All About Head Start Preschools
Head Start is a preschool program funded by the federal government for children living in low-income households. Operated by local nonprofits, the Head Start program operates in most counties across the country.
Head Start programs offer educational and socialization opportunities for young children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend early childhood programs due to their families’ financial situation. The goal is to help support the child’s basic physical, social, and educational needs and to prepare them for elementary school. Head Start also teaches parenting skills and provides a wealth of information for families seeking to help their children as much as they can.
What Makes Head Start Preschools Special?
Head Start offers children:
- Free medical and dental care.
- Healthy meals and snacks.
- The opportunity to play indoors and outdoors in a safe and nurturing environment.
Some Head Start sites offer families bus rides to and from the center. Head Start programs also provide services to meet the special needs of children with disabilities.
Although most children in Head Start are in the 3- to 5-year-old range, some sites offer additional services, called Early Head Start, for younger children and infants.
Some Head Start programs operate out of private homes. In these situations, Head Start staff members visit the homes to instruct parents on how to provide an enriched and educational experience for the children in the program.
A Typical Daily Routine
The majority of children in Head Start centers are in half-day programs, although a few centers offer full-day programs.
Most teachers like to start the day with circle time. The children sit in a circle with the teachers and are encouraged to share something with the group. After the children have shared, the teachers help them plan the day’s activities.
Classroom time is next. Children can choose from creating art, building with blocks, doing science experiments (with adult supervision), dancing, or reading books. They’re free to move around and vary their activities as they choose.
Every day they have the opportunity to engage in small-group activities and to go outside for fresh air and physical activity on a safe playground.
A nutritious lunch is provided, as well as snacks. The children all wash their hands before eating and brush their teeth afterwards. Good personal hygiene is taught and encouraged throughout the day.
Head Start Preschools Are a Good Choice for Children Who …
Head Start is a wonderful program for:
- Families with limited financial means.
- Families at or below the federal poverty level. (Check with the center staff as some centers accept children from families above the poverty guidelines).
- Families who are homeless.
- Parents who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
- Children in foster care.
Parents are encouraged to apply even if they don’t think they’ll qualify, since eligibility is determined by the staff at each site. Contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a list of Head Start locations.
Learn more about other types of preschools:
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