Things have really changed for childcare in these pandemic times and one of those big changes is that parents aren’t really coming into the center to drop off and pick up their children anymore. Due to social distancing, gone are the days when Educators could create pedagogical displays in the facility for the parents to discover and also the days of parents hanging out and observing their children’s and caregiver’s interactions.
As professional Early Childhood Educators, you know just how far we have had to come to bring our field into the light and to educate the public as to just what it is that we do. Early Childhood Educators have banished the “babysitter” stigma but how do we keep that alive? We know how important and valuable the work is that we do, but how do we educate and inform the families that use our services and help them to appreciate and understand all of our hard work?
Family Engagement is Key
What is family engagement anyway? Family engagement is an ongoing partnership between the childcare facility and the families that come with the children that are in your care. Engage your families by exposing them to your programming in as many ways as possible and provide opportunities to build strong, trusting relationships with the Educators.
Provide opportunities for families to reach out digitally. Try offering online parenting classes, or create an online parent advisory committee to work closely with the staff. Educators could consider starting a privately accessed YouTube page and take turns posting short videos of themselves reading stories or singing favorite songs. Parents will appreciate the ability to access their child’s favorite Educators and activities on the weekend or while on vacation.
Start a Parent Volunteer Board
Give parents an appreciation for the wide range of duties caregivers must carry out in our daily line of work. Parents can volunteer to work with staff on program elements like planning field trips, take on administrative jobs or special projects like facility emergency planning. Through volunteering, parents can gain an appreciation of what it takes to keep up with the extras like facility maintenance or planning special events for the children.
Publish a School Calendar and Newsletter
You can use this important tool to communicate everything that is happening in the childcare past, present and future. This is a great place to highlight specific activities that you want the families to know about. Report on past successes, talk about what kids are learning this month and prepare families for what is to come. Are you offering kindergarten readiness? What does that look like? Perhaps your facility has some value-added services like a hot lunch or fitness program. Talk about what you’re doing, tell parents about the experiences that are being provided to children while in your care. A calendar is a great way to give parents details about what is happening in your childcare on the daily and helps them to see just how much you are offering!
Take Lots of Photos & Videos
Parents love pictures and videos of their children taken while engaging in fun stuff at childcare. Take tons of footage of the children playing outside or engaged in activities indoors and send the parents snippets of their child’s day. Document creative moments at art time, music and movement, and even napping!
Go old school and get photos developed! Make doubles and share the pictures with your parents — they will be thrilled! Just be sure to check consent before sharing photos or videos that may include other children. Your families will appreciate the extra attention from you and will be able to see and understand more of what happens at childcare all day.
Get to Know Families
Learn the parents’ names and take some time to learn about the families and what their outside interests are. Be inquisitive and ask questions about what you know — “How was your family camping trip this weekend? Did the new puppy enjoy it, too?” People appreciate it when you know their name and remember tidbits about their lives and parents will appreciate you and the efforts you make to take an interest in their families and well-being.
Showcase the Children’s Work
Create a welcoming area to share children’s art and ideas with parents. This may have to be outside the childcare these days– think outside of the box! Place a bulletin board under the eaves by the front door/sign-in or even under the children’s covered play area. Decorate it with the latest and greatest artwork or create a pedagogical display with photographs of the mud tunnels that the children built last week. Share the joy that children create, parents will not only appreciate the extra efforts to keep them in the loop but they will embrace the opportunity to open a dialogue and talk with their children about their experiences.
Be responsive to each family’s individual schedule. Try being as flexible as possible during the first few weeks so new children and their families can orient themselves to the new schedule, routine, to the Educators and new friends at their own speed. Parents will appreciate your acknowledgment that their children may be experiencing intense feelings about being away from their families.
Staying on top of professional development is critical because it enables us to contribute to our own developing practices with current research and information. As Educators, professional growth helps us gain a better understanding and informs us in our work with children and families. Parents appreciate knowing their child’s Educator is staying on top of their field and can feel more confident in their support.
Want to really brighten your parents’ day? Share photos and milestones with the HiMama childcare app!