There are many ways to communicate the educational value of your early childhood classroom to parents. It is important for you to help families recognize your focus on teaching their child to love learning, so they can also value it as an essential part of their child’s development. The main message here for parents is to take the pressure off of their child learning skills and facts such as the ABC’s and 123’s…and put a focus instead on their child’s disposition towards learning. It is very difficult to teach children skills if they are not interested in (or loving) learning. It important to impress upon anxious parents that first their child needs to love to learn before he/she learns how to read, write and count.
Here are a few ways to communicate to families how open-ended, thought-provoking and meaningful experience are not only fun but also develop important high-level learning skills that will serve their child throughout their schooling and for the rest of their lives. If their child is inspired to love learning in preschool just think where they are headed!
• Establish a good relationship with families. Share your goal for creating a classroom of children that love to learn. Invite families to discuss their own goals for the year.
• Hold an “I Love Learning” Workshop or Family Night. You can invite parents to share their own love of learning at your first Family Night. Use the “Ask Yourself” questions to get a conversation going about their own early learning experiences. Then invite them talk about what they hope to inspire in their own child. Provide a few simple hands-on, challenging activities so that parents gain an understanding of your approach to activity-based teaching. If you want to be bold… start the workshop by asking parents to do workbook pages! Ask, “What new things did you learn while doing this?” Then invite them to try the hands-on activities in the different learning centers. Later ask them to talk about which type of activity required the most thinking…and which was the most fun!
• Send Home Extension Activity Ideas. Families what to know what they can do at home to support the learning at school. Unfortunately sometimes they think that means it should be homework or workbook type of pencil and paper activity. You can inspire families to love learning at home by sending home simple hands-on activities that are an extension of what you are doing in the room. For example, if you are experimenting with the concept of “float and sink” in the classroom you can suggest a simple experiment they can do in the bathtub using a variety of household objects. Or if you are introducing children to the concept of non-standard measurement you can suggest families use household objects like “socks or napkins” to measure the couch, the rug, and their bed. These sorts of concrete activities are a simple way to introduce families to the love of learning explorations.
• Provide Examples of Open-ended Questions. You can teach families a simple technique for inspiring the love of learning: asking open-ended questions! Sometimes parents are a bit unsure of these questions at first but after you allow them to play with them (without fear of making a mistake) you will find they love to share them with their children. For example, the next time your send home books for families to borrow, add a file card with a few related open-ended questions they might ask their child. Or add a few open-ended questions to go with a take-home activity. You can also send home some random and fun open-ended questions (Why is the sky blue? Why do the leaves change colors?) the whole family can discuss at a family mealtime. Remind parents that there are no “wrong answers” and tons of “right ones! By offering frequent models, you can give them new ideas for open-ended questions to ask in the grocery store line, in the doctor’s waiting room, in the car, any time they have a few moments. These kinds of questions introduce children to the joy of exploring new ideas without fear of being “wrong”!