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Engaging with Parents - Part 5

Engaging while apart – Part 5

February 9, 2021

In an early learning and care setting, effective communication is the key to establishing and maintaining positive relationships with parents and families. Being mindful that some families may not have access to the internet, may have poor quality broadband or may not have English as a first language we need to ensure that our means of communication is inclusive of all families. As we work through the challenges of COVID-19 and the unexpected closure of many settings, we are engaging more than ever with our children, parents, and families. This can be a challenge at the best of times, but a challenge that many settings have embraced so enthusiastically. We have compiled some wonderful examples from early learning and care settings around the country showcasing effective ways of communicating with the children and families.


Offering Choice

We are all familiar with the powers of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and all the other social media platforms. Consider other ways of communication, perhaps sending information using pictures and ‘how to guides’ through An Post. Telephone/text/email parents to check out what is the best method of communication for them. Giving families options and choices will support an inclusive approach to engagement and will ensure we reach all our families.


Visual Routine

Children enjoy and need routine; we know it supports their emotional well-being and gives children a sense of security. Children attending settings are familiar with routines and now that they are at home, they still have a routine and structure albeit altered and different. Some children may benefit from seeing a daily visual schedule at home too. Using photographs or generic pictures parents can create a simple visual routine which might include playtime, mealtimes, physical activity, outside time, storytime and cuddles with mum/dad/carer. This can help children to anticipate their day and support them to plan independent activities and to know when they will have one-to-one time with adults during the day. This example of a visual schedule might be helpful for some families.


Reuse-Recycle -ReCreate

In the early learning and care setting, children have many opportunities to engage in creative and exploratory play. Sharing some ideas with parents on using recyclable materials in the home can encourage children to explore, create and build using their imagination. ReCreate have produced a number of short videos with lots of ideas for using recycled materials. You can access these videos here


Activity Packs

Some settings have created activity packs and posted them to the children. Can you imagine the excitement when the post person delivers a package to one of your children? If your setting is in a position to provide activity packs, including a photograph of the staff or maybe the child’s key worker in the pack makes it very personal. This pack could contain some visuals on how to make play dough, how to provide sensory play activities or some recipes for the children and their families to try at home.  You can access the visual playdough recipe here



Birthdays are so important to all children and they really miss not being able to celebrate their birthday in their setting with their friends. Perhaps you could send each child a card and maybe a little gift, for example, a book for their birthday. To make it really special, you could deliver it in person to the door, respecting current travel restrictions of course. Maybe you could create a short video of staff singing happy birthday to the child and send it to parents. Celebrations offer great opportunities to connect with parents.


Visiting the farm

In Linda Madden’s preschool many of the families live on farms and this year the children are showing great interest in farm animals and farm machinery. This is something the early childhood teachers have been working on with the children and had great plans in place for Spring, the season that has just arrived. To remain connected with the children and to try and develop this interest further, Martin, one of the early years teachers has created videos of his farm to share with the children. These range from a tour of the farm to new baby calves with their mums.

Link to farm videos:  Video 1 – A tour of the farm 

                                       Video 2 –  Meet the calves

engaging with parents                                enngaging with parents


Walking with Niamh

In the setting, the children play outdoors most of the time. The children are encouraged to play outdoors at home and share with parents the value and importance of getting outside daily. To add some fun to this, Niamh, recorded a video in our local park where lots of our families go for walks. Little fairy doors and houses have been created on the trees, so Niamh has sent the children a challenge to create some doors or houses and put them beside a tree in the park or in their garden. Niamh has asked the parents to send in photographs and she will add them to the children’s memory books. You can watch the video here. 


Kindness Stones

Could the children create kindness stones and leave them in your local park or in your garden. This can help to build the sense of community and inclusion, while we are staying apart. Michelle from

Wise Owls recently introduced the “Kindness Stone”. Here is what she has to say about it. “We’ve just decided to do something new and I thought I’d share it with you in case anyone else wanted to do it (or maybe others have done this already!). So, we have a park/wood that’s very close proximity to a lot of the families around us and they use it at the moment for walks etc! We’ve asked parents (if they would like to) to gather some stones/rocks and paint them, putting positive quotes on (if they would like!), then to write Wise Owls on the back and leave it in the wood as they go for their walk! Then all families can use this as a treasure hunt to find new rocks/stones from different families as they go! I’ve attached some photos of stones we’ve done so far to give you an idea!”

engaging with parents                                          engaging with parents


We hope you enjoyed these examples from practice, and that they have helped you to consider other ways of being inclusive when engaging with all children and families.

Claire, Linda, and Carole


engaging while apart

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