How to create a sense of belonging for families in childcare spaces

As educators, we have a solid understanding of the importance of helping young children develop a positive sense of belonging in early childhood and at our learning service. It’s our knowledge, strategies, skills, and confidence that help children feel safe, learn and thrive in their early years.

 Educator having conversation with parents and childrenHowever, we may not be as confident or knowledgeable about ways to ensure the family members of children also feel a sense of belonging in our environment. We know this is important, and we undoubtedly have strategies to develop positive relationships with them. However, for some teachers, this is not something that comes naturally. They have studied child development and are skilled and confident working with children. However, developing strategies for working with adults was not something that was covered in-depth at University.

We know that to truly work in partnership with families, we must have a trusting and respectful relationship with them. This can be hard to do when parents dash in and out of your learning service to drop off and pick up their child, often pressed for time. As educators, you may need to be creative with finding ways to connect with and establish positive relationships with families. Finding ways they can develop a sense of belonging in your environment is a great start.

parents participating in childcare learning activities

8 tips on how to create a sense of belonging and promote positive relationships

  • Create a safe place where families can put their belongings and be free to stay and spend time with their child. Families spending more time in your environment will have a positive impact. It will help them feel more comfortable, opening up more opportunities for them to communicate with you.
  • Have facilities for tea and coffee for parents. Have you considered setting up a dining room table where families can sit, talk regularly, and have a cup of tea or coffee before they leave for the day? It is a great way to foster social inclusion for individuals, but it also supports parents getting to know other families.
  • Creating a family photo wall is a tried-and-tested way to support families in developing a sense of belonging in your childcare and learning space. It shows that they matter, and helps children experience the positive effect of feeling their family belongs.
  • Provide a space where mothers can breastfeed their children comfortably.
  • Invite parents to share ideas, skills, knowledge, and passions. You probably have a wealth of assets amongst your families. Often all it takes is a simple invitation to share, for parents to realise that your learning service is a space where everybody works collaboratively.
  • Build a parent library of books and resources on a range of topics relevant to parenting.
  • Create positive experiences and host a shared dinner or get-together with the families in your learning service. Having a relaxed, unhurried atmosphere allows educators to take more time to chat with parents.  Both families and staff can share valuable information about the children and participate in any decision-making to ensure their children’s needs are met effectively.  It is also a fantastic opportunity for the group to get to know each other and form positive relationships!
  • Reply to parents’ stories on Storypark. Storypark is a fantastic way to connect with families that don’t spend a lot of time in your early childhood learning service. The conversations that develop in the comments section can be so valuable and informative!
  • Remember to be mindful of all of the small ways you can welcome new families to your learning service, ensuring they start developing a sense of belonging from day one.

There are no doubt many other creative and inspiring examples for creating a sense of belonging in your centre and developing positive relationships with families at your learning service. So, how does your service support the child and family sense of belonging? Feel free to add your ideas in the comment section below!

A teacher talking with the mother of one of her students

Posted by Sonya McIntyre

Sonya was born in Lower Hutt and went to Rata Street Kindergarten and Petone Kindergarten. A qualified ECE, she studied at Victoria University in Wellington and has worked with home-based educators, in community-based childcare and in kindergarten. With childhood memories of reading books and writing stories, combined with her passion for all things social media, Sonya segued into her role with us at Storypark as social media manager.


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3 Comments

  1. Sometimes a phone call during the day to share a succcess or if you won’t see them at pickup. It is nice for parents to get positive calls too rather than the your child has had an accident or is sick or something about fees. A lot of times these are the only calls families get unless they ring the service themselves. I know there can be that moment of dread when they realize the centre is on the phone. More positive conversations in between would definately help with this.

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  2. […] Rainbow Families. Because of this imbalance, teachers need to think more mindfully about how this sense of belonging can be extended to Rainbow Families. If teachers carry on only acknowledging one way in which […]

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  3. […] Language is not always a barrier to communication. When there is not a language in common, a smile, laughter, and body language can go a long way to help develop a sense of belonging in your learning service.  […]

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