It’s like they say, it takes a village to raise a child. How are you connecting your ECE students with their communities? These ideas bring parents and family members into your classroom and get your students out to meet people and learn about professions.
1. Host a community event.
You can host a carnival, holiday fair or any fun event and invite the community to visit your learning space with their preschoolers. It doesn’t have to be huge and complicated. Simple handmade game booths go far with preschool children. Even a bouncy house may not be out of the realm of possibility. They are a huge draw for preschoolers and surprisingly inexpensive to rent. The preschoolers will be begging their family to attend your event and you’ll be building community connections.
2. Visit community locations.
Take your preschoolers into the world around them. Field trips to the fire station, police station, retirement home, city hall and post office are ways to help your kids feel connected to the community, and for your community to connect with the children in your care. We know of schools who have formed meaningful bonds with these agencies because schools and centers are scheduling annual field trips and making connections year after year.
3. Host a special-friends day.
Schedule a day when children can invite grandparents and other special friends who may not normally visit to come to your school or center for lunch and a tour. These multigenerational events are always a hit with young children who love to show off their learning spaces, and with adults who may not have spent much time in the early childhood realm. You can serve snacks and provide an easy craft for the children to work on with the visiting adults.
4. Encourage children to share about their own homes and families.
One of the best ways to deepen community connections is to learn more about who shares your community space. You can help your preschoolers learn to appreciate the other families around them by adding a “special day” component to your schedule. Each child is assigned a day to share about their family. Some teachers ask children to put together a poster of family snapshots to facilitate the sharing. Others make a classroom bulletin board with one picture of each family. Still others just make the sharing time a part of their daily classroom circle time. The benefit here comes from children beginning to understand that while our families are not all the same, they are more alike than they are different.
5. Provide community resources.
One of the best ways to connect with the community around you is to provide them with resources that may not otherwise be readily available. These School Readiness Kits from HITN Learning and the Early Learning Collaborative were developed with funding from a Ready to Learn grant. The kits provide tools to help parents, teachers and other caregivers support children in preparation for elementary school. They include an interactive storybook for literacy building, learning resources and a journal. Plus, a Family Activities Guide will walk parents and other caregivers through different ways they can engage their children with the kit and help prepare their children for kindergarten. You can also download learning apps featuring the adorable Pocoyo and his friends. (Search for “Pocoyo Playsets” in the iTunes App Store.)
Visit the HITN Early Learning Collaborative resources page, where you can find out if your organization is qualified to order school-readiness kits for the families you work with. (And don’t forget to spread the word! Encourage your colleagues to check it out too!)