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Mel Gravely

Getting Parents to Attend Your Next Head Start Parent Meeting

Getting Parents to Attend Your Next Head Start Parent MeetingOne of the most lively discussions this week on The Gravely Group Head Start LinkedIn group was ignited by a seemingly short, simple question. A question I’m sure many in Head Start have asked before…

At my head start we have been given us the task of coming up with some type of program etc to entice our parents to attend the parent meeting. Any ideas? Very low turn-outs.

Here at The Gravely Group, we talk a lot about Parent Involvement. In fact, it’s one of our three building blocks to The Secret to Head Start Success. We all know that getting parents involved is hugely important in the long-term. However, we often struggle with getting parents to that very first meeting.

In the week since the original question was posted, there have been 26 comments with a lot of great advice. I’d like to compile some of the most common tips for breaking the ice with parents and encouraging their first step into the door.


The most common answer by far was providing food at the meeting. One participant simply wrote, “Food. Food is the answer.” Time and time again, this strategy has tested true. “Feed them and they will come,” writes another poster. However, keep in mind that while providing food may get foot traffic, your ultimate goal should be to start building a relationship once they are there. Most people don’t feel comfortable in a room full of strangers. Have a specific plan to make them feel welcome.

Transportation & Child Care

Often, simple logistics can get in the way of a parent attending a meeting. While this requires more planning than just providing food, the benefit is that you may be able to get parents who are interested in volunteering, but who are unable to attend because of transportation or child care concerns.

Relevant Speakers/Topics

As we know, parents have real day-to-day concerns when raising their children. Ask them what they’d like to learn about. For example, how to get a child to bed on time? How to balance work and family? How to deal with misbehavior? By providing speakers on topics that are relevant to them, it will make the session much more interesting and productive.

Empower the Parents

By including parents in the decision-making process, you form a true partnership with parents and families. Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something important and meaningful. Parents will be much more engaged if they feel they have a voice.

Have Fun!

Don’t forget to have fun! Many of the people involved in the discussion mentioned that some of their most-meaningful breakthroughs with parents happened in a less formal venue like a local park. Or maybe the children could do a little performance for the parents, as one participant suggested. It doesn’t matter who you are – children, adults, parents, or teachers. Everyone likes to have fun.

I’d love to hear your comments below! What are you doing in your program to encourage parents to attend the next meeting or event?


  1. Cindy says:

    Can parents decide on the place of field trips based on the curriculum with teachers?

  2. Pat Reinhardt says:

    Raffles and give-aways. No matter how small, they draw attention. Everyone loves something for free.

  3. Ernest Dickens says:

    At my agency, I do all those things that are mentioned above. The problem at some of our centers is the wrong attitude and mind-set with not only the parents but the teachers. We are currently in the process of having meetings with staff to talk about the road blocks to parent involvement and the importance of In-kind volunteers. This year, As Parent involvement coordinator, I chose to be selective in the selection of Strong parents who’s mind-set is condusive to the needs of the program as well as th children. As a result four centers have doubled there volunteers from last years numbers.

  4. Deborah Snead says:

    All of the aforementioned ideas are good. In order for adults to consider it important to them is to answer the question “What’s in it for me”. Parents will always attend events where their children are highlighted such as a Father/daughter Dance for Valentines Day, a talent show, picnic, ice cream socials, etc. Parents will also attend job fairs and resume writing/interviewing classes. Job fairs do not have to be on a grand scale; they can be tailored for a few companies that hire entry level/low skilled positions and they can be scheduled once a month or every other month depending the need and the size of the building. The companies selected have to be committed in hiring your parents.

  5. Felecia Thomas says:

    I totally agree with you, because I provide door prizes and food. The only way I get a good turn out is if the students are doing a performance. I agree with you that we need to pick a strange minded parent who’s willing to be involved and care about the direction of the program

  6. Alan says:

    Dear Mel,
    So what do you think about having a group on linkedin – having a question posted – and the reposting or summarizing/citing those posts on your weblog – without crediting the contributors on the linkedin discussion. Something doesn’t feel right about this. At minimum – I recommend that you advise contributors to your linkedin group discussions that their replies/comments may be quoted, summarized, or paraphrased on your weblog.

  7. shawil says:

    I see your response of dance, ice cream, and talent shows. How are you able to implement with this? is it outside of Head start? Are Head Start funds allowed to be used in this way/ If so please show me the policy. Thank you

  8. Geneva Gray says:

    To entice our parents to attend parent meetings I would encourage parents that are knowledgable of certain subject matters to provide workshops; with my assistance of course. Some of our parents are nurses, insurance agents, bank tellers, counselors, first time home owners or second year Head Start parents. Everyone has a story to tell. Another way to entice parents is to recognize parents as the top parent of the month with their portrait displayed on the parent board. The parent or parents with the most volunteer, inkind hours would be recognized as the parent of the month.

  9. Lore Pierzchala says:

    Here is simple answer… Personally ask a parent to participate. If I was never taken aside and asked to help out by attending the parent meeting, I would not have ended up as the president of the parent committe which lead me where I am today.

  10. Rose Marie Gulston says:

    I like that idea ,to honor top parents,I will pass in on to our director.My program is struggling with parent volunteer.

  11. Mel Gravely says:

    Felecia good thoughts. Top managers must be committed

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