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Family Engagement in Early Education

When family engagement in schools increases, education outcomes improve. Here’s how to strengthen family involvement in early childhood education.

Family Engagement in Early Education

Family Engagement in Early Education

When a child starts school, they’re beginning an educational journey. They’ll need a team of supportive, invested adults to guide them, including their teachers and family.

It’s not always easy to increase family involvement in schools, as encouragement alone won’t always result in instant family engagement. But with the proper strategies and a growth mindset, early childhood educators can build connections with families that improve communication and equip them to play an active role in their child’s education.

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of family engagement in an early education program and the top ways to improve participation at your center.

What is family engagement?

Family engagement is the idea that families play a crucial role in a child's overall growth and development. In early education, family engagement involves creating meaningful partnerships between educators and families to support a child's overall well-being and educational progress. Below are some key aspects of family engagement in preschool.

  • Communication: Regular and open communication between teachers and families is essential. This can involve parent-teacher conferences, newsletters, phone calls, emails, or even apps and online platforms to share updates on a child's progress and activities. With brightwheel's communication feature you can send real-time messages to families directly in the app and attach photos and videos.
  • Involvement in learning: Encourage families to participate in their child's learning journey. You can set the tone for active family involvement at your orientation when you welcome new families. Introduce your teachers, give an overview of your curriculum and policies, and outline learning goals for the upcoming school year.
  • Support for learning at home: Provide parents and guardians with resources and guidance on supporting their child's learning outside of the classroom. This might include suggestions for age-appropriate books, educational games, or other activities.
  • Volunteer opportunities: Welcome parents and family members to volunteer in the classroom or at school events. Their involvement can enhance the sense of community within your program and provide valuable support to teachers.
  • Education: Offer workshops or informational sessions for families on topics related to child development, early literacy, and other relevant subjects. These can help families better understand their child's needs and how to support them.

Mother reading picture book to young girl.Source

Why is family involvement important?

Family involvement contributes to meaningful and lasting relationships and impact’s children’s success. Research consistently shows that children with involved parents or caregivers tend to have higher academic achievement, improved social skills, and increased motivation to learn. But why is family involvement so crucial, and what are the specific benefits it brings?

Improves academic outcomes

Family involvement in preschool improves academic outcomes by creating a holistic support system that reinforces learning, fosters positive attitudes, and provides emotional and social support. When families and educators work together as partners in a child's education, it sets a strong foundation for their academic success and future educational achievements.

Strengthens family-teacher relationships

This practice helps to strengthen family-teacher relationships by promoting communication, trust, and collaboration between the two parties. These partnerships benefit the child's education and overall development and create a supportive network that can have a lasting and positive impact throughout the child's academic journey. 

Reduces challenging behavior

Family involvement in preschool reduces challenging behavior by promoting consistency in a child’s routine, open communication between teachers, children, and families, early intervention of challenging behaviors, and positive reinforcement. When families and teachers work together to address behavior challenges early, they create a supportive and nurturing environment that helps children develop essential social and emotional skills, leading to improved behavior and overall well-being.

Boosts teacher morale

You can also boost teacher morale by involving families in their children’s education. This is because you’ll be creating a more supportive, collaborative, and appreciative educational environment for your teachers. When families are actively engaged in their child's education, it benefits children and can enhance the job satisfaction and well-being of teachers, ultimately contributing to a positive and thriving educational community.

Parents helping young children with homework. Source

Ways to improve family engagement in your program

Here are a few ideas and best practices for improving family involvement in early childhood education.

Honor diversity

It’s human nature to feel more comfortable connecting with someone when they can see and honor your identity. The same concept applies to building stronger ties through family engagement in schools—families are more likely to connect with teachers that are sensitive to different cultures and languages.

