Parent involvement and engagement is critical to the success of preschool and after school programs. Parent engagement helps keep your attendance numbers high and helps students succeed in your program. When parents become more involved, you are also opening doors for parents to volunteer, provide help with enrichment activities, and create word of mouth referrals for your program.
Keeping parents involved and engaged may seem like an easy task, but it can often be much easier said than done. Here are a few tips to help improve parent engagement in preschools and after school programs.
Create a Welcoming Environment
There are many ways to go about improving parent engagement, but if your program is not creating a welcoming environment, none of them will work. First off, the appearance and feel of the program should feel clean, safe and welcoming. One teacher described how when setting up a preschool classroom she crawled around on the floor to see things from a child’s perspective. This may seem silly, but it is important to look at your program space from the perspective of the children and parents. If you were a parent how would you want the program to look?
Next, it is immensely important to ensure all teachers, staff, and visitors to your program always create a welcoming environment for parents. It is critical for all staff to greet parents upon entry, and make them feel welcome. If parents feel comfortable, they will be more willing to engage with your program and give feedback.
Keep Parents Updated
Almost every parent wants to know how their child is doing. However, sometimes staff and teachers can be guilty of only updating parents when a child has had a rough day. It is important to share with parents the highlights of their child’s day, what they learned, how their behavior has improved, or even simply that they have arrived safely to your program. With the Kinderlime Sign In-Out app staff can send parents e-mail notifications that their child has been dropped off or picked up. It is simple and easy gestures like this that help alleviate parents stress, and keep them satisfied with the program.
Parents want to first know that their child is safe, but they also want to make sure their child is enjoying, learning and growing in the program. Use the Kinderlime Daily Sheets app to send parents photos of the fun activities their child participated in during the day. Parents will love to see what their child is doing and learning throughout the day, and what better way to show parents than through photos. By involving parents with daily updates and photos you are not only making parents happy, but increasing retention and enrollment in your program.
Create Events to Engage Parents
Creating various family or parent events will help take parent engagement to the next level. Often parents would like the opportunity to engage with program directors, administrators and staff, but on a daily basis it can be challenging for parents to make the time to talk with staff. By creating fun family events, parents will have the opportunity to spend time truly getting to know the program, and possibly find avenues in which they can become more involved. Let parents know about upcoming events in monthly newsletters that can be easily generated on the Kinderlime website.
Parent only events are another helpful way to increase parent engagement in the program. Try creating a quarterly parent meeting where program leaders can show what new and exciting things are happening in their program. Parents can have the opportunity to give feedback and become involved in their child’s preschool or afterschool program. By creating more meaningful relationships with parents, you will find that your program will grow and succeed.
Take Advantage of Social Media
As your program continues to make parents feel welcome and happy, parents will be more likely to tell others about your program. 90% of new enrollment comes by word of mouth. Times have changed, and it is now much easier for parents to reach out to prospective families on social media. As your staff continue to send pictures through the Kinderlime Daily Sheets app, parents will be likely to share those photos on sites like Facebook and Google Plus. Parents will enjoy sharing with others what their child is doing on social media, and you will benefit from increased enrollment in your program.
While all of these points are extremely important when it comes to parent engagement, each program needs to find what works best for them. What worked for one program may not work for another. Each afterschool program is serving a different community. These differences mean that sometimes programs may need to try a few different approaches to parent engagement to find what works best for them.
With dedication, creativity, and access to the modern resources Kinderlime offers, each program can find a way to improve parent engagement. Keeping your existing families engaged and happy will help you retain participants, grow your numbers, and build a successful program.