Maintaining your connections with families
Strategies for educators to support families during the prolonged absence of children or service closure.
Offering support to families during the prolonged absence of children or service closure means that children’s learning and development can continue. This is especially important for children preparing to transition to full time schooling as prolonged absences can disrupt the process of preparing children for school.
Communication and support strategies
Keeping in regular contact with families about their child’s learning and wellbeing ensures the best decisions can be made to support the learning, development and wellbeing of children in your service and support the continuity of learning at home. It can also enable services to help families needing additional learning support.
Some strategies that services can put in place during a child’s absence or service closure may include:
- Using the time to prepare for when families return and ensure programming accounts for new enrolments and support services for children.
- Considering the learning outcomes for each child before they leave and when they return to the service.
- Maintaining connections with families using other communication channels to provide service updates, enable group interaction between staff, families and children, and share current information about children’s learning and development with families, using the most recent observations and learning records.
- Communicating with other local services to share ideas and collaborate on the design of online learning resources.
- Visiting the learning from home page for a list of online educational resources that can be shared with families to support home learning.
- Providing links to Department websites and resources helping families prepare their children for school. Examples include the Department’s transition to school webpage which includes the Getting Ready for Primary School checklist and the Let’s Go to School activity book.
Facebook pages are an excellent example of harnessing the power of social media to create an engaging space for parents/carers and children. Facebook pages can be used to post activities that parents/carers can do with their children at home, like scavenger hunts or videos of staff reading their favorite book. You can also engage children with hearing loss by reading books using sign language.
A Facebook account is free to create, and many parents/carers are already using this platform. Connecting families to a platform that they are already using will likely increase their level of engagement. It is important to make sure your service is using a private Facebook page, so that only parents/carers and staff are part of the online conversations and activities.
Use existing websites and social media to share learning resources and activities with families. Share your ideas for maintaining connections with families by posting them on the Early Childhood Education Facebook.
Sharing activity packs are an exciting way to engage children at home. Packs can be filled with anything from crayons, paint, feathers, ribbons, cardboard, activity sheets and glue. These packs are an excellent way to keep children engaged in play-based learning and caters well to families that may not have the resources or ability to put together a craft pack themselves.
Services could explore sending personalised emails to families to check-in and connect with them. Some services already use email as a platform to send images, links or attachments that are based on the child’s interests. For example, children could receive birthday messages and e-cards.
Try developing a playlist of YouTube or VIMEO videos that show different activities children can do at home. Videos can be played directly to children, as the educator walks through the activity with child-friendly language. Parents/carers can also look to these videos for ideas and can reenact the activities for their children. In addition to activities, video playlists can also be made for story time, sing alongs, and sharing messages with children.
Staff can livestream videos of themselves reading story books or doing craft activities that children can follow at home. If you are going to read a storybook, you should livestream this wherever possible. If you need to upload the video for parents/carers to access at a time that suits them, it should be uploaded in a ‘view only’ format.
It’s free to upload videos to YouTube / VIMEO, and the videos can easily be shared to Facebook, Twitter, emails, or embedded onto the services webpage. YouTube also allows you to upload private videos if you wish to limit access to parents/carers.
Group video calls are a great way to keep children connected with educators and their peers. They can be used to do fun activities with children such as science experiments. Children can tune in (with the help of an adult) and watch or mirror the activities at home. Video calls are a great way for parents/carers to keep in touch with educators and other parents to share ideas and activities that have worked for them.
There are several video call platforms such as Zoom and Skype. Classin and Padlet, have also been popular amongst early childhood educators in China and Italy.