Family Engagement in Early Childhood

About Family Engagement

Family Engagement is a shared partnership between families, programs, providers, schools, and communities to work together to support family well-being, strong parent-child relationships, and the ongoing learning and development of children and parents.


Maryland Families: Ready to Connect

Ready to Connect

Maryland Families: Ready to Connect is an initiative created to combine face-to-face and technology resources. Its goal is to build the foundation that leads to a strong connection between families and children, families and programs, families with peers, and the larger community to create a culture of partnership.


Brought to you by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Division of Early Childhood Development in partnership with The Institute for Innovation & Implementation at The University of Maryland School of Social Work, Ready At Five, and Maryland Families: Ready to Connect.

MSDE Early Childhood Education          UM SSW The Institute      Ready At Five          Ready to Connect          Child Health and Prevention Web Portal

The Family Engagement Website is part of UMB's Child Health and Prevention Web Portal.

    

For FAMILIES

Parent Voices

When my first baby was born, I didn't know that I could help get him ready for learning right away. Once I realized how important the first few years are, I made sure to read to my baby every day. Now that I have a second child, we read together as a family.

Parents and families are a child's first teachers. No one matters more in a child's life. From the moment a child is born, she is learning from the world, and from the people around her. The things parents and families do every day with a child, like reading to her, taking walks around the neighborhood and talking about what they see, comparing the size and color of fruits at the grocery store, and many other activities add to her learning experiences. Parents and families can connect with resources in the community, including health care providers, neighbors, community programs, libraries, and child care providers to work together to enrich their child's life. The information on this website will enhance the wonderful things that parents and families already do with their children and help parents and families move from involvement to engagement in their child's education. Whether a child is participating in child care, or being cared for at home, parents and families can help build their child's skills and get them ready for kindergarten by providing high quality early learning experiences.

The Maryland State Department of Education Division of Early Childhood Development has created a website with important early childhood information for parents and families and their child's care providers. The website highlights family engagement efforts and projects including Maryland's Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, Judy Centers, and other programs and resources that support the Maryland Family Engagement Coalition's Family Engagement Framework, a set of goals to help parents and families partner with providers and programs in support of their child's education. Click here for more information about how parents and families can get and stay engaged.

Brought to you by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Division of Early Childhood Development in partnership with The Institute for Innovation & Implementation at The University of Maryland School of Social Work, Ready At Five, and Maryland Families: Ready to Connect.

MSDE Early Childhood Education          UM SSW The Institute      Ready At Five          Ready to Connect          Child Health and Prevention Web Portal

The Family Engagement Website is part of UMB's Child Health and Prevention Web Portal.


Resources for Families


School Readiness

Parents and families play a crucial role in a child's readiness for school. From the day a child is born, she is developing the academic, social, physical, and emotional skills that will stay with her throughout her life. She learns from parents and families and from the world around her. Parents and families can help make sure that their child is ready for school by helping her build the skills and knowledge she needs from the very earliest age. Every moment is a learning moment!

Parent Voices

I stay home with my toddler, but I try to incorporate learning into our daily activities. Simple things like talking about what I'm doing as I weigh produce at the grocery store is helping her to build math skills and math vocabulary.

What is Kindergarten Readiness?
Kindergarten readiness means having the knowledge, skills and behaviors that children need to fully participate and succeed in school. Being ready at kindergarten entry sets the stage for future learning. Readiness for school is one of the most important factors in a child's academic and life success. Luckily, there are many fun and simple things parents and families can do from the start to support their child's development and help her be ready for school.

