Family input is about working together. It allows us to foster a sense of belonging for both the child and the parents. When parents and educators find a way to collaborate it strengthens the child’s identity and enhances their learning.
As educators, we have a meaningful role to play in strengthening the sense of belonging for children and families of diverse backgrounds. At Petit ELJ we believe in working together. We value family input and conversations that encourage effective communication.
By showing a genuine interest in a family’s culture, through ways of communicating and parenting, we promote a sense of security and belonging for the child. Working together with parents also creates smooth transitions between home life and childcare.
There are many different ways in which to encourage collaboration. At Petit ELJ, it begins with the very first contact we have with a parent. A tour of our centre provides families with the opportunity to speak directly with their child’s prospective educators.
Collaboration creates positive relationships, and we do this by:
- Acknowledging and supporting children’s family and culture
- Having conversations
- Sharing information with families in child care
- Inviting and actively listening to family input
- Respecting families’ culture and values
- Developing strategies that nurture partnerships.
Of particular note is our use of Storypark, an online communication app. We use it to share a child’s learning journey with their family. It also aides our educators in the development of a child’s portfolio and provides a way in which parents can give feedback.
How educators acknowledge and support children’s family and culture
Actively listening to families and incorporating their input into an early learning environment is one way an educator can acknowledge and support a child’s family and culture. Working in partnership with families builds trust, creates shared decision making, aims and goals.
Some of the ways that we can build partnerships include:
- Showing a genuine interest that gives a sense of welcome from our first interaction
- Encouraging family involvement by offering a variety of ways for families to interact
- Communicate with families in different ways such as verbal, written and electronic.
Conversations are one of the best ways to communicate with families
Sometimes our parents are too busy to have verbal conversations. They might be on their way to work, a job interview or a university lecture. Storypark is a useful app to download. The apps’ electronic conversations make conversing with busy parents easier.
Storypark ‘Conversations’ are private and secure discussions. We can use them to discuss aspects of our work as educators, but also to seek family input that remains separate from the child’s ‘Story’ or main learning journey.
Steph, Centre Director, Petit Early Learning Journey Kew, explains that Storypark is used extensively for daily communications with parents but also as a means for documenting educational programs, curriculums, assessments and evaluations.
‘It leaves no error for doubt. Everyone sees the same thing, one piece of consistent communication,’ says Steph. ‘We use it for daily writeups and observations, but also to let families know how their kids are going. It’s good for communicating big things that are going on.’
Steph particularly likes Storypark for the opportunity it provides to learn about stories through pictures. ‘When I started in the childcare industry, if something big happened, like a wow moment, we would take a photo, then take it to our director who would email it to the parent.’
‘Now, you take a photo on the iPad and straightaway it’s on Storypark. It’s a really nice way to give parents an instant snapshot.’ Recently, Steph used it record and communicate a successful practice fire drill to parents. Recording the drill also helped to grow the children’s confidence.
Sharing information with parents in child care
The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) discusses partnerships in Quality Area 6 – Collaborative Partnerships with Families and Communities. It stresses the importance of providing supportive relationships to enhance a child’s learning, inclusion and wellbeing.
Sharing information with parents in child care allows us to create smooth transitions between family life and the centre. At Petit ELJ, we value working together with families. It allows us to share information that provides each child with individual attention and care.
Regular discussions between educators and parents allows us to:
- Share concerns about a child’s physical or mental health
- Observe children and assess their individual needs
- Provide effective support
- Hear about special moments away from the centre.
At Petit ELJ, we view parents as the first and most important role model in a child’s life. Developing a strong partnership with families allows us to support parents in their parenting role and provide continuity of care between home and the centre.
As educators, we share a goal with parents to provide their child with a quality learning outcome.
Effective communication achieves this goal by opening a dialogue between educators and parents. We can also demonstrate this goal by learning from families’ experiences and using the information they share with us to support a child’s learning and wellbeing.
Strategies for involving family members in the service
Including families in our early education centres creates strong connections and meaningful learning experiences for children. It also helps us to build a sense of community by inviting families to participate in decision making, planning of quality outcomes and activities.
Collaboration goes further than providing strategies for involvement. It builds a partnership between the parents and us that focuses on a child’s development and learning. And in any partnership, active communication is essential.
Petit ELJ encourages and actively seeks family input and communication through the way we:
- Display information in our studios including our Family Information Board
- Invite discussion and participation in our activities, experiences and programs
- Document a child’s learning journey
- Share information through notices, emails, social media and newsletters
- Receive and act on valued family input such as the Parent Communication Book.
Though it’s not our only means of communication, Storypark strengthens family engagement. Purposeful documentation of a child’s experiences in a digital format shares information in real time. It communicates what is happening now.
It also encourages parents to share with us their photos and stories about their children outside of the centre. We can use this information to build on the child’s learning experiences and to help develop their interests.
Over time it creates a story of a child’s learning journey which parents, children and educators can reflect on. Reflection helps us to improve our learning environments and programs.
As well, Storypark also acts as a tool for inviting parents to participate in events, decision making and invaluable conversations that enhance our children’s personal development and learning.
By staying connected and respecting family input in the decision making of their child’s learning, we nurture a child’s sense of belonging in our Petit ELJ community.
Discover A Collaborative Work Environment at Petit Early Learning Journey
At Petit ELJ we not only value our collaboration and partnerships with parents but also our relationships with educators. Our educators work as part of a team within our centre community, sharing ideas and resources.
Effective communication, including active listening skills and the ability to work collaboratively with parents to forge valued partnerships that enhance a child’s learning experience, is essential.
Are you familiar with the Storypark app? If you believe in creating communities and a sense of belonging through collaborative family input and communication, then we’d love to hear from you.