Do you worry about how to increase or create more opportunities for parent communication and belonging? As not only an educator but also a parent that has used different forms of childcare for my children over the years one of the things that can really leave me feeling left out of my child's experiences and learning at daycare is a lack of communication between educators and parents.
I want to feel as though I have shared a little part of their day when I pick up in the afternoon, I want to know whether they were happy or sad, busy or tired, and something they did that day that perhaps I could chat about with them at home to show my interest in their day.
Parent communication should be an important part of any early childhood service. Talking to parents should be a high priority and there should be other options and systems in place for when a child's educator hasn't yet arrived or has left for the day before a parent can speak with them. When I worked as a director this was something I always expected other staff to understand and embrace.
If parents are informed it will also help the children to feel a sense of agency and belonging within the service as they will be able to share their day with their educators and with their parents from a place of inclusion and security.
Every educator and service will communicate differently but I wanted to share a few ways I have personally used to help parents and children feel as though they are an important part of my early years' environment whether that is home or centre based….
The idea is that the children will feel welcome, part of the environment that they are about to enter and feel a sense of anticipation to see new or old friends. They should feel as though they belong.
My girls love to go outside early with me and place all the photos for the day ahead.
Something else I have used over the years is a simple communication book that goes back and forth between home and care each day. I have found this more effective in a home daycare type service as it is easier to see the parent at drop off and home time to remind them to use the book!
I like to personalise them with the child's photo and a name and they only take a few minutes to complete. I did something very similar to this format when I first became a room leader in a centre over 20 years ago. I received such wonderful feedback from parents that I always include a version of them whenever I am working with children and parents. They are a fantastic tool to use with Baby and toddler parents who need that extra information about nappy changes, sleep times, bottles, feeds etc.
I have spaces for parents to include anything they would like me to know before the day begins and an area I can leave my own comments on the day.
The other sections are mostly a circle or tick so they take little time at all to complete but give parents (hopefully) a nice overview of their child's day and a few of their favourite moments.
Older children love to take the books out of their bag each morning and put away at the end of the day. It's a lovely way to introduce ownership of belongings and a strong sense of self-identity.
As I mentioned before though it's certainly not the end of the world if it has been one of those days and you haven't had a chance to get anything written or completed for your parent communication! BUT, it then becomes even more important to spend time with the parents/carers at pick up time and share some moments from our day. If you are in a long daycare, school-age care or occasional care setting working different shifts it is so important that you have a good communication process in place to relay important information to parents even if you are not there.
Doing the early or late shift is not a reason to miss making connections with a family and helping them to feel their child is safe and well supported. Some educators do this with a communication book and this can work well but even recognising a parent and calling their child over by name makes a big impact. They may not be in your room but that shouldn't matter. I rarely get on my soapbox about anything but parents not being welcomed and acknowledged in some way always annoys me….I've heard all the excuses but it really just comes down to a little extra effort!
There are of course many other ways to help a family feel as though they belong and are respected when they use your service – I've really only covered a few here. The enrolment process, your entry area, the environments, understanding of different family cultures and much more can all have an important impact but in my opinion, a comprehensive and regular parent communication process and policy should always be the first to be developed and understood by both educator and parent or carer.
As long as we always understand and celebrate the uniqueness of each individual child and the way that they play and learn…and share this with parents, communication in its various forms will remain an important tool in every childcare service.
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