8th June 2024 Partnership with Parents

The Best Ways to Partner with Parents

Partnering with parents is essential in early years education because parents and carers can significantly impact children’s outcomes. Research shows that the home learning environment plays a key role in a child’s future success, regardless of the quality of the educational setting. When educators and families collaborate, they can better support children’s learning both at home and in the nursery.

Parents have a deep understanding of their children’s preferences, abilities, and interests. This knowledge helps educators tailor their approach, improving children’s wellbeing, learning and development. Importantly, working in partnership with parents is central to the EYFS. In this article, we will explore some of the best ways to partner with parents in your early years setting.

Create a warm and welcoming environment

Creating a warm and welcoming environment is essential for building meaningful relationships with parents and carers. When parents feel comfortable, recognised, and valued, a positive bond forms between nursery managers, early years educators, and families, this bond assures parents that their children will be safe and well-cared for in your early years setting.

To create this welcoming atmosphere, all staff members need to work together. How you greet and interact with parents, carers, and families daily can significantly impact their perception of your nursery. Positive interactions enhance communication and contribute to the success of every child by strengthening partnerships with parents and carers.

Consider the message your entrance space conveys. Is it welcoming and inviting? The information displayed should reflect the diversity of your community, showing that all families are welcome and valued. This area should include important information such as term dates, car seat safety, food menus, oral health information, and a staff board with photographs and names. This helps parents feel at ease and familiar with who they will communicate with and who will look after their child.

Does your entrance space provide an area for parents to sit, chat with staff or other parents, and read available information? Is it warm and inviting? Offering drinks to waiting parents can also add a personal touch. Remember, first impressions are lasting. Parents and carers are likely to carry their first impression throughout their child’s time at your setting, so make sure it’s a positive one. Ensure your setting appears clean, safe, and organised to leave a lasting positive impact. 

Since many nurseries have adjusted their drop-off and collection policies post-Covid, with parents now dropping children off directly at the nursery door, building partnerships with parents can be challenging. Prioritising the children’s needs and best interests is crucial, but building strong partnerships with parents is also important. If this is the case for your setting, consider ways to facilitate parent-staff interactions without feeling rushed and opportunities for parents to meet and engage with one another.

Create opportunities to build partnerships with parents

How often do you invite parents and carers into your setting outside of pick-up and drop-off times? Inviting parents to spend time in your nursery can significantly enhance their sense of belonging and strengthen the partnership you have with them. When parents are welcomed to join events and activities, they feel valued and more connected to your setting. Here are some effective ways to create these opportunities:

Coffee mornings:

Host regular coffee mornings where parents and carers can meet, chat, and get to know the staff and each other. These informal gatherings provide the opportunity to build a sense of community and supply a relaxed environment for parents to share their thoughts and experiences.

Stay-and-play sessions:

Organise stay-and-play sessions where parents can spend a morning experiencing the activities and routines their children enjoy. This gives parents a glimpse into their child’s daily life at the nursery and helps them understand your educational approach. You may organise stay-and-play sessions around certain times of the year such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Easter to provide parents with the opportunity to celebrate the events with their children.

PTA group: 

Do you have the capability to start a Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) group? This group can help plan events, discuss nursery matters, and provide feedback from all areas of your nursery setting. Establishing a PTA group and involving parents in decision-making processes enables you to build a collaborative environment and shows that their input is valued and appreciated.

Summer/winter fairs:

Host seasonal fairs where families can come together to celebrate and participate in fun activities. These events are great opportunities for parents to socialise, support the nursery, and engage in their child’s learning environment. Additionally, you can use these fairs to raise money for a charity important to your local community, further building a sense of togetherness and community spirit.

Graduation events: 

Celebrate milestones with graduation events. Whether it’s moving up to the next class or transitioning to primary school, these ceremonies provide a sense of accomplishment and closure for children and their families.

Nursery library:

Create a nursery library where parents can borrow books to read with their children at home. This promotes literacy and encourages a love of reading, while also providing a touchpoint for parents to engage with the nursery regularly.

By incorporating these events and activities into your nursery’s schedule, you can build stronger partnerships with parents, making them feel more involved and valued in their child’s early years education.

Communicating with parents and carers

ffective communication between early years settings and parents is paramount to successful practice. While it can be challenging and time-consuming to ensure effective two-way communication, it’s crucial to make it as seamless as possible. Recognising that parents and carers engage differently based on their preferences is key. Offering a range of communication methods can cater to these varying needs and help involve them more in their children’s learning.

Some parents value quick, informal chats during drop-off and pick-up times. These brief interactions can provide immediate feedback and help build connections. For those who prefer digital communication, apps like ParentZone can be highly effective. They allow parents to receive updates, photos, and important information conveniently. Regular newsletters or emails can keep parents informed about upcoming events, important announcements, and their child’s progress. Additionally, scheduled ‘parent’s evenings’ or relaxed meetings offer a more formal setting for in-depth discussions about a child’s development and any concerns.

Tailoring information delivery is also crucial. It’s important to understand how much information parents actually want. Some may feel overwhelmed by detailed updates, while others might appreciate every bit of information. Tailoring your communication to meet these diverse needs ensures that parents feel informed without being overloaded.

Consider potential barriers to effective communication, such as parents’ past experiences with nurseries, language and cultural differences, and varying values. Parents’ own experiences can affect their willingness to engage, so building a trusting relationship can help overcome these reservations. Being mindful of language barriers and cultural differences, providing translated materials, or using bilingual staff can help bridge gaps. Additionally, recognising and respecting that parents may have different values and approaches to raising children can provide the opportunity for more open, non-judgmental communication.

Be transparent, make parents and carers feel included

Transparency is a crucial step in building strong partnerships with parents and carers. Providing clear and comprehensive information helps parents understand what to expect and how to support their children’s next steps. Sharing documents that outline developmental milestones and examples of how adults can support children at each stage is highly beneficial. This approach helps both the nursery and parents plan effective support strategies.

Recognise that parents come from diverse backgrounds and have different levels of experience with children. Some may have never been around children before. Since children don’t come with instructions, creating an environment where parents can ask questions and receive helpful, non-judgmental responses is vital. Every family is unique, and acknowledging this uniqueness ensures you provide the best possible support.

Consider how parents learn best—whether through verbal explanations, demonstrations, or providing resources to read, watch, or listen to. Offering various forms of support allows parents to feel acknowledged and understood, truly valuing their partnership with you and strengthening the bond.

To further include parents and carers, conduct regular surveys, focus groups, or feedback forms to gather their views and ideas. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and inform your provision’s development plan. Be transparent and address the feedback you receive by informing them of any changes you may implement or how you already do this within your setting. Celebrating successes and achievements with parents and carers and sharing how their feedback has been used to improve your setting helps build trust and shows that their input is valued.

By being transparent and inclusive, you create a supportive environment where parents feel involved and respected, enhancing the overall experience for children and their families.

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About the Author

Content Marketing Executive at Connect Childcare