Four top tips for engaging parents in the early years
Effectively engaging with parents and guardians can be a real challenge for many nursery providers — leading to poor communication, verbal miscommunications and disruption to a child’s learning.
From busy parent schedules and mislaid paperwork to difficulty in accessing electronic communications — there’s a variety of reasons which contribute to a lack of parental engagement, which can cause parents to miss out on nursery updates and key moments in their child’s development.
In a recent survey we ran on the topic, a significant 71 people (67% of the sample) admitted they knew they could be communicating more effectively, with just 33% confident that their current systems and procedures were optimal.
We know just how important parental engagement is to successful nurseries — so with this in mind, read on to discover our top four tops for engaging parents in the early years.
1. Share key moments
Parents and guardians love to see what their children have been up to, and the thoughtful and timely use of photos and videos is a popular form of information sharing between caregivers and practitioners.
While they may not have time to read extensive email or text updates, a photo showing key moments in their child’s day goes a long way — making it a quick yet effective means of improving parental engagement. This can provide comfort to worried parents who may be missing their child, and also keeps them updated with their activities so that they can talk about it at home.
2. Make time for face-to-face meetings
In our survey, an overwhelming 64.5% of participants (69) people said that in-person meetings with parents and carers were the most fruitful and productive methods of engagement.
Speaking face-to-face with parents and guardians is a great means of effective communication and engagement, as all involved parties are physically present. It creates a trusted and open space where parents can hear how their child is getting on, raise concerns and worries, or simply find out about any important updates or events taking place within the early years setting.
We live in an increasingly digital world, and while technology has undoubtedly revolutionised the ways we communicate for the better, nothing quite replaces in-person interactions. It’s therefore worth allocating dedicated time to face-to-face meetings, as this offers valuable opportunities to check in with parents.
3. Embrace technology
Although we’ve just discussed the benefits of face-to-face communication, it’s also worth highlighting the significant value that implementing the right technology can bring.
While in-person interactions are preferred in early years settings, there are also multiple benefits associated with using an app. In our survey, more than a third (35.1%) agreed that electronic communications cut down on lost paperwork — improving communications while also offering significant environmental benefits. Apps are also key to the prevalence and maintenance of a two-day dialogue between nursery employees and parents and guardians, particularly when it comes to communicating updates from a child’s home life.
A user-friendly and intuitive electronic interface can therefore act as a good alternative to in-person communication as it augments messaging and facilitates an easier, quicker dialogue. This, in turn, can effectively remove the headaches and rigmarole associated with paperwork — streamlining the engagement process between parents, guardians and their child’s early years setting.
Apps such as ParentZone are particularly effective, as it enables a two-way communication between parents and nurseries, where parents can receive instant updates about their child’s day, accessed at a time that suits their schedule.
4. Be truthful and tactful
Honesty and trust are the foundations of all successful relationships — including the one shared between parents and their child’s early years setting provider.
The need for mutual understanding and respect between all parties was reflected in our survey results, where it was agreed that regular, honest and open dialogue is essential to a child achieving the best possible outcomes from their early years setting. This means that practitioners should show confidence, while also sharing the good and not-so-good with parents and carers.
Truthfulness can be very important but needs to be delivered tactfully and respectfully. Best practices include being clear about a child’s development, sandwiching negatives with positives, and taking care not to make assumptions about the children or their families.
Asking parents where you can support them can be incredibly useful in this respect, so it’s useful to spend time getting to know the families and having realistic expectations.
Parental Engagement: A Guide for Progressive Nursery Managers
To discover more about what parental engagement best practice looks like, download our free and dedicated guide on the subject.