As ECE professionals, the connections that we build with families make an important contribution to the learning and development of the children in our care. The process of relationship-building encourages mutual trust, enabling care and learning providers to understand how they can best support the ability of parents to continue their child’s learning at home. In this article, we explore how this kind of connection between parents and educators can create consistency and ongoing learning opportunities for the children in our care.
Connections with Parents Support Learning
When parents and educators are working in partnership, they are able to learn from one another and bounce ideas off one another, and parents are able to get updates about their child’s progress and feel comfortable asking questions about their child’s development. This communication builds cohesiveness for children between their home and school lives, which creates a sense of safety and consistency.
In its book titled, Families and Educators Together: Building Great Relationships that Support Young Children, NAEYC underscores the importance of the parent/provider relationship. They note that connections between school and home “promote children’s development and learning at home when families repeat and build on routines, activities, and experiences that take place at the program.”
Tips for Supporting Learning At-Home
There are a variety of ways that we can support parents and encourage them to continue their child’s learning and development at home. Sharing helpful information and easy-to-implement activities is a great way to help families feel informed and empowered to support their child’s healthy development.
Share Informative and Relevant Resources
In 2016, ZERO TO THREE and the Bezos Family Foundation published the National Parent Survey Report, Tuning In: Parents of Young Children Tell Us What They Think, Know, and Need. The researchers found that parents want more information, especially about their children’s development. The report found that parents were interested in learning more about early brain development and social-emotional learning.
Check in with the parents whose children are in your program to see if these are topics they would like to learn more about. If so, you might consider sharing some of the following resources:
Encourage Families to Read with their Children
NAEYC’s book, Families and Educators Together: Building Great Relationships that Support Young Children describes the benefits of reading with young children: “The experience of reading with a loving family member —in the child’s home language or in English-– is a wonderful bonding and learning experience…Reading aloud every day is one of the best ways to support home-program connections. Through reading, families can introduce and talk about new words, encourage early literacy skills and knowledge, highlight special interests, and build connections with their child that lead to strong and lasting relationships.”
When you talk with families, share a few books that you have that their child particularly enjoys reading, and suggest that they find some relaxing moments to sit with their child to read the story and talk about the pictures. You might also offer parents additional ideas for incorporating language and literacy development at home, such as telling stories and engaging in back-and-forth conversations.
Provide Specific Activities that Families Can Do at Home
When sharing activities for families to try at home, it is important that we consider the following…
Does this activity require minimal materials? Activities that incorporate complex toys or multiple items can be difficult for families to do at home. Consider activities that require just a few, simple items that families will likely have available in their homes.
Can this activity fit easily into the family’s routine? When sharing activities for families to do at home, it is especially helpful if they are simple to do so they can easily fit into the family’s schedule. Activities that require a lot of time or set-up can feel difficult for parents to accomplish.
Does the activity have specific goals for learning? Parents are especially encouraged when they know exactly what skills they are building with their young children.
Have the instructions been translated into the family’s home language? Finding a resource that is available in the family’s home language helps ensure parents can understand the instructions for utilizing the resource and can easily access the information that is shared.
Here are a few activity resources that meet the requirements above:
Vroom, shares activities for infants and toddlers that can be done at bedtime, bathtime, or while shopping at the grocery store.
Bedtime Math, helps parents of children 4 years and older make math a fun part of their children’s everyday lives.
Sesame Street in Communities, offers a variety of free activity ideas and resources that helps families support their children’s learning of the “ABCs and 123s”.
Talking is Teaching, features evidence-based printable tips and toolkits that encourage parents of infants to talk, read, and sing with their children every day.