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Boosting Parent Engagement at Home

Aug 06, 2021    |   Encouraging At-Home Learning

As educators, we know that children’s first and most important teachers are their parents. The way that we partner with children’s families and caregivers contributes to learning and development, both within and outside of our early learning programs. In fact, studies have found that when parents feel involved in their children’s learning at school, they are more likely to engage their children in developmentally supportive activities at home. In this article, we share examples of family engagement opportunities that connect learning in the classroom to ideas that parents can try with their children at home.

The Impact of Parent Partnership

A study conducted by Melissa Barnett from the University of Arizona examined the role that ECE centers play in encouraging parents to engage in educational activities with their children, as well as how parental engagement can help better prepare young children for kindergarten. The results showed that the more involved parents are in their child’s early learning program, the more educational activities they do with their children at home. Parents can engage by volunteering in the classroom or by attending meetings, but they can also engage from home, especially when their child’s early learning teacher reaches out to them with regularly scheduled, supportive communication. Frequent communication, whether by text, phone check-in, email or newsletter, ensures that parents know what their children are learning and enjoying in the classroom and also provides you with a way to share ideas that parents can use to support learning at home.

By building parent engagement and outreach opportunities into their programs, ECE educators have an opportunity to really make a difference supporting the children in their care — not just in the classroom, but beyond!

How To Engage Families to Support At-Home Learning

  1. Keep parents in the loop: It can be difficult for parents to support their children when they aren’t sure what kinds of skills their children are learning at school. If the children in your care are practicing counting or writing their letters, for example, share this with families! Let them know how their children are doing, what activities have been successful, and what their children enjoy.

  2. Build activities around the interests of the children & families: Connect with parents and ask them what kinds of activities they enjoy doing with their children at home. (What kind of music does your child enjoy? What does your family enjoy doing with their free time? What does your child like to talk about and learn about?) By using the information provided by the parent to incorporate activities and topics that are a part of the children’s home life into your classroom curriculum, you will also make it easier for parents to support continued learning at home.

    For example, if a child in your class is really interested in birds, you might find a few books or YouTube videos about birds to discover different types of birds, and find out more about where they live and what they eat. This project could even be expanded into a STEM activity by exploring the wings of birds and learning about how their wings help them to fly and travel through the air! Then, share the resources and activities with families so that they can ask their children about what they’re learning about birds and continue the exploration at home.

  3. Share resources: Many families who are interested in supporting their children might not know exactly where to go or how to begin. Sharing resources with families can help them access high-quality and enriching learning activities for their young children. It is especially important to share resources that are available in the family’s home language to ensure that parents feel comfortable exploring and using the tools you share with them. The following resources are free, family-friendly, and easy-to-access:

    • Vroom (free, science-based tips, tools, and activity ideas to help parents and caregivers give children a great start in life)

    • Tech Balance from Common Sense Media (available in English and in Spanish; a free, bilingual text messaging service for families that delivers advice, resources, and tips for practicing healthy media habits)

    • First 5 California’s Activity Library (an online library of activities parents and caregivers can do with children, birth to age five, searchable by age and type of activity)

    • Get an Early Start! from Parents Helping Parents (videos to help families of young children 0-3 years learn about some simple tools and strategies to use with children who have a disability or a delay)

  4. Create opportunities for connection: Creating opportunities to build relationships with parents and families is one of the most important ways to establish a relationship. Trust is built when you spend time getting to know each family, learning about their unique needs, wants, and interests. While it might be tricky to plan social events right now, there are still ways to build relationships with families. Quick phone calls, a newsletter, or a private Facebook group can create opportunities for check-ins and getting to know each other, until it is safe to have family events again.

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