Head Start plays a key role in preparing our children for school. Our teachers and classrooms, combined with supervised interaction with other children, help a growing child develop important social and emotional skills, as well as a healthy concept of their personal identity. We know that social and emotional well-being in early childhood predicts favorable social, behavioral, and academic adjustment into middle childhood and adolescence.
To prepare children for school, our teachers design curriculum that encourages individual development for each child in three key areas: language development, which is fundamental to learning; literacy skills that lay the foundation for reading and writing, as well as familiarizing our children with books and other learning tools; and mathematics knowledge and skills, including understanding numbers, shapes, measurement, patterns, and other traditional mathematical problems. We know that math skills developed during the early years help children to connect ideas, develop logical and abstract thinking, and to question, analyze, and understand the world around them.
Physical well-being, health and motor skill development in a child are critical to the success of any educational program. With this in mind, our Head Start classrooms provide our children with the guidance to develop healthy habits that will support a lifelong foundation for a healthy life. We encourage play and exercise activities that develop strong motor skills so that Head Start children can explore and function in their environments, while they gain confidence in their physical abilities.
Head Start volunteers play a significant role in our classrooms by ensuring that each child receives the time and guidance necessary to become a well-adjusted and engaged student, ready to take the next step forward.
The health of Head Start children is one of our primary concerns. We provide a comprehensive health service program which includes preventive screenings and exams, such as immunizations, physical and dental exams, vision and hearing screenings, as well as developmental and social-emotional screenings. We work closely with families to ensure they identify a medical home within the community to give them access to continuous, comprehensive medical care for years to come.
Head Start takes an active role in promoting oral health care by working with our children and families to emphasize the importance of establishing good dental habits at an early age and maintaining them throughout life. Children receive a yearly comprehensive dental exam, including fluoride application. Children and their parents are educated in effective dental hygiene practices, including age and development level of the child and their ability to clean their teeth properly, and recommended dental frequency. Oral health education is completed by staff, and outside collaborative agencies through workshops throughout the year.
A critical part of Head Start’s role is focused on nutrition. We provide our children with two-thirds of their daily nutritional needs, which is important not only for their health and well-being but for their intellectual and social development. Many children living in poverty are facing malnourishment, hunger, or can be overweight and/or obesity. Head Start offers nutritious, ethnically diverse and child-friendly food through a state of the art food service program.
Head Start volunteers play a crucial and active role in children’s health and welfare by offering their time and professional services to help ensure each child receives the education, treatment, and support that will lead them to a healthy and fulfilling life.
We recognize that the goals for children in Head Start programs could not be met without parental engagement. Our strong focus on parents sets us apart from other social service programs. We use a variety of strategies to engage parents including teaching them the importance of their role in the education and healthy development of their children. Head Start provides opportunities for parents to contribute to Head Start program management by encouraging them to participate in classroom committees and policy council. Head Start believes that parents are the primary educator of their child and are urged to be an advocate for their children and their education.
Head Start aims to educate the entire family and to assist parents in their personal and family development. Head Start utilizes an individualized approach to parent education based on the identified interests, strengths and the needs of each family member. Case managers work intensely with parents to create goals and to build their capacity as individuals and as families on their path to living self-reliant lives.
Utah Community Action also provides adult education, nutrition, HEAT utility assistance, and housing services. In addition, UCA has established strong partnerships in the community. Collaborations between community agencies play a crucial role in the comprehensive services that Head Start provides children and their families.
To learn more about Head Start and early childhood education: