Parent and Child Care Provider Partnerships
Posted on March 15, 2021 by CHS
Children need support from their parent(s) and child care provider in order to develop to their full potential. When parents and child care providers build strong and positive relationships, they can work as a team to support the children’s development and well-being. Children who see their parent(s) and child care provider working together feel more secure and comfortable in their child care program. Observing how parents and providers treat each other also teaches children valuable social skills. Both parents and child care providers can work toward building and strengthening their partnerships over time.
What Parents Can Do
Parents have valuable information about their children that can help child care providers understand their children’s individual personalities, strengths, and needs. Child care providers can use information from parents to build a curriculum that supports the learning of all children. Whether parents are enrolling their child in a preschool, family child care home, school, or after-school program, the information they share can help their child have a positive experience. When parents use a license-exempt provider, such as a family member or friend who may already know the child, sharing specific information about the child is beneficial.
Information to share about children of all ages:
- List allergies to foods or bottle formulas, medications, lotions or creams, clothing materials, laundry detergents, cleaning products, outdoor materials such as grass or pollen, insect stings or bites, etc. Include directions for how to respond if an allergy occurs.
- Share who is part of the child’s family and how the family members are addressed. For example, is the grandmother called Grandma or Nana? Share family pictures that the child care provider can use in the child care environment to help children feel connected to home.
- Describe behavior expectations at home and how inappropriate behavior is handled.
- Talk about the child’s strengths. This can include character traits such as being helpful, or skills such as being able to tie their own shoes.
- Share any challenges or concerns about a child’s development, health, learning, or behavior, and describe what strategies have been used to support these challenges.
- Create a list of questions about the child care program that need to be discussed.
- Specific information to share about infants and toddlers:
- Describe routines for napping, diapering, and feeding. This includes a child’s favorite comfort item, how they fall asleep (rocking and singing, or on their own in a crib), sensitivity to diaper creams or wipes, bottle feeding (formula or breast milk in bottles), and food preferences. Include daily schedules if needed.
- If toilet-learning has begun, share the strategies and routine being used.
- Describe how the child likes to be comforted when crying. Does she/he like to hold a blanket or stuffed animal, be held in a rocking chair, be gently bounced while walking outside, or be taken for a walk in a stroller?
- Share any concerns or challenges with behavior that is typical for infants and toddlers such as biting or temper tantrums and describe any strategies used to help the child.
In addition to sharing information about their children, parents can contribute to their partnership with child care providers in other ways. The first thing to consider is communication. It is important to have clear, open, and consistent communication with caregivers. Parents are encouraged to let caregivers know what type of communication works best for them, such as phone calls, written notes, emails, text messages, or in person. Whatever the chosen method of communication is, it can be helpful for parents to keep a record of that communication. The Understood website offers a printable communication log parents can use to keep a record of conversations, emails, letters, and phone calls.
Parents can participate in their child’s learning by reading with them for at least fifteen minutes a day, playing board games, spending time outdoors at a park or playground, and volunteering in the child care program. There are many ways that parents can volunteer in child care programs. Some are even activities parents can do at home and bring back to the child care provider the next day. Here are some activity examples:
- Sharing a song, story, or special skill related to your culture
- Visiting as a guest reader for story time, either in-person or virtually
- Attending or helping with special events and celebrations
- Collecting recycled supplies for art projects
- Offering to cut out paper shapes or patterns for art projects
- Translating English signs and labels in the room to another language
- Making a small family photo book or poster for your child to share
- Attending and participating in virtual or in-person parent meetings
- Practicing some of the distance learning activities provided on the CHS website
Another way parents can participate in their child’s learning is to reinforce the skills their children are learning in child care programs by showing them how that knowledge can be used every day. For example, parents can discuss math when cooking, show their child how writing allows us to make lists and communicate with others, or discuss the science happening when there is rain or wind. Child care providers can also give parents ideas for other learning activities to do at home. Asking how to help children is a good place to start.
What Child Care Providers Can Do
Parents know their children better than anyone else and can share information that helps child care providers individualize their curriculum to support the development of each child. In order for parents to feel comfortable exchanging information and participating in their child’s program, it is important for them to feel welcome and valued. Child care providers need to be aware of the diverse families in their communities, and take steps to create an inclusive environment.
Inclusive environments reflect elements of varied cultures and lifestyles; are places where all children can play and participate regardless of their abilities or development; and promote open and respectful communication between both. When children and families walk into a child care program they should be able to look around and say, “this is a place that sees and understands me.” Program materials can include toys and books that represent people from different cultures, ages, abilities, and gender roles. Art supplies can be adapted for different skill levels, such as taping a sponge around a paint brush so it is easier to grip. Toys and art supplies should represent all children and should include different skin tones, hair, abilities, and eye colors. Signs and information in the room should include the home languages of families participating in the child care program whenever possible.
Once families feel welcome, the next step for child care providers is to agree on the best way to communicate. This may be different for each family, so child care providers may need to use a combination of communication strategies. Some communication methods include: phone calls, text messages, email, or a phone, tablet, and/or computer application to communicate. Some families may choose not to use technology such as a smart phone or computer, so other options such as printed notes, scheduled meetings, impromptu meetings during drop off/pick up, or a parent bulletin board should be considered. It is a good idea to keep a communication log, especially if the child care program has two or more staff members. Keeping a communication log can prevent misunderstandings, ensure that all staff are communicating the same information, and document events that may be important at a future date. It is important for child care providers to make sure parents understand that the information about them and their child is confidential. There should be a space where confidential conversations can take place.
