Everyone benefits when families are involved in their children's learning. These are some ways that early childhood educators become partners with families.

1. Welcome families to your program

Extend a warm, inviting greeting to each family in their home language. At the first interview, make sure that your program and the family are a good match. Provide a written copy of your program's philosophy. Encourage questions and frequent observations, so families can learn more about their children's development and successes.

2. Involve families as curriculum planners and participants

Find out what families do with their children that you can build on with the group. Perhaps they collected sea shells at the beach, or a grandparent would be an eager e-mail correspondent.

Family members are usually delighted to be asked to share their talents, skills, and interests with young children. Seek out those who are willing to share a traditional recipe or musical recording. Some might demonstrate a skill such as quilting or woodcarving to children. Ask them to read books or play games with the group. Everyone can contribute.

3. Exchange information regularly

Encourage families to keep you up-to-date on important family events such as new pets or vacations. Talk informally and frequently. Support families who are dealing with upsetting circumstances. Confidentiality is a must.

Share information about how and what children are learning in your program and at home, too. Help families appreciate children's scribbles. Explain what children learn when they build with blocks or collect rocks. Demonstrate effective ways to guide children's behavior and develop early reading skills. Encourage reading, shopping, and playing games together.

Maintain a portfolio of children's work and photographs of them at play so families can review children's learning progress with you.

4. Showcase children's creative experiences

Continuing displays of children's original creations, photographs of the steps they took in making their projects, and beaming faces that are in evidence daily all help document what, and how, children are learning. Label each art project with the child's first name, title of the work, and date created. Write children's comments with each photo to document learning.

Fill the hallways and walls with exhibits–from toddlers' early scribbles to elaborate scientific investigations. Hold a children's art fair. Ask for exhibit space at a library. As families and the public become more aware of the many ways in which young children learn, their understanding and support for the education of young children grows.