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Inclusion of parents in early childhood education

Cooperation with parents is one of the most important things in early childhood education. Parents are the best specialists of their children. Cooperation between parents and educators gives the best support for the children to grow and learn. In Finland, the legislation governing the early childhood education and -care and curriculum of ECEC states that parents have the right to take part in their children's ECEC if they choose to do so. It is important to understand that inclusion is more than participation. How do we achieve that goal, where parents feel that they are equal members of the early childhood community and have the opportunity to influence (speak, take part, make decisions) on the early childhood education of their child and the ECEC community.

Family-oriented inclusion?

Now is the time of the year when parents’ meetings are held. The role of Parents' meetings has been strengthened by the inclusion of parents. Parents have had challenges to take an active part in the development of early childhood education and -care for their child. During the pandemic, kindergartens have been forced to digitize functions, which has supported the inclusion of parents. Before, we used to see a tendency where only a few parents took part in parents' meetings. Last year, we organized the parents' meeting online and almost every parent watched the video recording. Previously, it used to be hard to find time together to keep the child's individual ecec (IEP) meetings in Kindergarten, but last year we carried out these conversations online, and parents were able to take part even during their working day. How effective that was! Naturally, we can't forget the real face to face communication, but this kind of distance communication supports the daily life situation of the families. Evening times can be busy among families with hobbies, and it can be difficult to get a nanny for the evening. It is important to modify our cooperation with parents for the 21st century.

Technology supports inclusion of parents

One of the goals of the use of digital tools is to support inclusion of the parents in early childhood education and -care. National core curriculum for ECEC in Finland (2018, p.33-34) states that a key development area in ECEC is to create a way to promote inclusion of parents. This document suggests that ICT could be employed to support the cooperation between parents and educators. Through ICT we can share documents of pedagogical activities, make weekly plans visible to parents and record (the moment) child learning goals. Digital communication between parents and educators is a great way to bring the content and views of early childhood education goals and plans to parents. The results of the survey with The Parent`s Association by Herttuainen & Pohjola (2020) also highlight the fact that parents generally lack the understanding of the pedagogy in kindergartens. Therefore, photos and videos play an important role to clarify this. In the same study, parents felt that cooperation got better by using digital tools like the weekly blog.

Also, a survey by Anttila etc. (2018) emphasizes that weekly letters or blogs help parents to understand pedagogy in kindergartens. Parents thought that this kind of cooperation strengthens their experience of inclusion. Also, parents said that busy life prevents them from participating in all events. That's another reason why we should create different ways for the parents to take part in their children’s early childhood education.

TinyApp caters to inclusion of parents in an easy and safe way

TinyApp strengthens the inclusion of parents in many different ways. Parents take an active part in pedagogical documentation when they post about the favourite activities and strengths of their child from home through the app. Parents see the weekly plans and get to know about the various pedagogical activities planned by the group at the kindergarten. Children evaluate activities and learning environments with educators, and this information is made visible to parents, too. This way, the pedagogical activities of the group and each child’s individual growth and learning becomes visible in addition to photos and videos. Parents hold ownership to all the photos and personal items. Naturally, we at TinyApp consider security and safety as a top priority in the tool.

It is truly rewarding to make everyday pedagogy transparent for families, and at the same time follow the objectives and guidelines of the early childhood education and -care and curriculum of ECEC.

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