  • Language and Literacy:
    Language and literacy involves the ways in which children learn to talk, listen, read, and write. This is how a child expresses himself, by talking and showing how he feels, and learning to understand others.
    Parents and families can help! Read to children every day. Young children love to follow directions and help with simple tasks. Ask questions and respond to answers. Point out and say the names of letters and numbers. When grocery shopping or running errands, play "I Spy" and look for letters, numbers, or familiar symbols or logos. Seeing this "environmental print" helps children get ready for reading.
  • Math:
    Math involves using numbers, patterns, counting, comparing and contrasting, and figuring out how to solve problems.
    Parents and families can help! Sort objects by color or shape, and show children how to make patterns like "red-blue-red-blue." Sort laundry together, and help children find matching socks. Explain ideas like "under" and "over." Count "1, 2, 3..." Play simple math games, like figuring out how many napkins are needed at dinner, or passing out the same number of crackers to everyone. Use numbers in conversation, and point out numbers and counting.
  • Social Foundations:
    Social foundations involves how children get along with others, handle and talk about their emotions, and express themselves.
    Parents and families can help! Try new activities together. Help him to make new friends when visiting a playground. Ask children to clean up their messes. Talk with children about feelings and ways to handle them. Help children identify their feelings. When they are mad or upset, say "I see you are upset because you can't go outside right now. You are showing me you are mad by crossing your arms and having a sad face. How can I help you feel better?" Talk to children about healthy ways to express their emotions.
  • Physical Well-being and Motor Development:
    Physical well-being and motor development is building a child's muscles and coordination through active free and structured play. It also involves encouraging healthy eating and exercise habits and getting regular health care.
    Parents and families can help! Strengthen large muscles by giving children lots of opportunities to run and jump, and make it a family activity. Help children practice their fine (small) muscles and boost their hand-eye coordination by giving them materials to color or draw. Make healthy habits routine by teaching children how to properly wash their hands and brush their teeth. Schedule regular check-ups with the pediatrician, and talk to the doctor about questions or concerns about a child's health and development. Stay up-to-date on vaccines. Help children learn the names for the different parts of their body, and what the parts of the body can do. Teach children about privacy. Make healthy eating and exercise a priority by asking children to help choose and prepare healthy foods for the whole family, and be active as a family.
  • Science:
    Children are natural scientists, and love to wonder, ask questions, find answers, and collect information and how and why things happen in the world around them.
    Parents and families can help! Ask children to make predictions or guesses such as "the ball will float if I put it in the bath." Make it a game by making and testing predictions, "I wonder what will happen if we use baking powder instead of baking soda," and then talking about the results. Help children to compare how things are alike and different. Go on a scavenger hunt with children and ask them to find things that are soft, things that are heavy, etc. Encourage children's curiosity by giving them lots of time to explore and experiment.
  • Social Studies:
    Social studies involves learning about how people live, work, get along together, and solve problems.
    Parents and families can help! Ask a child to tell what she knows about herself, her family, the community, and people from different cultures. Spend time telling stories about family, and encourage children to look through family photos and ask questions. Visit the local library for books on community helpers or take a walk around the neighborhood and visit the fire station, post office, police station, etc. Eat meals together when possible, and ask every family member to help and contribute by talking about his or her day or assisting with the meal or clean up.
  • Fine Arts:
    The arts involve both appreciating and participating in dance, drama, music, media and art.
    Parents and families can help! Every child is a natural artist. Encourage children to dance, sing, paint, play an instrument, or act out a part by providing the space or materials to allow him to explore. Help him stretch his creative "muscles" by playing make-believe or by acting out a role.
Fun Activities
For more ideas and fun activities that parents and families can do with their children, check out Ready At Five's website for monthly ParentTips, and School Readiness Activity Cards. Parents and families can also ask their child care provider or staff at the local library about Ready At Five's Learning Parties; interactive, hands-on parent/child parties that promote young children's development of school readiness skills. Learning Parties are based on the knowledge that parents and families are their child's first teachers. At Learning Parties, parents and families will learn how to make everyday moments learning moments through playing, singing, talking, reading and engaging in fun activities.
Maryland Healthy Beginnings
Maryland Healthy Beginnings is a resource to help parents and families nurture their child's tremendous potential for learning and growth. Specifically designed for families with infants and toddlers from birth through age three, Healthy Beginnings gives parents and families knowledge and resources on child care and child development, while the Activity Planner provides parents and families with fun, developmentally appropriate activities that build young children's skills and promote all kinds of learning. Parents and families can search Healthy Beginnings by age or domain to find out what to expect and how to support different stages of a child's development. For quick and easy activities parents and families can do at home and on-the-go, with an infant, toddler, or young child, visit the Maryland Healthy Beginnings Activity Planner on your computer or on your mobile device. Using these activities is a great way to support a child's healthy growth and development, before they even enter formal child care or school.
Local Library
The local library is a great source for information and fun early learning activities. Parents and families can meet and talk to other families, attend story hour, and get a free library card to borrow books. Find a local library here.

Supporting Transitions

Change can be tricky for young children as well as adults, but there are lots of things parents and families can do to help make these transitions easier on everyone. Transitions are periods of change, and they happen whether a child is in child care or being cared for at home, and include changes in activities, early care and education programs, educational providers, programs, situations, or age/grade levels, to name just a few. Transitions happen throughout the day. For some children (and adults!), making the physical or emotional switch to something new can be a challenge. That's why it's helpful to know a little bit about transitions, and how parents and families can help prepare and support children during periods of transition.

