Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Helping Parents Understand Play-Based Learning

As early educators, our methods are regularly challenged by parents who want their child to do more academic activities; they want to see worksheets or other evidence to prove that their children are learning something in our programs.  How do we tell parents, who are paying the bills for our program, that we are not going to give them exactly what they want because we know that’s not what’s best for their children?   

First of all, we must be absolutely clear in our own minds that developmentally appropriate learning activities are the best way to educate children.  Next, we need to be able to explain to parents, in simple terms, why we are running the programs we are running.

Touring prospective parents through your program, is a great time to point out various learning centers and briefly discuss developmentally appropriate education.  Then, when parents enroll their child in your program, be sure to provide them with a copy of your Program Philosophy and discuss it with them so that they clearly understand what sort of education their child will be receiving. 

Having your teachers posting their weekly lesson plans, including objectives for the activities, will help parents understand what to expect for the week and, specifically, what their children will be learning.  Labeling your various learning centers with not only the name of the center and a picture of a child working in it, but a brief simple, description of what skills children learn in that center, will help to answer parents’ unspoken questions.  Sending out a monthly newsletter can also help explain your educational program.  Occasional articles about developmental learning in general and specifically what children are learning in which centers are very helpful, as are regular tips on developmentally appropriate activities parents can do at home with their children. 

Along with your solid learning program, regular communication with parents regarding the progress of their children, through portfolios and developmental checklists, will help them to see what their children are learning in your program.  A strong parent education program takes a bit of work, but can make it much easier for you and your staff to run a developmentally appropriate program.

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