According to the Michigan Department of Education, the earlier a parent becomes involved in a child's education, the better. Instead of waiting until your little one reaches elementary age before you begin participating in school events, family engagement activities in child-care centers will help you positively engage in your child's educational life for years to come.
Whether you are the head class parent, a teacher or a well-meaning mom who takes charge of preschool events, planning family engagement activities involves taking the child-care center environment into consideration. Unlike elementary, middle or high schools, the early childhood environment has unique features and policies that may differ from those of an older child's school. For example, some child-care centers may rely on parental help for daily activities such as story time or with setting up lessons. Additionally, while the older student's day consists of classes, lunch and possibly recess, the child-care day may also include nap time, outdoor play or snack time. Parents may have to work around these time blocks when getting involved in child-care center activities.
Getting the word out is key to successful parent engagement at the early childhood level. If parents don't know about opportunities that may exist, it is impossible to expect a high participation rate. According to the national parent involvement group PTO, which stands for Parent-Teacher Organization, communication is key when encouraging parents to participate in school events. Using strategies such as e-mail newsletters, class letters and the child-care center's web site can help facilitate effective communication between the school and its families when it comes to making announcements and notifying parents of engagement opportunities.
The child-care environment may offer an array of opportunities for families to engage with their children and the school as a whole. Regular, consistent activities allow parents to familiarize themselves with how the center works. Examples of activities that child-care centers may need help with include reading during story time, help with setting up an afternoon snack or the mid-day meal and participating in lessons or activities with the kids. Parents with special skills or talents may want to consider helping out with specific activities that they feel a high comfort level with. For example, a musician parent may come in to class a few times each week to play an instrument and sing with the children.
Family engagement for special child-care center activities can make a memorable day even better for both children and parents. Parents may want to volunteer as a chaperone or help set up classroom parties. Additionally, parents can become involved by participating in special field trips or routine activities.
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