So, we are on day 180,348 of staying at home, and it’s getting hard to figure out what day it is let alone how to stay in touch with parents. Everyone seems “Zoomed out” and you can just see it in the parents’ eyes that they are “over it.”
What is the best way to reach out? How can we be supportive without being in person? Here are some outside of the box ideas that we have implemented at my center, and they really seem to work well. Some of the ideas take a lot of effort while some take hardly any at all, but all of these will help parents feel included and loved!
Distant Learning Kits/Busy Bags
Twice a month, our center has put together bags that are developmentally appropriate toward each classroom. We have created kits for infants, toddlers, twos, preschool, and PreK. Some of the items in the bag are printed materials while others are items we had onhand or purchased.
We let parents know through the HiMama app when they can come to pick up their kit, and we make sure it is labeled properly and easy to pick up contact-free and safely. Students love getting this kit, and it gives them something to look forward to. We try to make sure a lot of the contents are for independent play to give parents a little bit of a break!
Some ideas for what to include:
- Goldfish math and literacy pack (pack of goldfish crackers with graphs and sheets downloaded)
- Playdough with laminated mats
- Scavenger hunt ideas
- Sensory bottles
- Seeds for planting
- Yoga cards
- Covid-19 time capsule
- Children’s book
- Lego kit
- Slime kit
- Shapes sorting activity
A Handwritten Card/Letter
Who doesn’t love receiving a heart-felt, handwritten card? Take the time to write a few cards each day, and share whatever you think you’d like to share with that parent. It can be light and silly or more serious and sweet. Let it be encouraging and authentic, so do a few each day rather than all of them in one sitting. Mail this out to the parents, and I guarantee you that it will brighten their day!
Flat Teacher Adventures
Remember “Flat Stanley?” I had so much fun with that book as a kid, and I remember creating my own and taking it with me on every summer adventure! Consider doing something similar with a “Flat Teacher” adventure! You can type up a letter and send the “flat teacher” version of yourself to your students. They would have an absolute blast with this. If the students are old enough, have them keep a journal or vlog about it! Parents would appreciate this non-electronic way of being creative and educational.
This one takes a lot of planning, but if you can pull it off, parents LOVE it. We have done two of these at my center during this shutdown, and it has been a hit! Choose a popular and simple children’s story (we did Eric Carle’s “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” as well as “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”) and have each teacher/staff member hold up a “page” of the story. We even had teachers dress up as the part of the story. Parents drive through the parking lot and stop at each page of the story. This is a safe way for you to see families and show that we are all still in this together. What we have done at the end of this drive-thru story is place a learning kit in the trunk of each car! (refer back to #1 for what that is)
Here’s a video of the story in action:
This is just a creative way to get everyone out of the house safely and off of the computers and televisions.
There are so many little “pop up” lending library mailboxes appearing in neighborhoods everywhere. Consider doing a favorite book exchange with parents. You can send an email to parents letting them know that you will have a safe, contact-free lending library. Put books of all genres in there with a hand sanitizer station right next to it. This can be just outside of your center for parents to come to. You can even have one for children and one for parents! Ask parents to put a few favorites in there, and designate someone to sanitize the books and the handle during the day or at least at the end of the day. Be sure to have guidelines such as return books when done and only taking one or two at a time. This would be a nice outing for parents and their kids that is safe and educational!
Scavenger Hunt/I Spy Challenge
Each Monday, post a list of items that children must find. This can be the size of a poster and can be taped to the outside of your center’s door. Encourage parents to snap a photo of the list. Then have kids go on a hunt for these items and get a photo of them. Then they can post the photos on your school’s social media with a unique hashtag like #(your school name)scavengerhunt2020. If parents won’t get in their car to come see the list in person, you can also give them the option of receiving the list in their email. Having them come in person would be really exciting as if they are finding clues to a treasure. Encourage families to wait in the car if they see a family looking at the poster. One family at a time!
Hopefully, some of these ideas have sparked an interest for you and perhaps you’ve come up with other creative ways to connect with parents. Drop those down in the comments below so that we can all glean from each other! It’s so important that we continue to reach out and help families know we are here for them. Everyone is tired, and everyone is ready to be “set free.” Until that day comes, be the breath of fresh air that these families desperately need.