A warm, welcoming environment helps to build meaningful relationships between families and caregivers that benefit teachers, parents and, especially, children. When parents feel comfortable, recognized, and valued, a positive bond forms between caregivers and families, and children feel safe and cared for.
NAEYC’s Families & Educators Together observes that, “All members of an early childhood community are on the welcoming committee because each interaction can contribute to the success of every child and family.”
An Inviting Entrance
What message does your center’s entrance space communicate to families and visitors? NAEYC recommends that signs, displays, and information posted should reflect the diversity of your community, signaling to all children and families that they are welcome and valued. This message can be achieved in several ways, including:
signs that say hello in different languages
couches and comfortable seating that invites parents to linger, and
photos of children and families displayed at the eye level of both adults and children.
More First Impressions
The first time families enter your program, they will take a look around. What will they see? Education World describes a school in Virginia that welcomes parents in with a slideshow playing at the front entrance. When families first walk in the door, they are greeted with photos of the various continents from which the students and families are from. Colorful slides of the children are accompanied by music from each particular continent. Visitors enjoy the display so much that they often stop and watch the slideshow for a few minutes before proceeding into the school!
Other schools engage parents by creating an information board for the front entrance filled with the school’s latest news updates and children’s artwork.
Cleanliness and Safety
Is your program clean, safe, and organized? While parents will be understanding with small messes and materials left out by children, they will be less understanding about environments that are unsanitary and not well-maintained. Ensure that you are regularly picking up around the classroom and regularly sanitizing materials so that it feels clean and inviting for families to come in and spend time engaging with their children.
Inviting Parent Volunteers
How often do you invite parents to spend time in the classroom? One of the best ways to make sure parents feel welcome is to invite them to be a volunteer in the classroom or program. Parents will feel valued when they are invited to spend time helping care for children and assisting with classroom activities.
Edutopia explains that, “creating a climate of parent volunteers is not as easy as simply asking them to be there. Parents need a purpose and understanding of their role within the school building.” Create clear job opportunities and invite parents to sign up for times that work for their schedules, so they will know what their responsibilities are when they arrive. Some programs even have volunteer coordinators who reach out to parents and families to find volunteer opportunities that suit their strengths, interests, and availability.