The energy of a preschool child is boundless – and rightfully so! Preschoolers are masters of having a beginner’s mind. From their point of view, everything feels new, exciting, and these worldly discoveries are reasons to be expressive. An early years classroom is full of boisterous laughter, delightful shrieks, or cries of conflict. Part of an educator’s skill set is to mitigate this energy while performing all the tasks needed to run a classroom smoothly. While this environment can feel truly wonderful to be a part of, it also makes it feel impossible to have a productive conversation with families. Drop-offs in the morning and pick-ups at the end of the day can be especially challenging since it’s good practice to communicate during these times. So how is it possible to create ideal conditions to speak to families when it feels like there are so many things going on in the classroom?
According to this childcare parent satisfaction report, “98% of parents consider communication and parent engagement to be important, or very important when selecting a child care center”. And the same study shows that over 40% of families prefer to receive proactive communication once per day. So despite the aforementioned challenges to communication, a program’s success hinges heavily on the ability to keep parents up-to-date on their child’s experiences. Here are some strategies to implement in your classroom in order to connect with families with more ease:
1. Keep certain play areas closed during busier parts of the day – A play-based classroom is meant to be an environment of play and exploration. So if you want the chance to speak with parents and families clearly, consider giving the children less stimulation during busier times (drop off and pick up). This way, the children can self-regulate, there are less parts of the classroom for you to keep your eyes on, and it will crate a more conducive environment for educators and families to touch base with one another. The opening or closing of certain play areas will be dependent on the ratio of children and staff members, so let this process be as fluid as it needs to be.
2. Incorporate more sensory or art curriculum during drop off and pick up – Sensory and art curriculum have a number of neurological benefits. They can provide a higher engagement level with children, and can hold a preschooler’s attention for longer periods of time. So incorporate these into your program when there is a need for a relatively calmer energy. If you can create play experiences for children that require minimal supervision, it leaves you open to communicate with parents with more ease. It should also be noted that keeping these activities novel and ever-changing will grant a higher chance of success because preschoolers love to be stimulated with different learning experiences.
3. Have more staff in the classroom during busier periods – Admittedly, this can be one of the more challenging strategies on this list. However, having a smaller staff-to-child ratio during busy periods can make an impactful difference. This level of quality care should be regularly advocated for because the benefits are plenty:
- For teacher-parent communication – this can provide a productive and meaningful space to talk about the child’s day without interruption. If needed, and if ratios allow it, the conversations can take place outside the classroom, with a comfort in knowing that the children are being supervised.
- For increased staff satisfaction – being an educator can be extremely stressful, and having more qualified adults in the program (especially during busy times) is an easy and effective way to counter that stress.
- For the children – having more qualified educators in the room allows the program to run more seamlessly. This means that play and learning are available to the children for a larger part of the day, without other functional tasks being neglected. These are the building blocks for quality education and care.
4. Use digital communication tools to communicate with parents – According to the Parent Satisfaction Report by HiMama, by 2022, most parents will be between the ages of 25 and 41, with children aged 0 to 5. This is a group of people who are accustomed to, and almost expect, forms of digital communication. In the scope of child care, this need can be met by using a software that provides the level of contact that families are seeking. Traditionally, parents and educators connect with one another during drop off or pick up. An app or a digital tool allows a larger window for communication so that if those busier periods are too hectic, the chance to correspond meaningfully about a child’s development isn’t completely lost.
5. Designate a specific time of day to communicate with families – Effective communication cannot be done on a whim. For it to work well, it has to be intentional, so a designated time to connect with families will be a benefit to your program. It should be treated with the same value as planning the children’s learning experiences, and ideally, this dedicated time is documented into the program plan. Depending on the messages, your chosen form of communication may vary – phone calls, written notes, or text and picture messages through an app – and what’s important is to be deliberate in your approach so that the families you’re serving feel cared for.
The research shows that parent-teacher communication is an indicator of an effective early years classroom. Though it can feel like this is an addition to an ever-growing task list, remember that it isn’t necessarily about having more duties. With deliberate strategies, new and effective tools, and a focused practice, speaking with families in the midst of all that wonderful preschool calamity will get easier. Work toward it steadily, and it will feel like less of a task, and simply a part of your classroom culture and identity.
Want even more insights into what matters most to parents? See what our survey of 500 parents found in our Childcare Parent Satisfaction Report!