If your child care center, daycare or after school care program is temporarily shuttered or operating under reduced hours during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to use this time to stay in touch with your families to provide support, encouragement and helpful resources while they navigate these challenging times.
The outbreak is taking its toll, and even the calmest of parents are struggling to cope. A recent online survey by the University of Michigan found that 52 percent of parents said that self-isolating and financial worries were getting in the way of their parenting. They’re concerned about vulnerable family members and lost income, trying to keep the fridge full of groceries, and balancing their job roles with child care as they try to keep life as normal as possible for their children.
The Importance of Reaching Out
Parents are trying to juggle new roles as their children’s educator, play mate and counselor – all with little support. As a child care expert who has a personal relationship with their children, you can make a real difference in your families’ lives by providing compassionate, helpful support while they navigate these trying times.
This is where your child care center, daycare or school comes in: you have an important differentiator that all the online parenting resources in the world can’t match – you already have a personal relationship with their children. You’re in the unique position of providing personalized support that will long be remembered after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Reaching out to your families during this stressful time can mean the world to them.
Engaging with your community also serves a useful business purpose: it helps your child care center stay top of mind with parents when it re-opens. It’s a type of high-touch marketing campaign that differentiates your business and shows you truly care.
Ideas for Keeping Families Engaged
Reaching out to your families doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. There are many low-cost and low-effort methods including periodic phone calls, personalized emails, regular newsletters with tips and advice, video playdates and more. We’ll cover many ideas in this article and offer engaging resources for communicating with parents and their children.
Reach out with personalized messages
Staying in touch with parents regularly shows you care and that you’re thinking of them even when their children aren’t in the classroom. You and your teachers can reach out to provide support and reassure isolated families that they’re not in this alone.
Calling, emailing or texting brief, meaningful messages shows you’re committed to families’ well-being and lets them share important milestones or updates about their child. It also gives parents the chance to ask child care questions if they feel stuck, need to vent or want advice.
Recording videos of yourself or teachers is another personalized approach. Children especially love to see their teachers’ faces, and teachers may welcome the opportunity to connect with their students. Parents can help children record their own videos to send back to teachers. Teachers can also encourage the children to send them pictures of their pets, their latest artwork, cool things they saw on an outside walk – anything that’s fun and personalized.
Children love getting mail – there’s nothing better than receiving a letter to brighten their day. Teachers can write brief, personalized notes on colorful cards addressed to their students. It lets the children know they’re thinking of them, and, as a bonus, it gives younger children the opportunity to practice reading.
Send weekly newsletters
Parents may feel overwhelmed and anxious trying to provide their children with entertaining, yet educational online resources. There’s no lack of digital options for children, but most parents don’t have the time or energy to review all of them to decide which ones are worthwhile.
In a weekly newsletter, you can recommend a hand-picked selection of high-quality, engaging, age-appropriate resources for families. The key is to keep suggestions brief so parents have a carefully curated list to use.
Here are some ideas for high-quality online content:
- Age-appropriate, recommended reading lists: Khan Academy and the Association for Library Service to Children, grades K-2
- Links to educational podcasts (and they have the added benefit of being screen free!). Suggestions include: 7 Awesome Podcasts for Preschoolers and Little Kids, 12 Podcasts Your Kids Should Be Listening To
- Fun, free education apps for children: Khan Academy Kids, PBS KIDS Games App, ABCmouse Early Learning Academy
- Animal and science-based information: National Geographic Kids
Developing a newsletter doesn’t need to be a time-consuming task. Parent engagement software makes it easy to create and send newsletters. Look for a solution with a simple drag and drop interface that supports different layouts and themes and the ability to add photos, videos and attachments.
Suggest schedules and lesson plans
Every teachers’ secret to success is implementing a structured classroom routine. By providing suggested schedules each week, you’ll help parents keep their kids busy and add some much-appreciated predictability to their days.
Schedules can list suggested activities in time blocks such as reading a book, taking a walk outside and collecting items of different colors, making animals from clay and more. It’s important to include easy-to-do activities using items that can be found around the house. You also don’t want to fill up the children’s entire day – it’s more realistic to suggest activities for a few hours so they still have time to play.
Setup video playdates
While self-isolating at home, children will inevitably miss their classmates. By setting up virtual playdates using online apps, you can connect them with their friends and help them nurture those relationships.
Online playdates don’t need much structure other than possibly leading the kids in silly songs and dances to break the ice. Most children are excited to see their friends and tend to take the lead in interacting. Keeping the virtual playdates free-form makes them more fun.
Teach virtual lessons
Parents are concerned that self-isolation will have a negative impact on their children’s educational development. Your daycare center can address this by offering online classes, taught by the children’s teachers, that continue classroom curriculums.
Each teacher can conduct virtual, age-appropriate lessons while adapting the lesson plans for remote learning. Young children thrive on interaction, and online apps, like Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom, can support group learning activities such as class discussions, sing-alongs, story time, and show and tell.
Depending on the children’s ages, teachers can conduct brief academic lessons, like simple science experiments or art lessons. It’s best to schedule these online classes for a consistent time each week so families can structure their day around them. You can also record the sessions and send out links to the recordings for families that want to view them again or couldn’t make the originally scheduled date.
You may wish to charge for these sessions, especially if your daycare center isn’t collecting tuition while it’s closed. If families are still paying tuition, you might consider offering virtual lessons as an added value.
More online resources to share with your families:
- At-Home Activity Guide
- Parent Like a Provider: How to Work from Home with Kids During COVID-19
- National Geographic Kids
- PBS Kids
- Google Arts and Culture for virtual field trips
- From the CDC: Building a Structured Routine for Young Children
- Fun movement and silly songs for kids
- Favorite children’s books that are read aloud online
- 10 no-cost, screen-free activities to play with your preschooler
By staying engaged with your families during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll build stronger relationships with them as they navigate these tough times. Communicating with them consistently and compassionately shows you care, helps them manage change and demonstrates that we’re all in this together.
Click here for more resources for engaging families and helping your childcare center navigate the COVID-19 crisis.