Families are a key element in all child care programs. Child care providers should work to build a relationship with the family of each child in care. Getting families engaged in your program is a great way to strengthen relationships.
Families want a child care provider that they can trust. Child care providers can begin to build trust with families even before a child’s first day in the program. In addition to allowing and encouraging parents to drop into the program to see their child(ren) unannounced, you can build trust through family engagement. Below you’ll find ideas to help you engage families in your program and in their child’s learning and development.
Clear communication is helpful for good relationships and family engagement. When you share information about what happens in your program, you give families a window into their child’s day. That glimpse into your program invites families into what their child is doing and learning. The following ideas can help you communicate well with your families:
- Encourage parents to read your parent handbook. This will help them become familiar with your policies.
- Offer regular conferences with the parents to discuss their child’s progress.
- Keep information on your bulletin board, in your newsletter and on your website current. Parents want to know what to expect.
- Prepare a brief “My Day” each day for parents that describes what their child experienced. This could include whether or not they napped, what they ate, what centers they chose for free play, any art projects they worked on, etc.
- Encourage parents to share information about important events in their families. Ask them about how they celebrate birthdays and holidays.
- If English is not the language that the parents speak at home, find out if they will need interpreters or translations of documents.
Many parents are eager to help in activities that involve their children. There are many ways that families can volunteer to support your program. The following are examples of activities you can suggest to parents:
- Assist in a classroom activity on a regular basis – reading to children, cooking or gardening.
- Be a driver or chaperone for field trips.
- Edit newsletters.
- Help with improvement projects, like gardening.
- Plan special occasions (festivals, teacher recognition events, clean-up days and cultural events).
- Design and maintain your website.
- Visit the classroom to share specific information about special skills or family traditions.
Provide your volunteers with training and supervision. They need clear expectations about their duties, time commitment, budget and resources. If your volunteers work directly with children, they need a complete background check. Be sure to give them information about appropriate and inappropriate discipline as well as techniques for interacting with children.
Committees and Advisory Boards
Parents bring a unique voice to committees and advisory boards.
- If you have parent committees for your program, share that information with parents. Let them know you welcome anyone who’d like to participate.
- Parents may have professional and personal knowledge to share with your program (business, marketing, legal matters, fundraising).
- They can represent your program in community projects or events.
- Some parents may be willing to advocate for your program to funders and politicians.
Share these opportunities in your handbook, your newsletter, on your website, or at conferences.
Resources for Families
You can help families engage in their child’s learning and development. Parents are their child’s first and best teacher. When you help families support their child’s learning at home, you engage them in working toward a common goal: school readiness. The following are some examples of what you might offer to families:
- Day-to-day information on children’s activities and development
- Regular conferences on children’s development
- Events to showcase children’s work – art work, science projects, writing skills, drama, etc.
- Information in newsletters or on your website about activities, goals and fun ideas to try at home
- Packets about parenting topics like SIDS, communicable diseases, age-appropriate activities, why children bite and how to discourage it, etc.
- The following resources have parenting information available:
- Information about parenting classes in the community (contact your local CCR&R to ask about classes)
- Ideas for everyday brain-building moments from Vroom
- Developmental milestone information from CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. program
- Resources from the Talking Is Teaching campaign, including tip sheets on talking, reading and singing with children to encourage development
- Resources for families found on our State by State Resource Map: includes Medicaid, SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), WIC, TANF, child care assistance programs, organizations that offer support for children with special needs and more
Additional Resources for Providers on Family Engagement
- The National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (NCPFCE)
- The NCPFCE offers a simulation tool to help providers practice building and strengthening relationships with families of children in care.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) resources on Engaging Diverse Families
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Education Policy Statement on Family Engagement