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Getting Parents Involved
In Childcare

Getting Parents Involved In Childcare...

All parents will have some involvement with the childcare centre that their child attends.

Getting Parents Involved

Just what form this involvement takes depends on the type of centre, on the way that the staff interpret their brief to work with parents and on the parents themselves.

The following are some examples of ways in which childcare centres can work together with parents to the benefit of their children.

Getting Parents Involved During Settling In

Everyone recognises the importance of the settling-in period for both the child and the parent and will encourage parents to play a full part.

Centres will use some or all of the following to make this transition a positive experience.

  • Parents will often stay with their child until, with the encouragement of staff, they feel comfortable about leaving. At this stage the exchange of information is vital: staff will want to know all about the child and parents will want to know all about how their child is doing during these early days. Parents who have full-time jobs may find it difficult to stay during these sessions but will be just as concerned; giving them plenty of notice of arrangements for starting may mean that they can organise other committments and be there.
  • Some centres will have their own pre-school (or pre-nursery) club where children come with their parents for a number of sessions before they start officially.
  • Some centres will make home visits to families prior to their children starting nursery or school. Parents often feel more comfortable in their own homes rather than in a strange, perhaps intimidating environment.
It is important to remember that the settling-in period can sometimes be more stressful for the parents than for the child. Parents may take some time to adjust to a new role.

After the settling-in period, parents can be involved in a variety of ways.

Working With The Children

Here parents are encouraged to stay and become involved in activities with the children, sometimes committing themselves to a regular session - as with a playgroup rota - more often on an occasional basis.

The children benefit from the presence of another adult, parents have a chance to see the setting at work and the child is aware of the link between home and the centre.

Cooking, craft and swimming sessions are often provided in this way and many schools rely on parent help for reading activities. Outings with groups of children would neither be possible nor safe without parent volunteers to accompany them.

Parents might also be able to contribute in a more specific way, for example by talking about their job, telling a story in another language or playing an instrument.

Working Behind The Scenes

Not everyone feels comfortable or is able to work alongside the children. Making, mending and maintaining equipment is a task that can involve parents.

Also in this category of involvement will be the fund-raising and organisation of social events that many parent groups take responsibility for.

These social events that bring together staff and parents are usually very successful in promoting good relationships and often raise funds too.

Parents who are not available during the day may be able to become involved in these ways.

Special Occasions

Most centres have occasions when parents are invited along to parties, concerts, sports, open days or stay and play sessions. Such events are usually very popular.

More parents will be able to take advantage of the invitation if other committments are taken into account, for example if babies and toddlers are welcome at an afternoon concert, or if there are occasional evening events so that those who are out at work during the day can attend.

Support For Parents

In some day nurseries and most family centres the staff have a special brief to work with parents. This is probably because there is some difficulty in the family that affects the child and the parent in individual programmes.

For this kind of work to be successful, it is crucial that the member of staff has the trust and confidence of the parent.

Some centres might also offer 'drop-in' facilities and parents' groups as part of their programme.

Taking The Curriculum Home

Most parents will expect to play a part in helping their children read. Home-school reading diaries, in which parents and staff exchange comments on books and reading, provide a link and show children that everyone is involved.

Other schemes such as 'Impact Maths and Science' are popular in some areas.

In these, children and parents are guided through a practical, problem-solving activity using a prepared pack. Such schemes recognise and emphasise the important role that the home and parents have in children's learning.

Official Roles

Some parents will be involved with the childcare centre in an official capacity. All state schools will have parents, elected by other parents, on their governing bodies and they have an important role defined in law.

Playgroups are usually run by a committee of parents for the benefit of the local community. Other types of centre may have parent representatives on their management committees.

Sometimes parents may be reluctant to become involved in this way and need to be assured that they have a neccessary and valuable contribution to make.

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