Big School: one of THE most popular topics among parents... alongside the question of "are they ready?". From a parent's perspective, they are looking for “school readiness” skills to appear and emerge from their child. And you know what? They’re not wrong. Between the ages of 3-5, children should be developing more than just literacy and academic skills. Possibly the most important skills young children develop in this time are social and emotional. Since your centre is where many of these children spend most of their time, your programs play a pivotal role in their development.
But, let's back up and start from 1 to see what parents are expecting from your Big School Program.
A new environment (such as big school) for children can be quite scary, especially if they don't have any previous experience in a centre or ECE program. Placing them in a school with new people and no confidence can make them withdrawn and eventually fall behind in lessons and skills.
Encouraging children to share their individuality and creativity during activities in childcare will boost their confidence. Parents want to see self-expression, receptive language, and interpretation. For example, they should be seeing that their child is expressing their feelings. When the child is angry or frustrated, ideally, they should be able to explain why; even if it's just by saying “I’m upset because I want to play outside.” This experience should be practised in childcare which will then become quite natural to them later in their lives.
2) Developing a Routine
There are a lot of changes that can happen when starting big school and one of the main changes will be their routine. During the last few months of their Preschool or Kindergarten program, parents will want to see:
child(ren) being encouraged to bring their own lunchboxes
the removal of rest period
an adjustment to their schedule that’s similar to big school
This should also start translating to their home routine. They should know when they need to eat and take some down time on their own. Encourage parents to continue practising these efforts with them at nights and on weekends.
3) Engagement in Educational Activities
The best way to gain a full learning experience is to participate in classroom activities. If children aren't fully engaged in the activities, they might fall behind and raise potential issues in the future. Children should be confident in asking for help or sharing their opinions.
Activities such as group time, celebrating diversity, and show and tell can help children with this lifelong skill. Building not only confidence but also independence in their learning.
4) Social Inclusivity
Early Childhood Australia mentions that the feeling of belonging and inclusivity is vital for a child growing up and moving on to their next stages in their lives. Inclusivity doesn't just mean being included but also creating positive relationships.
Parents are always trying to be aware of what kind of environment they are placing their child in. It needs to be safe, welcoming, and supportive of the child's emotions. This environment should also encourage clear communication to ensure important social skills.Mostly, parents just want their child to have friends... and lots of them!
How can I show parents their child's development and learning early? Most Childcare Management systems offer an easy to use platform (Qikkids, Storypark) that you can use to post about "Today's Learning" or the children in the room's development plan. These kinds of platforms are used for educators to be able to write more than a short paragraph on the learnings and development. Educators can use this time to highlight each child's milestone for the parent's to read.
How can people find out about your Big School program?
It’s time to crack open the tools in your toolbox and that means – utilizing the digital space to its full advantage. Have you tried to search your centre on Google in the last few months? Do you come up on the first page? If not, here are a few places where you can expand your focus:
Your own website – are you selling yourself short? Make sure you have a page dedicated on how amazing and life-changing your big school program is. *Hint: Attach a client form on this page - so you are able to capture any interests from families.
Facebook (and other social platforms) - A perfect space to keep your families updated on the achievements, milestones and exciting things your children experience. What a better way to put on a smile on someone’s face?
Childcare Directory Listings – is your centre listed on high-ranking listing websites such as Toddle, Kinside, or Winnie? Explore these lead generation platforms to see what will work best for your centre.
Pikka Turangan is an experienced marketer with a demonstrated history of working in the childcare industry. She is highly skilled in communications, copywriting, marketing strategy, campaign management, and event management. Pikka received her Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) with a focus in Marketing from Queensland University of Technology. She serves as the Marketing Manager for ChildcareCRM's Australian market.