WHAT IS HEAD START?
Head Start is a Federal program for preschool children from low-income families and is operated by local non-profit organizations and Tribes in almost every county in the country. Children who attend Head Start participate in a variety of educational activities. Head Start children receive free medical and dental care, have healthy meals and snacks, and enjoy playing indoors and outdoors in a safe setting. Head Start helps all children succeed. Services are offered to meet the special needs of children with disabilities. Most children in Head Start are between the ages of three and five years old.
WHAT CAN THE HEAD START PROGRAM OFFER TO YOUR CHILD?
Head Start provides children with activities that help them grow mentally, socially, emotionally, and physically. Head Start staff recognizes that parents are the first and most important teachers of your children and will welcome your involvement in Head Start activities, and work as partners with you to help your child progress. Head Start staff members offer your child love, acceptance, understanding, and the opportunity to learn and to experience success. Head Start children socialize with others, solve problems, and have other experiences which help them become self-confident and improve their listening and speaking skills.
Children spend time in stimulating settings where they form good habits and enjoy playing with toys and working on tasks with classmates. Your child will leave Head Start more prepared for Kindergarten, excited about learning, and ready to succeed.
Your child will also be examined by skilled professionals for any health problems. Professionals will arrange vision and hearing tests and any needed immunizations. Head Start offers a nutrition assessment and dental exams. Children with health needs receive follow-up care. Mental health and other services are available for children and families with special needs.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR CHILD’S ROUTINE IN A HEAD START PROGRAM?
Most children who enroll in Head Start attend a half-day center-based program and offer children bus rides to and from home.
When the children arrive at the center, they are greeted warmly by their teachers and put whatever they have brought from home in a place which is their own to use every day. Classroom time includes many different activities. Some teachers begin the day by asking the children to sit in a circle. This encourages the children to talk about an idea or experience they want to share with others. In some Head Start programs they may choose among art, playing with blocks or table toys, science activities, dancing to music, looking at books, or pretend housekeeping. Children can switch activities if they prefer another challenge. Each day they have time to work in a small group with other children and to play outdoors on safe playground equipment. At lunchtime, children receive a nutritious meal and brush their teeth. All children are taught to wash their hands before meals, and are encouraged to develop good personal and health habits.
WHAT CAN HEAD START OFFER YOUR FAMILY?
Head Start offers families a sense of belonging, other support services, and a chance to be involved in activities to help your whole family. Head Start staff members refer families needing help to medical, social or economic resources within the community, and follow up to be sure they receive assistance. Parents can become a Head Start volunteer and be a voice in the Head Start program by serving on various committees.
(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Give Your Child a Head Start Brochure)