When parents are enrolling in the child care program, providers can invite them to share information about their child such as their food preferences, details of care routines, allergies, and more. Parents should also be encouraged to share any other details or stories about children that they feel are important for providers to know. Providers can show parents that the information was valuable by sharing observations such as, “I remember you said that Tomás likes apples. Today we had apples with cheese for snack and he asked for two helpings!” When parents see that child care providers are using the information they share, they are more likely to continue sharing.
Child care providers can help parents understand how their child is learning. When parents understand how their child is learning, they will appreciate the value of the child care program and be more comfortable with engaging children in learning at home. Providers can improve the quality of their program and partnership with parents by tracking children’s development with an assessment tool such as the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP), and then using that data to conduct parent conferences and build more quality into the learning environment and curriculum. This data can help guide parent conferences by making it easier to focus on children’s specific strengths and areas where they are still growing. Here are a few more ideas for how child care providers can support parents in learning about how children grow and develop skills:
- Each week, focus on a specific activity or area in the room, and print out small cards about its value, or feature it on a parent board. For example, a card about play dough could state: This week we are building strength in our fingers, hands, and arms by playing with play dough. Squeezing, pinching, pulling, and rolling the dough gives us the strength we need to use utensils to eat, dress ourselves, write with a pencil, and cut with scissors. It also helps us release energy, relax, and be creative! A recipe for a simple no-cook play dough parents could make at home could be on the back of the card.
- Host an online parent meeting once a month to share what the children have been working on and learning. Respect confidentiality and keep the information general. Invite parents to ask questions about the activities, or to share any ideas they may have about projects children can work on, or ways they may want to volunteer. This has the added benefit of connecting the parents in your program to strengthen their support system.
- Record lunch chats. These are short five to ten-minute videos about a particular developmental skill. Share them via email or text inviting parents to watch during their lunch hour or break.
- Create a question box. Place a pen and slips of paper next to a box. Invite parents to anonymously write any question they have about child development and drop it in the box. Draw one slip of paper each week, or every other week, and post the question and answer on the parent board.
When parents feel welcome, have an opportunity to share information, and gain confidence in their own ability to help their child learn, they will be more likely to actively participate in the child care program. It is important for parents to learn that the child care provider is a resource for them, as well as a teacher for their child. Relationships require trust and take time to develop. Encourage parents to participate in the child care program by creating a list of volunteer opportunities on the parent board. You might start with the ideas listed above, and add others as they arise. One extremely helpful way parents can volunteer is to share language. If the child care provider only speaks English, parents who speak English and other languages can make short videos, voice recordings, or printed notes to help connect with parents whose preferred language is a language other than English.
Children will feel safe and motivated to learn when they observe their parents and child care provider communicate effectively with each other. Parents and child care providers can show children that they value and trust one another through regular and positive communication. The partnerships between parents and child care providers teach children how to build their own relationships and support systems. The resources below offer more ideas for building strong partnerships.
Resources for Parents:
- Checklist for the First Day of School by HealthyChildren.org
- Communicating Effectively with School Personnel by HealthyChildren.org
- Connecting with Your Child’s Preschool/Family Child Care Program by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
- Dealing with Problems at School by HealthyChildren.org
- Disputes Over Grades by HealthyChildren.org
- Getting Involved at Your Child’s School by KidsHealth
- How to Get Involved with Your Child’s School by HealthyChildren.org
- How to Reinforce Your Child’s Learning by HealthyChildren.org
- Partnering with Your Child’s School by Understood is a series of articles, tips, and tools to support parents. There are also resources for parents with children who have special needs
- Preparing for a New School Year by HealthyChildren.org
- Talking to Your Child’s Preschool Teacher by KidsHealth
- Working with Your Child’s Teachers by Understood is a series of articles, tips, and tools for supporting parents. There are also resources for parents with children who have special needs
Resources for Child Care Providers:
- From Parents to Partners: Building a Family-Centered Early Childhood Program by Janis Keyser
- Building Connections with Families by Community Playthings
- Building Partnerships with Families Series by the Head Start Early Childhood Knowledge and Learning Center (ECKLC)
- Family Engagement Resources from the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI)
- Message in a Backpack™ is a series of one-page articles for parents by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
- More Than a Letter Home: Activities to Send to Families Before the Year Begins by NAEYC
- Parent Engagement in the Digital Age by Edutopia
- Partnering with Families by Understood offers articles, handouts, and tip sheets to support communicating and working with families. Many of the resources are also available in Spanish.
- Promoting Powerful Interactions Between Parents and Children by NAEYC
- Schools and Families: An Important Partnership series of articles by ¡Colorín Colorado!
- Supporting Families in Uncertain Times: Social Media Messages by the Head Start ECKLC
- Talking with Parents about Play and Learning by NAEYC
- Understanding the Power of Parent Involvement by NAEYC
- 10X: Using Technology to Engage Families by NAEYC
- 11X: Welcome Children and Families to Your Classroom by NAEYC