Parent Voices

I was so nervous before my son started child care, but now that he's two, we really wanted him to be able to learn and play with other children. Working with my child care provider, we developed a plan so that we could ease him into the new situation. This made the transition easier on my son, and also on me! My child care provider was happy to answer my questions, and supported all of us through this new period.

Transition Tips
  • Preparing your children for transition can be as simple as giving them a quick countdown: "In 5 minutes, we are going to clean up our lunch and get ready to go outside."
  • Use music or visual cues to help your child prepare for a change. Find a song and play that song each time you are counting down to a new activity.
  • You can help smooth the way for bigger transitions, like entering child care or starting kindergarten, by planning ahead:
    • Prepare ahead of time by visiting the program and meeting new teachers and children.
    • Get active in the community by visiting the park or a playground or through the library, so children have plenty of opportunities to meet other families and play together.
    • Contact your local elementary school to find out what steps you need to take to register your child for kindergarten.
    • Participate in any open house activities offered by the child care program or elementary school.
    • Build excitement for school by talking about the fun things your child will learn.
    • Practice the new routine by starting the morning and evening schedule before school begins for the year.
    • Visit the school building, bus stop, and playground.
    • If a child seems nervous or anxious about school, talk about her concerns. Find books on starting school and read them together.
  • Check with friends, family, and others in your community. Talking to another parent or a child who has already made a transition can make big changes easier, and can help parents and families prepare to handle their own feelings about transitions.

Partnering with Providers

Many parents and families use child care. Child care providers and families are partners in a child's journey toward school readiness. Everyone wants the same thing for their child; the best and most supportive environment so that he learns and thrives. However, sometimes people don't always see things from the same point-of-view. Sometimes, this can lead to miscommunication, concern, or worry. Open communication between families and child care providers creates an environment of support and teamwork that benefits everyone. The best place for a child is a warm and welcoming environment that recognizes, respects and addresses a child's needs and the needs of the family, and builds on the cultural diversity and values of all involved.

Parent Voices

When my daughter first started preschool, I didn't understand why she didn't have homework every day. How was I supposed to help her learn her letters and numbers if we didn't have work to do at home? At first, I started making my own worksheets. But then I decided to talk to her teacher, and she explained that, at preschool, my daughter was building the pre-reading and writing skills that were more appropriate for her age and where she is developmentally. Her teacher really helped me understand how I could help my daughter at home. I'm glad I asked for more information!

Parents and families can follow these tips to make sure they are communicating with child care providers or teachers successfully.
  • Ask questions. Did you hear or read something that you don't quite understand, or that you aren't sure about? Call, email, or ask your child care provider to explain it differently. If you need materials provided in another language, ask for translations or an interpreter.
  • Explain family needs. Parents and families who feel as if their needs or those of their child aren't being met should find a time to meet with the child care provider to talk about their concerns.
  • Think about the other side of the issue. Parents and families who are frustrated about something in the child care program can take a moment to think about the situation from another person's point-of-view to see if it helps make the issue clearer.
  • Don't be afraid to share any concerns about a child with the child's teacher, especially regarding changes at home that might be affecting a child's mood, behavior, or schedule.

Families as Leaders and Advocates

In addition to being their child's first teacher, parents and families are the people who know their child the best. That is why being a partner in a child's education is so important. Child care providers will look to parents and families to find out more about their child and their family. Parents and families have the opportunity to make a difference for their child and their family. Parents and families can also help others in the community, by becoming a parent leader or advocate. Parent leaders or advocates work within the community or together with a child care program or school to make positive changes. Parent leaders help figure out what families or children in the community need to continue to be successful, and help find ways to make changes in a program or school to better support the community. Communities, child care programs, and schools need parent leaders and advocates to help them do the best job they can.

Parent Voices

As a new parent, I sometimes felt isolated and lonely at home with my new baby. I had no idea how to meet other parents or find things I could do with my baby. I was so glad when the librarian told me about programs they offered during the day, but I really wanted something for the evenings so that my husband could join us. I worked with the librarian to come up with a plan for a family story hour that takes place each night. I met lots of other parents from my community, and I feel like I made a positive difference.

Becoming a parent leader starts by being actively engaged in the community or in a child's program or school. Parents and families can help by:
  • Spreading the word about the exciting things happening in your program or school within the community and to other families
  • Helping other families connect to and participate in program, school, and community opportunities
  • Building awareness about an important issue
  • Helping the school or child care program recruit other parent volunteers
  • Supporting legislation at the local level
  • Raising funds for community needs

Choosing Quality Child Care

Choosing child care is one of the most important decisions parents and families can make, and the decision is often based on family needs, financial considerations, location and convenience, and personal preferences In Maryland, families can choose from many types of programs, including licensed family child care providers or small or large child care centers. If a parent or family decides they would like to participate in child care, there are many resources available to help parents and families find information to make the right choices based on the needs of their child and their family. Your child care decisions should be made based on the needs of your child and your family, and there are many resources available to help you find information to make the right choices.

