As educators, we understand the importance of ensuring that children develop a sense of belonging when starting at our learning service. We are equipped with knowledge, strategies, skills and confidence when supporting young children as their sense of belonging develops over time. We know this sense of belonging is vital, in order for children to learn and thrive in our environment.

 IMG_3443What we may not be as confident with or knowledgeable about, is ways to make sure that the families of children also develop a sense of belonging in our environment. We know this is important, and we no doubt have strategies for working to build relationships with families, however for some educators, this is not something that comes naturally to them. They have studied child development. They are skilled at working with children. They are confident working with children. 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 relationships with families. Finding ways they can develop a sense of belonging in your environment is a great start.

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  • Have a safe space where families can put their belongings so that they are free to stay and spend time with their child. Spending time in your environment will help them feel more comfortable, and will open up opportunities for conversation with you.
  • Having facilities for tea and coffee for parents. Have you considered having a dining room table where families can sit, catch up with each other, and have a cup of tea or coffee before they leave for the day? It is a great way to foster not only individuals sense of belonging, but also support parents getting to know each other.
  • Having a family photo wall is a tried and tested way to support families to develop a sense of belonging in your space. It shows that they matter, it helps their child feel their family belongs.
  • Provide a space where mothers can breastfeed their children comfortably.
  • Invite parents to share their 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.
  • Create a parent library of books and resources on a range of different topics that are relevant to parenting.
  • Host a shared dinner/get together with the families in your learning service. Having a relaxed, unhurried atmosphere allows educators to take more time to chat with parents. it is also a fantastic opportunity for families to get to know each other!
  • 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 learning service. The conversations that happen in the comments section can be so valuable and informative!

There are no doubt many other creative and inspiring ideas for supporting families to feel a true sense of belonging in your learning service. Feel free to add them in the comments section below! IMG_3872

Posted by Sonya McIntyre

Sonya went to Rata Street Kindergarten and Petone kindergarten. She gained her Bachelor of Education at Victoria University in Wellington and has worked as an educator and manager in home based care, community based and kindergarten services.


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One Comment

  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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