Strategies for Engaging Families

Especially when children are young, engaging their families is critical to promoting good attendance. Warm welcomes, solid information about classroom activities and constructive problem-solving and recognition are the core strategies for engaging families.

Positive family practices that promote good attendance developed during the preschool years can lay a foundation for what happens in kindergarten and beyond.

Here are six key steps for engaging families. Click on the linked titles for details, tools and templates.

1. Welcome, involve and support families

A warm welcome every day in a clean well-kept facility invites families to participate in their children’s education. Preschools can also help families network with other families and connect to community resources to promote strong attendance.

2. Help families keep children healthy

Given the role that illness plays in absenteeism, preschool staff members have an important role in connecting families to health services, ensuring plans are in place for managing chronic conditions and helping families understand when a child should or should not stay home sick.

3. Use large gatherings to introduce the importance of preschool attendance and the need to monitor absences

Preschool orientations, back-to-school nights, parent workshops and other family events provide important opportunities for directors and teachers to raise awareness and engage families in dialogue and activities about why attendance is important.

4. Use one-on-one conversations to reinforce the importance of attendance and identify particular challenges

A few supportive words at drop-off or pick-up, phone calls, letters and parent-teacher conferences are all opportunities to share information and/or concerns. Home visits are good for establishing relationships, but unless asked, don’t dwell on attendance expectations in the initial home visit.

5. Continue messaging and recognition events all year long

Attendance messaging doesn’t stop after the first month of preschool. Too many times we’ve seen classrooms start strong and then absences start to add up as the holidays arrive and winter illnesses set in. Develop monthly themes for messaging and recognize students and families for progress throughout the year

6. Prepare students and families for kindergarten transition 

A child’s transition into kindergarten sets the tone for his or her educational experience for many years to come. On the first day of school, every kindergarten child should walk into the classroom feeling excited, ready to learn, and supported by the school, their parents, and their community. Preschool programs can help prepare children and families for this important step and can use the process to raise awareness about attendance.