Parent Voices

I've stayed home with my twins for a year, but it's time for me to go back to school, and I wanted to find the right child care program. I looked for a program that was close to my school, and would offer the types of learning experiences that I knew would engage and excite my twins!

Check Child Care MD
Licensed child care programs are required to meet important health and safety guidelines. Parents and families can search to find out if a program is licensed at the Maryland State Department of Education's Check Child Care MD website.
Maryland EXCELS
  • Maryland EXCELS is a Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (TQRIS) that addresses the needs of both families and educators. Maryland EXCELS stands for (EXcellence Counts in Early Learning and School-Age Care). To search for participating programs, click here.
  • To find out more information about how Maryland EXCELS can help parents and families choose quality child care, click here.
LOCATE Child Care
Maryland Family Network offers LOCATE Child Care, a free phone referral service for parents in need of child care within their community. The service also provides great tips on how to identify and choose the child care provider that meets your needs.

Early Learning from 0-3

The first three years of a child's life are so important; it is a period of incredible growth and development. During the first few months and years, parents, families, and the child's caregivers have the ability to have a huge impact on brain development, social-emotional and cognitive skills, and future health and success in school and life. Parents and families are the most important people in children's lives, and they have the joy of watching a child reach many milestones in this time period. There are many things parents and families can do to help shape their child's earliest learning experiences. Parents and families can sing to their infant. Repeat the songs and sounds that make him smile and laugh. Cuddle with and read to the baby often. Play with toddlers every day. Ask him what he is doing and join in the game. Parents and families might build a tower, roll a ball outside, or play a pretend game with stuffed animals.

Parent Voices

I had no idea how much my baby was learning, just from what she experiences every day! Now that I know, I make sure to constantly talk, sing, and take time to play with her. Even though she’s still a baby, I know that I'm helping to build her brain so that she's always prepared to learn!

Zero to Three
Zero to Three is an organization that has advanced the proven power of nurturing relationships by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers. They work to ensure that babies and toddlers benefit from the early connections that are critical to their well-being and development. Parents and families can visit their website for tips, videos and a wealth of information on early learning and development in children.
Maryland Healthy Beginnings
Maryland Healthy Beginnings is a resource to help parents and families nurture their child's tremendous potential for learning and growth. Specifically designed for families with infants and toddlers from birth through age three, Healthy Beginnings gives parents and families knowledge and resources on child care and child development, while the Activity Planner provides parents and families with fun, developmentally appropriate activities that build young children's skills and promote all kinds of learning. Parents and families can search Healthy Beginnings by age or domain to find out what to expect and how to support different stages of a child's development. For quick and easy activities parents and families can do at home and on-the-go, with an infant, toddler, or young child, visit the Maryland Healthy Beginnings Activity Planner or your computer or on your mobile device. Using these activities is a great way to support a child's healthy growth and development, before they even enter formal child care or school.
    

For PROVIDERS

Family engagement is a shared responsibility of families, schools, and communities for student learning and achievement; it is continuous from birth into the school-age years; and it occurs across various early child care and learning settings. As providers, you play a role in building relationships with your families to support family well-being, strong parent-child relationships, and the ongoing learning and development of parents and children alike. By actively engaging families in your program's learning community, you will create a culture of respect, collaboration, and a shared vision to provide the best educational foundation for each child in your care.

This website serves as a "one-stop shop" for families to provide information about the importance of family engagement, and strategies help them become more engaged in their child's education from the start. The website highlights six critical content areas (Transitions, School Readiness, Learning O-3, Parents and Educators as Partners, Parents as Leaders and Advocates, and Choosing Quality Child Care). Use this website to help you better identify the strengths and needs of families in your program.

For more information on family engagement, and for strategies to help you reflect and enhance your current family engagement practices, click here to take a self-paced two-hour online module that will walk you through the process of moving from family involvement to family engagement in your child care program. By the end of the module, you will understand how and why family engagement benefits your program and the children in your care, and you will learn practical strategies to get started.

Resources for Providers


Maryland State Department of Education Division of Early Childhood Development has created a website with important early childhood information for families and child care providers. The website highlights family engagement efforts and projects including Maryland's Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, Judy Centers, and much more that support the Family Engagement Framework, a set of goals to help families and programs connect in support of their child''s education. Click here for more information for providers.