Working with children means working with families.
Family engagement is an ongoing process that occurs through respectful and responsive relationship-building between early childhood staff and families. Family engagement focuses on listening, welcoming ideas, and encouraging shared decision-making. The goal of family engagement is to create partnerships, leading to stronger outcomes for children. Families are our biggest partners in early childhood education. Educators should work to establish relationships with families to provide appropriate experiences for each child.
Use a family questionnaire to get to know new families coming into your program. Experience Early Learning provides a questionnaire you can use which can be downloaded from Member Resources. The questions include information about the family’s origin & culture, about being a parent, their parenting approach, how their daily schedule usually goes and Learning Goals for their child pertaining to being, becoming, and belonging.
This is a form that can be added to the child’s file and referenced throughout the year and shared with co-teachers in the child’s classroom.
Be sure to have an onboarding process in writing, that each family will experience when joining your program. Families should be provided handbooks, tours and an orientation process. Offer short visits gradually introducing the child to your program instead of dropping off for a full day.
Family Photo Displays
Children and their families feel a part of the classroom when they see themselves represented. Having a picture of their family says that you care about them and their family! You care about them as a WHOLE Child, not just their education.
Send a note home requesting photos or take photos at an open house event.
Creating bulletin boards with information for families tells about your program. They are looking for information, community and ways they can connect with the classroom. Provide curriculum information, schedules, and ways families can donate or volunteer. You may want to highlight teachers or families and the birthdays and special events taking place that month.
Clean, Engaging Classroom
Clean shelves, floors, walls and toys. Reduce clutter and store extra materials in cabinets. Set up centers and play spaces that invite children and families in to play and explore. Label your centers and toy shelves.
Create a welcome area when families come in. When you have a new family you could put out a small journal or set up a whiteboard or an easel with paper so current families can write messages to welcome newcomers.
Make a display with the new family’s photo and a short introduction. Add a welcome sign and other decorations that show this is a special day. Include welcome or hello in the languages of all the families in your program.
This welcome area can include community resources, books and information for families as well as an attractive and welcoming space to sit and wait or sign up for events.
Smile and Greet
Smile and introduce yourself and your coworkers by name. Not only are smiles contagious, but a warm face and voice help children feel safe and show the family that their child’s teachers are caring individuals. Sometimes we forget to have this warm happy look when we’re busy and stressed.
Personalized Cubbies and Supplies
Prepare the room with labeled spaces for the children to place their belongings and their supplies. Families want to see that their child is ready to be included and that they have been planned for. Simply seeing their child’s name on the sign-in sheet or wall displays, they will be feel welcomed and excited for the days ahead. These small efforts instill confidence in families.
Plan a back-to-school open house event! Open house events can serve several purposes. One main reason is to get to know each other’s families and create a sense of community. Use the Experience Early Learning Open House Celebration kit to help plan your open house.
Enjoy this free gift from Experience Early Learning Preschool Curriculum.
Download your free Open House Celebration Kit!
Looking for more guidance on Including Families? Register for our Including Families training and earn CED hours.