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When you’re working in early education, parent engagement can sometimes feel like just another buzzword. But something so critical shouldn’t ever feel abstract, or out of reach.
The fact is, good parent partnerships are more achievable than ever before. For lots of early educators, it’s just about getting a bit of help from the right tools.
But before we get to that, let’s look at some of the key reasons why parent engagement is so important in early childhood education:
Now then, the big question — what’s the best way to build up parent engagement?
If you look at early educators throughout the child care sector, the answer’s clear: child care software. Down below, we’ll run through some of the main reasons why software (such as Famly) offers you the most capable tools for boosting parent engagement at your own child care program.
When upwards of 85 percent of adults in the US own a smartphone, communication apps are your most direct, streamlined way to connect with parents. And that connection goes both ways, so they can reach you easily as well if they have any immediate questions or concerns. Having easy, accessible parent communications via smartphone means nobody has to adjust their habits just to keep in touch.
Put simply, it all boils down to accessibility. In-app communication is immediately familiar for families, and easy to pick up. This gives you valuable flexibility with your communications, and helps you accommodate every family — and this gesture can go a long way in building up trust, good relationships, and making sure parents stay with your program.
Can’t find that note from your last meeting with Sara’s parents? Struggling to remember whether you let Abdi’s mom and dad know about the trip next week?
Not a problem. When you’re using child care management software, you can easily pull up old messages and conversations, and stay on top of everything you’ve sent out. Scroll down a bit, or type a keyword in the search bar, and it’s there. You’ve also got quick access to proof that certain information has already been shared with parents, which can help avoid frustrations and miscommunications.
Having software that lets you access all of that not only makes your life easier, but it strengthens the bond between you and the parents. Building trust and open communication not only makes for more fulfilling relationships with parents, but it’s also the key to putting children’s growth at the very center of everything you do. And making sure you're both up-to-date at all times is a perfect place to start.
This follows up on the last point — keeping all your communications with parents in one place makes everything a whole lot easier.
When you’re trying to coordinate things across a WhatsApp group chat, email chains, a Facebook group and paper handouts, it’s easy for key details to slip through the cracks. A digital system gathers all that into a simple one-stop shop, ensuring everything you need is already automatically organized and right there at your fingertips.
At her early education program in Northampton, Massachusetts, Candice Chouinard had been juggling her parent communications across 11 different platforms. But since switching to Famly, she’s only needed one. Read her story about how it works right here.
If you’re new to child care software, you might be concerned that these new platforms are going to take up extra time in your day — but that simply isn’t the case.
Digital platforms like Famly make it easy to send out group messages by children’s classrooms or age groups, so you can reach the right group in a snap. You don’t have to make individual phone calls, or triple-check that you got every email included on the mailing list. Having everything all in one place cuts down on a lot of hassle.
You just need one portal to get in touch, and parents know there’s just one place they need to check for every important message. Add on the possibility to send out automatic messages and reminders, and you’re putting hours back into each week.
Lots of managers are concerned about the amount of genuine time they get with parents, and that’s understandable. With so many daily responsibilities, it can be hard to find time for one-on-one, unhurried conversations with parents.
Child care software helps you here as a time-saving tool. When you’re using it to clear up the daily communications and practical details, you’ve got more bandwidth to use your in-person interactions on meaningful, personal conversations with parents.
But when you can quickly send the necessary daily details digitally, you can save your in-person interactions for building up personal relationships. Instead of trying to hand off permission slips at the end of the day, you’ve got more space to talk about key moments and milestones in a child’s day, or ask how things are going back home.
It’s this sort of interaction that strengthens parent partnerships, and supports better learning at home — and digital communication helps you put those partnerships in the spotlight.
For parents, one of the most valuable features of child care software is the ability to get colorful glimpses of their child during the work day. Whether it’s a messy applesauce snack time, or building a record-high block tower, these shiny milestones mean the world to the parents at your program. Who wouldn’t love to just pop in online to see what their little ones are up to during the day?
Compared to a weekly newsletter with maybe a few pictures of the class, online communication really allows parents to feel more involved and present in their child’s day and connects them more to your child care program. In the end, this can also boost your retention rate, and even score you new clients via happy parent referrals.
So, we’ve said that the benefit to online communication is easier and more consistent two-way communication with parents. But the reason we do that is, of course, for the children.
Better and more frequent communication with parents helps you get a better idea of the children’s home life and understand their preferences, their individual needs, and the best way to make them comfortable so they can learn to the best of their abilities. What’s more, parents can better understand what’s happening at the daycare center and can become more involved and open to ways they can contribute to their children’s development at home. Child development doesn’t have to be a discussion topic in occasional meetings — you can make that care evident in daily conversations.
A great benefit to easier communication with parents is that it’s that much easier for them to become part of your care center’s community.
Traditional forms of communication, like general newsletters or the occasional voicemail, are a good start. But when more and more parents have grown up with smartphones their whole lives, they’re also expecting the more regular, personalized messaging that you can only provide through child care management software.
In combination with face-to-face time, you can end up building the strongest parent partnerships possible. Their support and participation can make it easier to plan parent events, have enough chaperones for class trips, and they can play a big role in spreading the word about your center via word-of-mouth in their neighborhoods.
We all know parents are going to have a lot of questions and concerns, and that it’s tough to attempt to address everything, but it’s important to listen and to try and solve what major problems you can, and parent’s feedback is crucial for that.
Having better two-way communication channels is essential to understanding what’s going right and what needs improvement with how you are caring for the children. And using child care management software is a fantastic way to make that happen. Whether it’s with instant messages, automatic reminders, in-app news feeds, or daily updates and photos, taking it online makes giving and receiving feedback that much easier.
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.