Family Involvement in Early Education

Young children are like sponges, soaking up cognitive, emotional and social knowledge at amazing rates.  According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, “The first years of life are a very busy and crucial time for the development of brain circuits. The brain has the most plasticity, or capacity for change, during this time, which means it is a period of both great opportunity and vulnerability.”

This is one of the reasons that your child’s early education environment is so crucial.  Selecting the right preschool or daycare for your child is more than just finding the closest facility or the one that matches your budget.  It’s important to find a child care center that focuses on learning, and creates opportunities for the entire family to be involved.

Education doesn’t happen only at school, and parental and family involvement makes a big difference in the quality and results from an early education program.  The National Association for the Education of Young Children states, “Meaningful family engagement in children’s early learning supports school readiness and later academic success. Parental involvement is a critical element of high-quality early care and education.”

What does this mean for parents?  The more the education goals are reinforced and supported in the home, the better children are prepared for later scholastic and social challenges.  Parents shopping for a child care center should identify centers that have established curriculums, and teachers who encourage parents to be involved in the education process.

Centers that have robust summer camp programs, outings that parents can participate in, and lessons and classroom materials that are sent home with the child are more likely to want and support parent involvement.

Of course it’s not up to the center and teachers alone.  Parents should be comfortable asking questions, requesting information about the curriculum and interacting with teachers on how to help support the classroom lessons in the home.   This can be as simple as reading the same books with your child at home, or building on cognitive skills that are being developed in the classroom – working with colors, shapes and other physical and mental exercises.

If you’re not sure how your child care center views parental involvement, be sure to ask.  Talk with the administrator and your child’s teacher, and you’ll likely find a partner in your child’s education, rather than a provider.