Create a welcoming environment

Nothing beats a smile as a welcome mat. Greeting children and parents at the door with a smile and a word of welcome at the start of the day, and a similar farewell at dismissal is powerful. A few supportive words at drop-off or pick-up builds relationships that make parents more open to joint problem solving if attendance issues arise. 

While a welcoming first impression helps all students, it is vital for helping the most vulnerable students feel safe and supported, especially if they are in an unfamiliar school setting.

Research and experience shows that attendance improves when everybody in an early education program — from the bus driver to the school secretary to the instructional aide —  offers a warm and welcoming environment that engages students and families and provides enriching learning opportunities.

Consider having a mascot or a surprise guest greet the children and parents as they arrive. It adds fun and a surprise to start the day. 

Use the home visits to build relationships. In many early childhood education programs teachers or family outreach staff visit the family home before the school year begins or periodically throughout the year. Home visits can be a valuable tool for strengthening home-school relationships and outcomes for children.

It’s important that the first visit focus on building a positive relationship with the child and the family. Talk to the children and the parents. Ask about their hopes and dreams for their preschool children, giving them time to share. Ask about expectations and share you own. Leave some information behind that reinforces welcome and introduces how important consistent attendance is to success, but don’t let attendance be the focus of this first visit.

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Display posters and other reminders of the importance of attendance as well as children’s work and photos in the classroom or hallways. Here are some downloadable resources to enrich the visibility of attendance as a core value: 

Create an attendance mascot or adopt Punctual Pete to inject playfulness into your attendance efforts. Download the Punctual Pete design. 

Share with parents information about classroom activities to reinforce families’ commitment to getting children to class. Give parents ideas for how they can reinforce learning at home. If allowed, create opportunities for families to volunteer in the classroom so they can see what children are learning. 

If your program has access to a robocall system or uses texting to reach out to parents, think about delivering the message that way.

Provide access to resources that help families address challenges with particular sensitivity to families facing economic hardship.

  • Offer a food pantry that families can access easily. Consider special distributions right before holidays.
  • Start a clothing bank, especially for the coats and gloves children need in the winter. If your program is located in a school, engage parents and older children in a clothing donation drive.
  • Create a resources sheet with phone numbers for available services and agencies within the community.

Provide information on attendance policies for your program. 

Consider creating a handout that explains: 

  • Procedures families should use for reporting absences
  • Steps the preschool will take when a child is absent
  • Policy on tardiness