As the new school year approaches, you’re likely getting ready to welcome new families and students to your childcare center or preschool. Whether you’re still accepting applications or you’re already at capacity, it’s never too early to start preparing for your orientation day for new parents!
A well-planned orientation can help you establish strong relationships with new families and prepare your students for success at your center. Here are 6 things to do during your orientation that will help you impress new families and start the new school year with confidence.
For stress-free planning, download our New Family Orientation Checklist for Childcare Centers and Preschools!
1. Greet each family as soon as they arrive and help them feel at home.
Before your orientation, ask one (or a few) of your staff members to greet families when they arrive so everyone is properly welcomed. Your greeter can also remind guests of any COVID-19 safety protocols you may have for the event, such as wearing a mask or using hand sanitizer before entering the building.
Prepare your greeters for questions they may get asked frequently, such as how long the orientation will be or what the schedule is. This will help your greeters feel more confident and ensure that your new families will get the information they need right when they walk through your doors!
You can also set up a welcome table near the entrance with a sign-in sheet, name tags, and other materials that will help parents feel comfortable and prepared for the orientation. Make sure to include the student’s name on each parent’s name tag—this will make it easier for you, your staff, and other new parents to get to know each family!
2. Use a fun orientation icebreaker to help parents get to know each other.
Orientations are a great opportunity for families to meet each other. The sooner new parents connect, the sooner they’ll feel a sense of community and belonging in your program!
Start your orientation with a fun activity so parents have a chance to talk before the main portion of your orientation schedule. This will help your guests warm up to each other, feel more engaged, and help set the tone for the rest of the orientation.
Some examples of parent icebreaker activities are:
- Asking each family to introduce themselves and share what they’re most excited about for the new school year
- Human Bingo, which will help parents learn interesting facts about each other
- Dividing families into teams for a scavenger hunt that helps them get to know your facilities
- Asking each family a fun icebreaker question, such as what their favorite preschool snack was
Your activity could also be as simple as setting up a refreshment table and letting families eat and mingle for the first 15-20 minutes of the orientation. You don’t need to plan anything fancy, as long as you make space for families to connect!
3. Give an orientation presentation on what new families should know before the first day of school.
Many programs find it helpful to give a short presentation on what parents should know before the school year begins. The presentation format should be one that you’re comfortable with and shows the best your program has to offer, whether it’s a speech, a slideshow, or a video that you put together beforehand.
Your presentation might include:
- Your center’s background and teaching values
- An introduction of your staff
- Drop-off and pick-up procedures
- Curriculum overview
- Tuition policies
- Communication expectations and best practices
- How families can volunteer and get involved
- Any technology you’ll be using throughout the year, such as the brightwheel app
Remember to allow plenty of time for Q&A too. You’ll be covering a lot of information in a short amount of time, so new parents will likely have a lot of questions for you and your staff!
For other ideas to impress families and them involved in your center, check out our 10 10 Ways to Boost Family Participation at Your Childcare Center or Preschool.
4. Lead new families on a walking tour of your childcare center or preschool.
New families will be eager to get to know your facilities so they can better understand what their children’s daily activities will look like. Guide your guests throughout your center and explain what their children will be doing in each designated area. Make sure to remind parents how different parts of your classrooms facilitate different learning benefits, such as fine motor and gross motor development and creative expression.
For more tips on communicating the value of your program with families, check out our blog post, How to Talk About Early Learning with Parents—and Why You Should.
If you run a larger center, you can also ask your teachers to show parents around their classrooms or help lead other parts of the tour. Don’t forget to show families any important outdoor spaces as well, such as your playground or drop-off and pick-up areas.
5. Set up teacher meet-and-greets so families can get to know your staff.
Even if you include a teacher introduction during your presentation, it’s best to set up time for families to meet your staff in a more personal way. Connecting with teachers will help new families trust your program more and further engage with their children’s education.
Here are a few ideas for teacher meet-and-greets:
- Station each teacher in their own classroom. Let families explore the classroom and ask the teacher any questions they may have.
- Have each teacher give a short speech about their background and what they’re excited about for the new school year. Save time at the end for families to ask follow-up questions.
- If children will be present at your orientation, have teachers lead learning activities for families to participate in together. You can also create photo stations for teachers and students so families have a fun way to remember the orientation!
- Prepare “Meet the Teacher” printouts for families to take home. These can include each teacher’s photo, contact information, a list of their favorite things that children can relate to (such as color, snack, and book), and a welcome note to students.
6. Follow up with new families after your childcare or preschool orientation.
During your orientation, families will be busy taking in a lot of new information and may not remember everything they learned. Help them out by sending a follow-up message reiterating the most important details they need to know before the first day of school.
If you took photos at your orientation, you can include them in your message and tell families how excited you are to start a new year with them. Don’t forget to remind them that you’re available for any questions they have in the meantime!
We wish you the best of luck as you prepare for the new school year and welcome new parents to your program. Thank you for everything you do for young learners and their families!
Don’t forget to get your free planning tool, New Family Orientation Checklist for Childcare Centers and Preschools!
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at www.mybrightwheel.com.