When parents feel valued and included in their child’s learning, they are more likely to be actively engaged in their child’s progress and development.

Activities Families and Children Can Complete at Home

One of my favorite ways to include parents in my classroom when they couldn’t physically be in the room was to send home activities for them. This included both ways to extend learning from school to home as well as tasks to help our classroom.

For example, if we had an activity with shapes coming up, I’d send home cutouts, scissors, and instructions in a bag for the parent. They’d return it completed and then get to see photos of how the children used the materials. Many parents reported that this made them feel included in their children’s education even though they weren’t present for the classroom activities.

Stay Connected with Your Families

The connection with families can start off strong; however, it tends to lessen as the school year goes on. Early childhood educators should take time to design opportunities to involve parents and families often, at least once per month.

Embrace technology. Remember text messages, emails, or classroom management apps allow you to share information with families quickly, easily, and frequently.

Request written feedback on meeting topics, events, and types of workshops. Take suggestions about how to participate virtually. Asking these questions a few times a year is helpful as family circumstances can change frequently.

The Importance of Parent Involvement in Early Childhood Education

Parent involvement in early childhood education can create a supportive and enriching environment that lays a strong foundation for future academic success.

It’s important to remember that parent involvement should be flexible and considerate of different family circumstances. Some parents may have more time and resources to engage in various activities, while others may face challenges that limit their involvement. Early childhood education programs should strive to create an inclusive environment that accommodates the diverse needs of families.

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