The Breckinridge-Grayson County Head Start Center featured in Program 2 of Art to Heart sponsors six to eight parent-child art activities a year. "Involving the parents in education is so important," explains LaShawn Cole-Hack, family and community partnerships manager for the center. "Parents who get involved when their children are 3 to 5 years old tend to stay involved when their children are in school, and that can help children be more successful."
The center invites parents by sending fliers home with children, and then staff members call families to remind them of the event. Educators try to schedule events around parental work schedules-on weekday evenings or Saturdays-and provide door prizes and food. Out of about 200 families, usually 50 to 60 will participate in an event, Cole-Hack says. In addition to the steppingstones project shown in Program 2 of Art to Heart [see downloadable instructions], parents and children have built birdhouses and step stools and participated in scavenger hunts for letters of the alphabet.
When possible, the center works with area businesses to get materials donated. A lumber yard donated scrap wood, for example. For the steppingstones, a local pizza restaurant not only donated boxes, but also worked with the center in a cross-promotion: The restaurant put information about the center on its pizza boxes, and the center handed out coupons to parents.
In addition to art activities, the center uses events to provide parents with information about child development and how to work with and encourage their children at home, Cole-Hack notes. "We encourage parents to let the children do as much as possible-that this is not just about creativity but about fostering self-esteem and that their children may be more capable than they think. We emphasize that regardless of the outcome-it may not look like your idea of a birdhouse, for example-the child did it and the parents should be proud."
Her advice to educators interested in offering parent-child events is to start small and build. "Get a couple of really interested parents in to help. Start on a small scale. And don't be afraid to try." Activities do not have to be elaborate to be enjoyable, she notes. "We hung up pieces of drywall for moms and kids to paint, and they made some beautiful pieces of abstract art!"