Positive relationships

Early years voices: Why invite parents and carers into your Early Years setting?

How to support parents and carers to learn alongside the little ones
An image of the Charnwood Nursery and Preschool Group logo (a white tree on a green background) with the text: Early Years voices.
December 6, 2023
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With Famly since

October 2020

Practice-based manager Abi Poole has been with Charnwood Nursery and Preschool Group for 15 years, and she’s not alone in her long service. Despite the sector struggling in the midst of a staffing crisis, Abi explains that the low staff turnover at CNPG is due to the settings constantly innovating with the times and staying reflective.

“We always want to be the first ones to say, ‘What can we do to be better?’” explains Abi, “That’s what makes people want to stay here. We never stick to our ways, we always want to achieve more.”

But this commitment to innovation and learning is not just for staff and the little ones, but for the parents and carers too. The team offer parents and carers sessions at the settings as well as workshops of their own.

So what do these parent sessions look like and how did they come about? And why invite parents into your setting at all? As Abi explains, it’s all about working together

The big ideas

  • Parent partnerships aren’t just for pick-up and drop-off. Get to know your parents better and offer them practical advice and support through a parent and carers session
  • Abi Poole and the team at the Charnwood Nursery and Preschool Group regularly welcome parents into the settings through organised parent sessions, as well as exclusive parent classes.
  • Want to begin inviting parents in for sessions at your setting? Find Abi’s top tips at the bottom of the article.

Why invite parents and carers to early years settings?

At Charnwood Nursery and Preschool Group (CNPG), inviting parents into the nursery began as a way to share their ethos about outdoor learning. Parents were initially unsure about some of the activities on offer, especially in wetter or colder weather.

“Some of the parents didn't understand why the children would come home so messy and what they were doing all day,” explains Abi, “They knew we were getting saws out and making fires and they were a bit off-put. They thought the children should have to come inside if it’s raining a little bit.”

So, what better way to show the parents how valuable being outside was for the children than inviting them to take part in the outdoor learning themselves?

“We’ve had far fewer comments from parents since we started doing this,” says Abi, “They know what our setting is about, what the children are doing outside and why. They understand it because they’re seeing it.”

But teaching the parents about the benefits of being outdoors was just the start.

CPNG have a philosophy of parents as co-educators, so as well as those early outdoor sessions, the preschool parents were invited into the CNPG settings to take part in phonics and maths lessons. Not only are the parents learning more about how their children learn, but getting familiar with these topics supports parents and children with the transition to school. 

A parent plays in the home corner with a preschool-aged child. She is handing him a colander from a toy kitchen cupboard.

How do you get started with inviting parents into nursery?

After a hiatus during the Covid-19 pandemic, Abi wanted to make sure parents were welcomed back into the nurseries with open arms.

It was important for Abi and the team to make a real effort to show parents they could come back in and feel at home. So, to get the ball rolling, the Charnwood team began inviting parents and carers to open-air parent breakfasts. As these were outside, in the fresh air, they could be Covid-safe for everyone involved.

“But just joining in with breakfast at the nursery is almost a parent class in itself,” says Abi, “The parents get to see how we play and interact with their children and the types of activities we have set up for them.”

However not content with just educating the parents in the setting, Abi and the team decided to start supporting parents with the very foundations of learning, by offering specific parent classes outside of the nurseries. Now, the CNPG team offer classes in:

  • School Readiness
  • Phonics
  • Paediatric First Aid
  • The Solihull approach– ‘Understanding Your Child’s Behaviour’

“We talk to parents about children using their arm and hand muscles before they start writing and we remind them not to pressure their children,” says Abi, “We explain that the children here should be playing, they have plenty of time to be growing up and learning.”

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What does planning a parent session look like?

Here are Abi’s top tips for getting started with inviting in your parents and carers:

Split parents into manageable groups

For the team at Charnwood, the parents are invited in their children’s key groups, to keep it manageable for staff and the other children. For some of the smaller rooms, this can happen all in one go, but in the larger preschool rooms, they spread the parents’ sessions over a week.

If it’s your first time inviting a group of parents in, think about:

  • Where you’ll be able to accommodate the extra adults
    Do you have room inside the setting or would a CNPG-style outdoor session work better? If you’d like parents to sit and take part in activities, will they be able to utilise the furniture? How accessible is your setting or outside space to parents and carers who may have limited mobility?
  • How many parents and carers you can reasonably accommodate per session
  • Who you might like to invite together
    Are there parents who might need the support of a fellow parent or carer to make the most of the session? Are there any parents or carers who might benefit from not being in the same group?

A parent plays with playdough in a preschool classroom. A young girl looks on.

Have a set activity or event

Having a clear activity or event for parents to get stuck into makes the parent sessions easier for everyone (and means everyone understands the expectations). Just like the Charnwood team's phonics, maths, or breakfast sessions, each time parents come in there’s something specific for them to get involved with. 

If it’s your first time inviting a group of parents in, think about:

  • What kind of activities might appeal to the children and parents at your setting?
    Consider something that the children really enjoy and will delight in getting their parents and carers involved in. How will you support less confident patients and carers to join in?
  • How will you make it safe for everyone involved?
    How will you ensure all parents and carers know your evacuation procedures? If you’re inviting parents and carers in for a meal, consider how you’ll manage allergies and dietary requirements.
  • What are you trying to achieve with the session?

It might feel awkward at first, but keep going

As Abi explains, inviting the parents in was a process. Although it felt awkward at first, the team focussed on breaking down the barriers and the more they invited parents in, the more enthusiasm for the sessions grew.

“There was a little bit of resistance to start with,” says Abi, “Staff had gotten used to just getting on with their job with the children. But we reminded the team that we are in partnership with the parents and they’re their child’s first educator. Now, we’ve gotten to the point where the team are asking when the parents are next coming in. They get excited about it now and enjoy those relationships.”

If it’s your first time inviting a group of parents in, think about:

  • How you’ll encourage and support staff to feel positive about inviting parents into the setting
  • How you’ll evaluate the success of the session 
  • How you’ll get feedback from the parents about the session
download pdf
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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

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UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

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.

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