Family engagement is a key ingredient in the recipe for a successful youth enrichment program. When parents and caregivers work alongside your staff to help make the program everything it can be, everyone benefits—including the kids you’re there to serve.
Let’s look at five family engagement ideas you can use to effectively involve families at every stage of the game: before your program begins, throughout the program, and after another year or season is in the books.
1. Form School Partnerships
Before your program begins, consider whether a school partnership would increase your reach and impact. Your local school likely has a solid idea of what would best serve families in your community and how you can integrate with the school curriculum to reinforce and supplement what kids are already learning.
A solid school partnership can make your program more well-known and valued in the community, increasing awareness and engagement among families. Essentially, you can piggyback off the family engagement in schools that already exists in your community. So talk to your local school, submit a proposal, and see if you can enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship.
Learn more about this topic in our on-demand webinar, “Designing a Winning Approach to Partnering with Schools.”
2. Offer Online Registration
Another important way you can engage families before the start of your program is through your registration. Offering online registration is incredibly beneficial for families and you. Online registration allows parents and guardians to enroll students on their own time, fostering convenience and boosting enrollment and engagement.
An online system for registration also allows parents and guardians to update information during the program if needed. For example, they can authorize a new pick-up person or add a newly discovered allergy to their child’s profile.
3. Prioritize Frequent and Easy Communication
Communication is key before, during, and after your program. One of the best ways to keep families engaged is to keep them informed.
- Before the start of the program, you can let families know program details and help them prepare.
- During the program, you can share exciting updates and keep families in the loop with what kids are learning.
- After the program, you can wow families with data and stories demonstrating your program’s success and start planning for next year.
In addition to the content of your communication, the method is also important. Communicate with families via multiple avenues so they can choose their preferred form of communication. This might include emails, newsletters, social media posts, a website you keep updated, or even messages through a program app.
4. Plan Family-Friendly Events
Events are an excellent way to encourage in-person interactions and engagement. Most families love the chance to do something free the whole family can participate in, so by inviting families to an event, you may get a chance to connect with parents, caregivers, and even siblings who might be future participants in your program.
Plan events at a variety of times with various offerings.
- Before the program starts, invite prospective families to an open house where they can see the space, meet staff, and learn what your program is all about.
- During the program, invite families to join you for field days or other fun family engagement activities. You can also open up the program on certain days to let families observe what the kids are doing.
- After your regular sessions come to a close, you can invite families to attend end-of-year performances or ceremonies to show off their kid’s accomplishments. For example, an art program could hold an art show to display kids’ masterpieces.
5. Offer Volunteer Opportunities
Did you know that nearly 40 percent of parents volunteer? Interacting with your program as a volunteer is one of the most meaningful ways families can get involved. Some parents and caregivers may know they want to volunteer before your program begins. Others may become eager to volunteer during the program when they see the impact of your program on their kids.
Offer meaningful ways for parents to volunteer, whether that’s sharing their talents and skills with kids, chaperoning field trips, or assisting with activities. Make sure there are different levels of involvement families can take on, depending on their availability. For example, some parents may love the opportunity to volunteer at a field day without having to commit to ongoing volunteer work. Ensure all volunteers are screened and receive the training they need to safely and effectively serve kids.
Using Technology as a Tool to Engage Families
Today, family engagement goes beyond the in-person interactions you might have with families, though that’s still an important part of building strong relationships with families. Modern families expect programs to engage them through technology. The right platform can make a powerful difference in fostering enrollment, communication, volunteer training, and more.
Another way you can engage families through technology is by leveraging social media. Want some help developing your social media presence? Download our free “Social Media Toolkit” to get started!