While the central practice of an early education teacher fittingly targets the security and guidance of young children, often too little consideration is paid to the role of family members- both as engaged partners and as part of the regular curriculum- in the early education environment.
Recent research suggests that quality child care doesn’t just benefit kids- it also supports families (See “Child Care Programs Assist Parents In Building Social Capital: Suggestions For Administrators and Faculty”).The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the accreditation body that is recognized as the gold standard in the field of early childhood education, understands the importance of family involvement in the development of young children, and mandates that centers follow explicit family engagement standards in order to maintain their accreditation status. There are many simple ideas that early educators can integrate into their program in order to promote family involvement in the educational setting- both directly and through projects that permit children to think about and discuss their families regularly throughout the school day (Francis, n.d.).
- Ask parents into the facility to display and share hobbies and pastimes, cultural rituals, unique foods, etc. This is not only an great time for a young child to observe and enjoy her own family- it also lets parents know that their exceptional stories are acknowledged and welcomed in the classroom.
- Construct a welcoming, family-focused environment and let parents know that their participation is desirable. Make sure family members know where art supplies, toys and books are kept so that they can engage without restriction.
- Assist children in making a family tree. For infants and toddlers, this may simply be naming people in their households and those special to them. Keep the tree uncomplicated and straightforward and mention it often as a source of communication.
- Choose quality reading materials- there are hundreds of fantastic children’s books that recognize the diversity of modern families. Be perceptive to family variance with any activity you do, but recognize that books provide you with a unique opportunity to mention and encourage all families.
For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.
Francis, K. (n.d.) Inviting family into the classroom. EarlychildhoodNEWS: The Professional Resource For Teachers and Parents.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children. (n.d.) Introduction to NAEYC standards and criteria. Washington, DC: Author.