As I am sitting here working with my team on what we are going to do for the year for family engagement, I think about all of the different activities that could be done that we could enhance the involvement of our families. We have so many families that are young and going to school and getting them involved can be quiet tricky. So as we are talking about all these different things I thought that this would be a great time to talk about the various activities and ways that could help you increase Family involvement.
So I thought that there are 5 tips to help centers increase family engagement within their center.
Have different types of communication for all variety of parents. Including a system that is readily available to parents to see what is going on in the classrooms as well as being able to stay connected with information on their own is great for the new age. My center utilizes Class Dojo. This is a great app that will allow each classroom to have their own storyline as well as the school storyline. The teachers can message the parents and vise versa, as well as teachers, can add points to each child for completing specific tasks. It has indeed been an excellent tool for our center. Keep the paper newsletters. People think that this is a waste of paper, but there are actually parents that still utilize these. Provide verbal information as well. Sometimes its good just to have a conversation with someone about what is going on. This builds a stronger connection between parents and staff. Provide several reminders to the parents. You want to send it out in enough time for parents to be able to put it on their calendar but you also want to be able to remind them several times so that they don’t forget.
- Family Advisory Team
Having parents be apart of what is going on in the center is a great way to help you lift some of the responsibility off of your shoulders, but then it also makes the parents feel more involved and apart of the team with their child’s teacher if they are involved. Parents want to be apart of their child’s education but sometimes don’t have the opportunity. This gives them an excellent chance to do so. Give the parents an outline of what is going on and what you want to see happen and then give it to them to plan. For those parents that don’t have the time to volunteer on the advisory team may have time to collect things that you may need like food boxes or box tops. Or if you just get it out that your center is lacking specific materials, then they may be able to help get donations. If you don’t ask for help, then you will never get it.
- Make activities available at different times.
Parents have many different things going on after work and school that it makes it hard to leave the center after they pick up their children and then have to bring them back. Try providing activities in the morning, midday and in the afternoon. Utilize activities that can be set up and when they come in to pick up their children. This way they can do something fun and then leave to do whatever needs to be done. Make breakfast with parents or your favorite superhero. This just doesn’t give you time to talk to your parents, but it gives them a time that they can set down and talk with their children.
Utilize parents as volunteers. Parents at times can come in and help with very simple things. Like being a secret reader. This is a great way to bring them into the classroom for a few minutes, make the child excited about having their parent in the class but then also letting them read to their child and friends. Utilize that parent group to set up and be in charge of parent nights. This takes some things off of your hands and frees you up to do more pressing items that need to be completed. Have volunteers come out and help clean up areas or deep clean things. Have them come in and answer phones if needed, make bulletin boards, clean up areas in the break room. There are many things that parents will go in and help if you allow them and if you ask. Also, utilize your community members to help that are experts. Most of the time if you tell them that you are doing a special family night about their area, they will come and talk for free just to promote their expertise in that field.
- Family nights
Provide activities that are fun not only for the child but for the parent. Provide ideas that they will be able to utilize at home. There are many different things that you can do for family nights but provide nights that are meaningful and that they will enjoy. If you can get them to one night that is fun then usually you can get them to several and they will benefit significantly from it and may learn some great information about early childhood education. Make it informative and fun. The following are just some ideas that we will be utilizing this year for our family involvement activities.
- Rock Painting. We set up a few days after school or during pick up times that our parents can come in and pick up their child and set down and paint a rock to go into our rock path. This was a significant activity that we started last year and grow on each year with our new students.
- Children around the world. Each classroom will get a different country and study it with the class. On Children around the world night, all the classrooms are decorated in the activities that they had learned about each country, and then they do an activity set up from that country or food that is from that country. The children have a picture taken in dress-up clothes from different countries and put on their passports. They go to each room and get their passport stamped from that country and then get to decorate their passport.
- Health Fair. We will have different health consultants In our area in the center set up booth style. This is to help parents get the vital information needed to keep their families healthy in all aspects of life including mental health, physical health, dental. Vision, and any other that is necessary.
- Yoga Night. We will be providing yoga nights to help parents find ways of working with their children on calming activities that they can do together.
- Safety fair. This is where we bring out all of the professionals like police, fire, EMS, EOC and have them set up booth style as our families go around and get valuable information about safety for their families.
- Breakfast with your hero. We bring in different heroes around the community including officers, firefighters and so on to eat with our children as well as invite the parents just so that parents can get to be comfortable with our first responders and so can our children and they can see them as heroes. The ones that are there to help.
- Spaghetti night and silent auction. We would hold a spaghetti night and silent auction every year. Each classroom would put together a themed basket and parent would bid on them. We would raise over $500.00 per year on this activity and then we would donate the money to a particular We gave to the shop with a cop program for two years and were actually able to help out several of our own families through this program which was very rewarding.
- Physical fitness night. Give parents activities and ideas of things that they can do at home to keep their children active and even while learning. This is always an entertaining
- Literacy night. Teach different techniques in helping parents read to their children at home and learn about the importance of reading to their children at night.
Even though these are just a few ideas, there are many things that you can do out there to help your families get engaged and learn more to support their families grow. It is all about assisting families to become a better unit and getting your families more familiar with you and your teachers. Providing family engagement activities will do nothing but enhance the collaboration that you receive with parents and help your children gain a more informed and educated atmosphere.