You can promote values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in your program and build stronger relationships with families by:

  • Taking time to understand the cultures and customs present in the families you serve
  • Encouraging participation in community cultural events
  • Inviting a diverse lineup of storytellers, musicians, and artists to your classroom
  • Openly sharing your own identity and culture with families

Invite family engagement

Hosting annual school-wide events is a great way to get your families together and show off the community you’re building or your children’s progress. As you plan your preschool calendar for the year, include frequent community events that allow families to get to know each other and build relationships outside of the classroom. Offer events at various times and different days of the week such as weeknights or weekends to encourage participation and include families who can’t attend a weekday event. 

Consider surveying your families for insights about what types of events to offer and ideas for other ways they'd like to get involved. Keep in mind that your family engagement activities don't always need to be elaborate events. Some family members might like to volunteer to be a chaperone on a field trip or help at a fundraising event, while others might be available to help with an activity in the classroom, such as arts and crafts or storytime. Making it easy for families to participate is key to increasing family engagement. 

Keep families informed

From daily verbal check-ins to monthly newsletters, families want to hear from you as much as possible about their child’s progress. Hold parent-teacher conferences at least twice a year for formal reports and communicate daily with families.

With a tool like brightwheel's daily report feature your staff can easily track daily events and activities in the classroom. Families get real-time updates delivered to their mobile devices throughout the day. This is a great way to keep your families looped in and engaged with their child's daily learning.

Get your free family-teacher conference checklist! 

Build a strong school-to-home connection

Learning doesn’t stop when a child is signed out at the end of the day. In the early years, when a child’s development is exponential, take the time to engage families in building a bridge between school and home.

Provide opportunities for families to build off daily work and progress by recommending or providing at-home learning activities. Make your families feel valued as team members working with you towards your common goal of educating their child.

Measure success

Define success and use markers to determine your family engagement goals and objectives. For example, is it a success when a family member volunteers in the classroom? Attends events? Completes a certain number of at-home activities?

Tracking results is the best way to know whether your family engagement strategy is effective. For example, how positively do families respond? What do they want to see more of and what do they like less?

Ask families for feedback on the engagement activities and opportunities you’ve provided. Their valuable insight can equip you to respond to their unique needs and build a family engagement strategy that works.

Developing a family engagement strategy

The first step to strengthening family engagement in schools is to develop an actionable strategy. It's a good idea to audit what you are currently doing as your strategy might need to be updated to account for modern technology, cultural diversity, and the particular needs of children and families in your community.

Mother and child doing math homework.Source

Assess your current strategy

To get started, it’s important to consider your current strategy for including parents and other family members in their child’s education. Ask yourself the following questions as you outline your family engagement strategy:

  • Are there any processes we have that would be better suited for an online platform that families can easily access?
  • How can we use digital tools and social media to regularly communicate with and engage families?
  • Do we have any accessibility barriers that may prevent some families from being involved? How can we reduce barriers to family engagement?
  • What can we add to our staff development plan that helps staff accomplish our family engagement strategy?
  • Is our family communication schedule organized and streamlined?
  • Are we inviting families to participate in a two-way conversation and partnership or only broadcasting information?
  • How can we address our families’ challenges and meet them where they are?

Now that you have these foundational questions in place, it’s important to consistently check back in with your strategy to ensure it’s as equitable and welcoming as possible.

Utilize technology

As the school year goes by, encourage families to continue engaging with their child’s education. One of the best ways to do that is to introduce technology into the equation so families have a convenient place to get updates on their child’s daily and overall progress.

A parent communication app like brightwheel makes it easy to stay in touch with families. You and your staff can provide families with the important information they need, including photos, messages, and updates and build deeper relationships.

Ask your families and staff for feedback

Lastly, it’s important to ask families and staff for feedback to assess whether or not their needs are being met with your current strategy and that it fosters family engagement as you intended. You can do this by sending out surveys to families, holding parent-teacher conferences, or asking for feedback during staff meetings. 

Once you have this information, you can use it to tailor your family engagement process further and make it better each year.

Family engagement benefits everyone

Increasing family engagement requires planning and patience, but it can yield positive results in the long run. First, review your current family engagement strategy and consider how access, communication, and support resources can improve. Then, your efforts toward family engagement today will have a chain reaction that positively impacts a child’s future.

Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at

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