Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Supporting and informing families

The second principle of ELECT states that "partnerships with families and communities strengthen the ability of early childhood settings to meet the needs of young children". It goes on to explain that "parents want to understand how their children develop and learn. They benefit from observations and information about how to support learning and recognize how their children are doing." It talks about the challenges of finding what really works when partnering with families. What works will depend on the needs of your families, their backgrounds and experiences. The framework does highlight that "the clearest effects seem to be when programming for parents and other caregivers is combined with programming for their young children."

This statement reinforces a new strategy that we are trying at the Ontario Early Years Centre Ottawa South.

We have always offered parenting workshops, information sessions during playgroup as well as parent/child early learning workshops. However, we recognized that it was sometimes difficult to fill our parenting workshops despite the requests we received from parents for information on those very topics. To overcome that challenge and ensure that we are providing that information and those resources we came up with the delivery model of offering a "hands-on" information session during our Saturday playgroup. Giving information to parents while engaging the children in play!

The first session focused on Fine Motor Skills. Pulling directly from the ELECT, we created posters highlighting the fine motor skills that can typically be observed in the different age groups along with suggestions of activities to promote the development of those skills. We added pictures and made it colourful to attract parents' attention. But we went further than simply offering the information. We added fine motor activities in all the learning centres that went along with that information and circulated to engage parents, answer questions and offer suggestions. We pointed out how the activities promoted fine motor skills and distributed handouts which included various activity suggestions to continue the learning at home.

The second session focused on sensory play. Since it wasn't a domain, we didn't pull directly from the ELECT with the skills and such. What we did do was offer a variety of sensory activities in many of the learning centers (not simply the art and sensory centre!). Children had the opportunity to finger paint, to listen to audio books, to use magnifying glasses to explore objects, touch and explore alphabet sensory pouches, among other activities. We posted words on the walls near those activities to provoke discussion with the parents. Predict, discover, explore… Create, feel, touch, smell… We once again included pictures and colour to attract their attention. We distributed handouts to encourage parents to continue the learning at home once again.

The posters and words were left up in the playgroup room in the weeks following the sessions to encourage parents to question, discuss and engage in the children's learning. The feedback we received was very positive and we look forward to offering more of these types of workshops in the fall.

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